Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Brighton Beach Memoirs

On Sunday we continued our tourist-avoidance scheme by leaving London entirely.  We got up (relatively) early, caught an 8:45 am train to Clapham Junction, and from there took a 9:07 am train to Brighton.  By 10:15 am we were on the southern coast of England!
Train to Brighton (via Gatwick)
Josh had compiled a list of things to do that sounded interesting. Our first stop was the Brighton Museum, which is located in a beautiful historic building on the grounds of the Royal Pavilion (more on that later). The building also hosts a concert venue and convention hall.
Brighton Dome
Corn Exchange
Detail of floor tile
Lobby of Brighton Dome
Side view
Museum entrance
The museum was free and had an interesting variety of collections, including decorative arts, pottery, fashion, ethnographic art, and paintings, as well as two rooms devoted to the history of Brighton.
Unusual salt & pepper shakers
Furniture by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
After we had toured both levels of the museum, we ventured into an area called The Lanes in search of lunch.  We eventually settled on an Italian place where we ordered what we thought were two individual-sized pizzas.  We should have just shared one -- they were each about 12" in diameter, like a regular medium-sized pizza!  We ate what we could and then headed back to the Royal Pavilion.

The Royal Pavilion is like something out of a fairy tale.  It was built over the course of several decades by King George IV, with an exterior influenced by Indian architecture and a fanciful, jaw-dropping interior redolent with Chinoiserie, lavish furnishings, and a ridiculous number of dragons.  Sadly, they do not allow photography inside, but the exterior shots should give you an idea of how over-the-top this place is:

There are also some interior shots on their website.  The extravagance of this place is unbelievable!
After we spent a couple hours touring the pavilion, we continued on towards the beach and the Brighton Pier, which is over 100 years old.
Brighton beach and pier
The Dome (now houses an arcade)
One of the many beautiful windows of the Dome
View from end of pier
"Crazy Golf" on the beach
It was not a particularly warm day (low 60's and windy) but there were plenty of people on the beach and the pier.  I can't imagine what it must be like on a hot, sunny day.  Brighton seems to attract an eclectic mix of people -- and summer festivals -- and was once known as a popular destination for a "dirty weekend."  The exhibits in the Brighton Museum certainly backed that up.

After walking around the pier and beach area, we took the historic Volks Electric Railway, the world's oldest operating electric railway, to the Brighton Marina.
Josh and his new friend wait for the train
Here comes the train!
The marina turned out to be a bit disappointing.  There were a few shops and a row of chain restaurants overlooking the water, with a huge parking garage on one side and a condo development on the other.  We spent about 10 minutes there and then took the train back.
Brighton Marina
As we walked back towards the train station in search of a place to eat dinner, we came across this lovely park and fountain.
Since we didn't want pizza again, we ended up at an "American Diner."  They didn't have iced tea, of course, so I had a Pimm's instead.  What else would you drink at an American Diner?
Traditional diner-style Pimm's & Lemonade
Actually, I did have an excellent chocolate milkshake for dessert.  Not all "milkshakes" are made with ice cream here -- some places make them with ice, milk, and flavored syrup.  I haven't tried one, but I don't think they should be allowed to call it a milkshake!

We caught an 8:35 train back to Clapham, and were back in our apartment by 10 pm.  A great day trip!


  1. It sounds like a fun day! And milkshakes . . .mmmm. I actually just wrote about milkshakes on my blog: http://dianawalkstoacure.blogspot.com/2011/05/milkshake-vindication.html.

  2. I went to Brighton in '99 or '00 to see Suede perform. I didn't get to do any of the touristy stuff you did because I was basically just there for 20 hours or so. I did take a walk on the pier, though.

  3. Also, I love the american flag placemats at the diner.

  4. I have a page-a-day calendar based on the "1000 Places to See Before You Die" book, and you'll never guess what today's place is? The Royal Pavilion!!!


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