Have you ever been to a place which makes you feel so alive? Somewhere you look around in absolute awe, and somewhere you could quite happily just stay forever?
This happened to me over the summer. We took the mother of all road trips to Brighton, and I think I found my soul city. And for that reason, I want to keep the memories alive and decided to share my experience in a blog, as photos alone just won’t cut it.
So I’ve created a list of the highlights of our holiday, places we visited and reasons why I feel it is the coolest, hippest, trendiest little town, in the UK.
But first off, if you are considering a road trip to the south coast, I’ll tell you how we played it with an 8 hour drive and 2 potentially bored girls aged 6 and 9 sat in the back of the car
We travelled to Bath last year and decided on an overnight stay at a Holiday Inn in Gloucester to break down the drive from our home town of Newcastle. This worked well for us, so we decided to do the same this year, and booked to stay at Premier Inn, Cambridge.
After arriving for check in at around 4pm (we set off around 10.00) and spending a couple of hours sat in our room passing time waiting to go down for dinner, we felt we should probaby have just done the further 2 hours of the journey to Brighton. We had planned to set off early the next morning, then realised this would be pointless as check in at our Hotel in Brighton was from 2pm, and we weren’t paying the prices to park in Brighton for a few hours. Next time we decide to hit the South Coast, we’ll do the journey in a day.
Also, I’ll mention that we stayed in Jurys Inn Waterfront Hotel which I’d definitely stay in again. With it’s modern decor, spacious lobby area, bar and leisure facilities, and it literally smelt like a spa. We’ve stayed in a few UK hotels over the past couple of years and this is the best, hands down.
Our room was spotless, and surprisingly cool which was much needed through just the hottest week. The buffet breakfast is the nicest we’ve had. We especially loved the kids eating area, with colourful furniture, and a more child orientated breakfast selection including small boxes of cereal, milkshake and a make your own pancakes, machine which my girls loved.
But lets get back to the City itself and what makes it stand out from other seaside towns
Colour and Culture
From the pastel houses, to the vibrant buildings and rainbows splashed about the city. You almost feel like you have been projected into something in an Art Gallery. It’s impossible to feel anything but happy whilst surrounded by so much colour by day and plenty of lights and neon at night.
Each night of our stay we took a walk along the brightly lit sea front, something I’d imagine I’d never get bored of.
We stumbled upon The North Laine by chance and spent an afternoon browsing the independant quirky shops, and street markets. I love anything quirky and different and could’ve spent a small fortune on books, jewellery and clothing, and couldn’t resist purchasing a pair of funky but foul-mouthed socks. My hubby spotted them and said they were ‘me all over’. Kind of agree.
The many pubs, cafés, theatres and museums make the North Laine Brighton’s bohemian and cultural quarter, and very similar to Camden. I wished we’d found it sooner or I’d actually done my research as we only discovered it on the day before we were due to leave, and would probably liked to have tried out a couple of the bars and cafes.
Brighton Beach and The Pier
This was our first stop once we’d dropped our bags in our hotel room. Our Hotel was facing the seafront and a two minute walk once crossing the road to the famous Pier which was everything you’d expect to find in a seaside town. Cheesy, trashy, but bloody awesome. All the usual seaside shops can be found on Brighton Pier, selling ‘I Love Brighton’ hoodies (which I forgot to go back to buy), candy floss, rock and tacky souvenirs. And I loved it.
We stopped for chips at one of the little food outlets on the pier, before venturing through the amusements to the fair itself.
Jess and Emily went on a couple of the kids rides, and Emily wasn’t happy at all she was too small for the rollercoaster. Which was a good thing as neither me or Andrew would be willing to go on with her anyway.
And if tarot reading is your thing but would expect a reading at a fairground to be pretty lame, think again. After spotting a lady doing readings in the square near our hotel, but waiting well over half an hour for her to conclude the reading with her current client, I gave up. But curiosity had really set in at this point, and I decided to look for another and headed again to the Pier.
I found a ‘Tarot Consultant’ as they seem to be becoming more commonly known, inside a green gypsy wagon, and decided he was the man. At this point I had no idea of the cost, I just wanted a reading. I stepped inside the wagon and was told readings were £15 or £25. I initially put £15 on the table, then thought sod it, I want the lot and handed him a further £10 in a lot of loose change. I’d gone prepared and purposely removed my wedding rings and made sure I wasn’t seen with Andrew or the kids. I didn’t want him to know a thing about me.
After drawing a selection of cards from the pack, I expected to be told something suggesting I was single and based around looking for love. I wasn’t. Obviously I’m not going to go into what I was told, but will say I was blown away. He touched on two areas of my life which he couldn’t have possibly known anything about, and rather than walking away feeling conned, I walked away with clarity and realising that was probably the best £25 I’ve ever spent.
He’s well worth seeing if clairvoyance is your thing (strangely enough, it’s not really mine. I’ve only ever seen it as a bit of fun). He even quoted something I had said earlier that afternoon in a conversation with my husband. The actual words. I’m not really good at taking advice or guidance. Not from anyone, but I’ve certainly taken his.
I could write a whole blog on the experience and if anyone can suggest a tarot reader up here in Newcastle, let me know as I think I could do with yearly readings.
Brighton beach is literally the beach which never sleeps. Packed with families during the day, and funky culture at night. We took a walk along the beach on our first night. We stood and listened to a group of youths rapping, watched on as another group played basket and volley ball, and Jess was fascinated watching a young gymnast doing flips across the beach. And the bandstand. The bandstand sounding out music as couples joined others to dance. That was pretty special to watch and like a scene from a film.
I woke really early on our first morning. Before 5 and decided to see if I could catch the sunrise. So threw on my gym gear, hoodie and baseball cap to cover the bed hair and disguise myself as a morning jogger. I don’t know why, I just have this paranoia that if you’re spotted out and about during silly hours by the police, the assumption is you must be up to no good.
