International readers may be surprised to learn the UK has beaches. We don’t talk about them often because frankly we have neither the sunshine nor the sand to compete with the Bondis and Copacabanas of this world. Just an hour outside of London however we do have some briny sea air, a rabbits warren of unique shops, a charmingly tacky pier and some famous rock. Introducing Brighton!
Whenever you tell someone you are visiting Brighton they will tell you to go the Lanes. There are actually 2 types of Lanes in Brighton; the first are the ‘Lanes’ themselves, a rabbits warren of narrow streets hosting jewellers full of vintage treasure and coffee and cake shops galore, then there is North Laine, the wider, trendier, younger brother to the original Lanes. You will see brown tourist signs all over Brighton pointing to the ‘Lanes’, seemingly sending you in circles. We were lucky enough to be staying at the Thistle on Brighton seafront which had a back entrance that deposited us into the heart of the Lanes area. Basically if on the seafront near the newer pier look for the narrowest street you can find and get exploring.
The endless shop windows of vintage treasure are a girls dream and because of this Brighton is known for couples coming here to pick their rings and get engaged – how romantic!
Also a girls dream are the cake shops. Brighton has a rife coffee culture, the jewellery shops of the lanes are interspersed with coffee and tea houses such as the Naked Tea and Coffee company. Their upstairs lounge area, a low ceiling square lined with cushions and coffee tables, wouldn’t seem out of place in an Asian hostel. If you are a fan of cupcakes, like myself, you will be drawn in by Angel Food Bakery. A boutique cupcakery, you can view the bakers hard at work stirring and icing at the back of the shop, and, if you think you can it handle it, tuck into the 4 layered chocolate cake from heaven.
|I want that one, and that one, and that one…|
If you can tear yourself away from the jewellery and cakes the Royal Pavillion is a sight you wouldn’t expect to behold in this part of the world. Built for the Prince Regent, in stages between 1787 and 1823, the Royal Pavilion is remarkable for its exotic oriental appearance both inside and out. It’s not cheap to enter, almost £10 per adult, so if you are on a budget you can admire the architecture from the gardens where, if you are lucky, a sitar player may add to the Asian ambiance.
Then to the seafront. It wouldn’t be a visit to the UK seaside without a stroll on a pebble beach, a battle with the seagulls to protect your fish and chips and a whole lot of coins lost to an arcade game you knew you could never win. Brighton actually has 2 piers; 1 the home of the Crazy Mouse rollercoaster and Dolphin Derby, the other a rotting shell and reminder of the much loved West pier which burnt down in 2003.
‘Pleasure at the fairground’ on the pier
You may have heard of Brighton Rock – it’s not just a moody Graham Greene novel but actually a hard candy institution found in sweet shops along the seafront, get stuck into one, literally!
How this changed your perception of the UK seaside? Coming up next, the street art of North Laine..