Here we are, catching up on my black hole of content from September of 2016 to April of 2017! So excited to be turning my detailed notes and journals into blog posts from the United Kingdom, Hawaii, Thailand and Bali! Shall we head to the UK together, then?
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane.
I cannot believe it took me four trips to England to finally make it to Brighton.
On paper, this weird and wonderful, bold and bohemian, quirky and quaint seaside town was made for me. And as I planned our grand United Kingdom trip, I made it a top priority to find out if Brighton and I had the chemistry I thought we would.
Spoiler alert: we did, and I now have a new favorite destination in the United Kingdom.
“Brighton is without doubt Britain’s most colourful and outrageous city,” writes the Lonely Planet England. It’s also, I found, one of the most insanely easily accessible. We left St. John’s, Newfoundland on a red-eye flight and were sipping tea seaside in Brighton by 9am the next morning. With London’s Gatwick Airport an affordable and easy five and a half hour direct flight from St. John’s, and Brighton an easy half hour train ride from Gatwick Airport, it was one of the easiest ocean-crossings of my life.
We had three full nights ahead in Brighton, which felt like a luxury compared to the day trip from London that many travelers allot time for. Our goals? Laze by the beach if the early September weather allowed for it, hit up some of the town’s offbeat attractions, and simply enjoy each other’s company after a summer spent either apart or in family mode while we visited relatives in Canada and the US.
It was far too early to check into our bed and breakfast by the time we arrived, so we dropped our bags and set off to enjoy the blue skies and bright sunshine. I was wearing boots and a sundress that I’d changed into on the train, and I was actually too warm when the breeze wasn’t blowing!
Our first destination, once Ian had wrestled me out of every quirky little shop in our path? The infamous Brighton Palace Pier.
The pier is undoubtedly on the tackier end of the town’s attractions, but we couldn’t say we’d been to Brighton without visiting it. After getting our fill of people watching, roller coaster riding (I wasn’t leaving without getting on at least one ride!), and silly-sign photographing, it was just about check-in time.
Unfortunately, I must confess, our bed and breakfast was the single greatest accommodation fail I’ve ever had in my entire traveling career due to the treatment we received from the manager — and the berating we regularly heard her staff receiving as well. It was so bad we ended up filing formal complaints with the local tourism board and the booking engine we’d reserved it through.
But I think I’ll save that story for another Total Travel Disasters edition — for this post, as we did for our three and a half days in Brighton, we really tried to make the best of it. Still, it was a heartbreak after the amount of time we’d put into researching the perfect place and the amount of money we spent splurging on it. It sure was cute, huh?
Anyway, after an awkward check-in, we quickly headed out again for lunch at The Set. Ian is pretty much always in charge of bar and restaurant research when we travel and he was overwhelmed with how we’d ever choose among Brighton’s many buzzed-about favorites. I had a feeling we couldn’t go wrong.
We’d actually considered staying at Artist Residence, the hotel The Set is within, but it had been just a tad out of our price range. However, after seeing how well they executed the design and menu and atmosphere of their restaurant, I might justify a more outlandish splurge next time.
We had lunch in the cafe, which unlike the main dining room has an a la carte menu. We ended up splitting a set lunch regardless which came to $50 for two, with cocktails. It was so good we vowed to come back to dinner later in the trip.
After a long, late and leisurely vacation lunch and a nap back our hotel — who really gets a perfect night of sleep on a red-eye, anyway? — we wandered back to the beach to watch the sun set from the sand. We picked a spot right between the glittering Brighton Palace Pier and the ruins of the West Pier, the historical landing that now makes for a stunning evening silhouette.
The beach was as lively at nightfall as it had been that sunny morning, abuzz with happy families, silly students, and adorable couples. I looked back from the water and saw a skyline glowing with energy and remembered how much I love this combination of the best of both worlds: a city, by the sea.
We’d been there less than twenty-four hours and already I wondered aloud to Ian what it might be like to call Brighton home.
Unsurprisingly, Ian had another trendy eatery ready to whisk me away to for dinner. As soon as we walked into 64 Degrees, I was relieved Ian had made a booking — there couldn’t have been more than two dozen seats in the entire restaurant. We happily cozied up to the bar while Ian hemmed and hawed over the small menu and I declared myself happy with anything as long as we ordered whatever the “Rum Gummy Bear” dessert was.
It was one of those menus where just a couple of ingredients are listed, so each and every dish was a surprise. While they weren’t all to my taste, exactly, I adored the presentation and the atmosphere and seeing Ian die a little bit of happiness with every bite.
I ended the evening totally smitten with Brighton — and wondering how it could have possibly taken me four trips to the UK to make my way down to this vibrant and just-the-right-amount-of-offbeat city. We couldn’t wait to spend two and a half more days exploring.
Have you been to Brighton? What were your first impressions?