I then ‘sneaked’ out the hotel as it felt, walked across the road and down the slope onto the beach. To where I saw groups still out from the night before, couples lay together on the pebbles also waiting for the sunrise and those who had one to many the night before, sleeping. I walked along the shore snapping pics and just taking in the scenery. Ok, I’m filling up as I type this. It really was the most beautiful morning and start to any day.
As it happens, there wasn’t really a sunrise, too cloudy. Of course I went back to the hotel and jumped back into bed for an hour till the kids woke up.
I really can’t rave out the beach enough, and feel my description hasn’t done it justice. And I’ll never forget that feeling in my heart watching my two excited girls hold hands and run down to the sea.
I know I live right by the beach and feel lucky I always have, but up here it’s just not the same.
The Brighton Buzz
Brighton has the most amazing and and contagious happy vibe. I picked up a bug the night before we were due to leave. After spending the whole night throwing up, it was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to travel the journey back to Leeds where we’d booked to stay to again break down the journey back home. Instead we had no choice but to stay another night. I might have spent the whole day lay in the hotel bed vising the bathroom literally every 5 minutes, but boy did I still feel happy. I could hear lots going on outside our hotel window, and Andrew took the girls to the splash park then on a mission to find me a slush, and as the pains ripped through my stomach and I crouched hugging the toilet, I still felt bloody great.
Everyone was just so friendly. From the porter in the Hotel as he joked on with the girls as we stood in line waiting to check in after we arrived, the waitress in the Lebanese restaurant , and the girl in the streets as she did my henna tattoo, everyone.
I especially loved the liberated vibe. We saw so many colourful characters, women sunbathing topless (I’ve since found out there is a nudist beach. Maybe we were on it but I just hadn’t noticed) a lady I’d say in her 70’s confidently strutting down the main street in a bikini. Same sex couples holding hands and showing affection and a lady stopping me and asking if I’d like a blessing. I regrettably said no, purely because I was thrown, and wished immediately I’d taken her up on her offer. I wish every city could be like this and we could live freely without feeling self-conscious, oppressed or judged.
I also wished we’d been there for Pride. We set off for home around 8am on the Saturday morning as we knew the road would be closed off, and I was gutted as we headed for home along the waterfront behind floats about to set up for the parade.
Because we were in such a quirky city, I wanted to find the most unusual things to do and places to go. I wanted to find things you wouldn’t necessarily expect to do on a holiday. So on our first day we visited the Old Police Cells Museum. A free attraction with interesting stories of crimes committed in the district of Hove. I hoped for some kind of spooky tour, but that’s not really what it’s about or is advertised as. I just have a wild imagination and I’m a little bit extra.
The tour was an interesting look around the cells, but with no paranormal activity and zero fear factor. The girls enjoyed dressing up and Andrew was interested in hearing about the 1984 Brighton Hotel Bombing which he had been telling me about the previous day as we were staying right next to the Grand Hotel.
British Airways i360
I’m afraid of hights but this didn’t stop me jumping onboard the British Airways i360 and gliding 450ft up over the Brighton Skyline. We chose a 7.30pm ‘flight’ (they are actually called flights) as it was the nearest to sunset.
As we entered the gates we got checked exactly as you do in security in an airport. Bags checked, and frisked with the scanner. Then we sat in the outdoors waiting area overlooking the beach before jumping onboard.
The views were spectacular, and I really wish I’d appreciated the experience more as I spent most of the time drinking my gin and lemonade (at £10 for a double and knowing I’m a slow drinker and knew we only had 15 minutes and I wasn’t going to waste it) and concentrating on capturing the perfect pic, that I didn’t really take in the views as much as I probably should have. It is quite pricey, but well worth the experience and definitely a must do.
Choccy Woccy Doo Dah
I know there’s a Choccy Woccy Doo Dah in London which I hoped to visit on my next trip there. But had no idea there’s also one in Brighton and was pretty excited to find this out the day before we went. Situated in the Lanes and over two levels, with the main shop and cakes downstairs and cafe upstairs, this is another place you just have to visit. Even if to just see the flamboyant cakes in the window.
We ate in the main cafe area, but really wanted to be in the Witches Kitchen (which comes with a £300 for the hour charge) or Decadent Garden (the afternoon tea area).
From a huge selection of cakes, i went for double chocolate with ice cream and we had to try an ice cream sundae.
The Royal Pavillion
A Royal Residence which looks like it belongs in India, but there it is smack bang in the middle of town. We didn’t go inside. But had a walk around the gardens and noticed it was a popular spot for pic nics and just genreally chilling out. Kind of regret not going inside now, but we thought as there is so much to do outdoors, we planned to not spend much on days out. Maybe next time.
The food scene
Brighton homes a collection of cool fusion restaurants, cafes, bakeries and theme bars. We skipped lunch as breakfast filled us for the day. Our first night we spent a good while stood outside checking out menus, and still feeling undecided we thought why we’d grab 4 pizzas and sat on the beach with them. This was at about 9.30pm and as much as I like restaurants, this was just perfect. If it was perfectly acceptable to eat pizza 4 nights in a row, we would happily have done so. But we went for Lebanese one night, tried out a Chinese restaurant on another and I can not remember what we did on the forth night.
So that concludes our trip to Brighton. I don’t know exactly what, but something changed during our time there. Rather than leaving feeling sad our week was over, I left feeling inspired by all we had seen and done in our short stay. Too short. I like to be surrounded by ideas, possibilities and authenticity, and Brighton had it all. I look forward to returning someday, although the dream would be to relocate because if there ever was a city where people are living their best lives, it’s got to be Brighton.