On the road in England – Part III: Brighton, East Sussex

Flying Sandworm - artwork zoer

It was time to say goodbye to my friendly hosts in Whitstable and head out on the road to explore southern England. The first stop on my itinerary was going to be Brighton, which became yet another victim of my overzealous travel-planning. I had only allocated one overnight stay and thus my time is Brighton was going to be rather short. A mistake I wouldn’t make again on this trip.

I had debated with my friend over what I really have to go see in Brighton and after going over a list of things that might be pleasant and others which were a must, my friend simply said to me: „When you’re going to Brighton all you have to remember is PPL“. This acronym came in handy, because it contained the vital sights of Brighton and it was easy to remember: PPL meaning Pier, Pavilion and Lanes. So I said farewell and got myself on the road.

Kent - East Sussex

I took the bus from Whitstable to Canterbury and then another bus from Canterbury to Ashford, where I got on the train to Brighton. During this trip I realized that southern England would always remain as one word in my memory: green. Southern England in June was green as can get. I had never seen so many shades of the colour in combination with such a beautiful landscape. As the rolling hills of Kent and then East Sussex flew by, I found myself inside a colour chart that left me in awe: Every possible hue of green was there – light green, dark green, bluegreen, mudgreen, brightgreen, olivegreen and thousands more, which hypnotized me until my eyes finally met with the darkblue of the sea and I knew that Brighton couldn’t be much farther.

East Sussex

After a little more than 3 hours I finally exited the train and headed to my hotel, which was quite a walk from the train station in the district of Kemptown. After recovering from the first encounter with the weight of my backback, which would turn out to be even more unpleasant the next day, when the downhill walk from the station turned into an uphill climb to the station, I was ready to head out to explore Brighton and the deeper meaning of PPL.

Brighton Pier

The first P on the list was the pier. Not far from my hotel, after a short walk on the Marine Parade it turned out to be what piers usually are: centers of entertainment and supposed fun. I wasn’t very interested in the specific fun that was offered on Brighton Pier, a craggy iron construction further to the west grabbed a much stronger hold of my attention. The spidery monument, which exuded a melancholic charm, turned out the be the remains of Brightons once famous Westpier. A glorious example of English seaside architecture, it was constructed by the architect Eugenius Birch and opened in 1866. For quite a while it was the center of the then upper-class seaside entertainment, drawing the rich and famous to perform or watch, however, with time and two world wars the pier’s importance waned. Officially closed to the public in 1975 it began to fall apart, an enormous fire in 2003 destroyed the remaining structures, what is left today is a slowly deteriorating iron skeleton. A skeleton that nevertheless fits Brighton,  because it rests there right in front of the party people as an almost stubborn reminder of the ephemeral. What could be more sobering after a night out, than to wake up on the beach, hung over, and to cast the first look onto the rusting ruins of Brighton’s Westpier?

Brighton Westpier

I didn’t have long to reflect on issues such as mortality and transitoriness, it had begun to rain and ironically I found myself inside a most comfortable pub. The Victory Inn was hospitable, warm and on top of all offered free wifi access. I was lucky though, and after a brief shower, the sun was out again and it was time for the second P on the list.

The Pavilion, or Royal Pavilion, is definitely the most exotic monument in Brighton, possibly in England. King George IV (1762-1830), then Prince Regent and known to be a man of taste, loved Brighton and its parties, all that was missing, in his opinion, was a place worthy of housing the future King of England. So he commissioned architect John Nash to build what can be seen today: an exotic palace, which combines elements of Mughal and Islamic architecture, with a richly decorated interior influenced by Chinese and Indian styles. Spartanic Queen Victoria didn’t like the Pavilion as much and sold it to the city, after removing the interior fittings to either Buckingham Palace and Windsor – most of what can be seen in the palace today are replicas of the originals.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Whether the glamorous inside of Brighton Pavilion is actually worth the 8.80 Pounds, which are currently charged to get in, I couldn’t tell – I chose to walk around Brighton in the evening sun, which was not only pleasant, but free of charge as well.

The next morning I was left with the last letter of my Brighton acronym, the L, which stands for Lanes and which luckily were on the way to the train station. There’s not much to be said about the Lanes, except that they’re a small web of charming little streets and alleys, the only ones that survived the great fire, that was set during a French raid in 1514. They might invite you to stroll around and look at the antique shops or take a break in one of the cafés, not me however, I had to catch a train. But I left Brighton with most pleasant memories and a decision for the next stops on my intinerary, effective immediately: Never to stay at another place less than two nights. After all, I remembered that my friend from Whitstable had made an extra remark to the three letter sightsseeing acronym. Do go for the Afternoon Tea in the Grand Hotel, if you get a chance. Well, I’ll just have to postpone that until the next time I shall visit Brighton.

Next stop: Salisbury

Useful Information:

Travel to Brighton from London: With Nationalrail or Nationalexpress, the coach being the considerably cheaper option.

There are plenty of Hostels, Hotels and similar accommodation in Brighton. I stayed at the Brighton Breeze Hotel, which is quite a distance from the trainstation. It turned out to be a clean hotel with great rates (around 30 Pounds per night), the atmosphere could have been a little more charming.

More information on Brighton and its various sights can be found on the official website of the city or via Wikipedia (as well as on many other related websites).

Susanne, July 12 2009

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