As the evening train sailed down the southern route from London towards the sea, all I could see was stark white snow lumped atop cars, buildings and air planes (all ground to a halt at Gatwick Airport). It was only 4.30pm mind you, but dark already; and snow had just fallen heavily from the sky. Britain was about to be shut down again because of the big white, but we did manage to make it to our seaside weekend escape, and our very first visit to famous Brighton.
The salty sea air was evident from the moment we stepped out of the train station: a change from industrious London. Brighton is hillier and larger than we had expected, bustling with bright lights and activity – the abundance of chic shops, clubs and eateries obvious and exhilarating.
I jumped excitedly out of the cab as it stopped on the Brighton esplanade outside The Thistle Hotel. Opposite me, sprawled over the ocean that I could hear but not see in the dark, was the romantic spectacle of lights illuminating Brighton Pier through snow-hazed cloud. It was a cold but charming experience, and especially nice for this coastal Aussie girl to be near the ocean again.
Stepping into the lobby of The Thistle (recommended to us because of its proximity opposite the ocean and to almost everything you would want to do in the city) my fiancé and I shared a knowing grin – this looked nice!
The hotel, its facilities and service were superb, offering a fabulous and friendly escape from London, and a walking base to everywhere of interest. Check thistle.com before you travel for excellent deals on accommodation, dining and seasonal events.
WHY IT’S HOT
By far one of the most unique attractions of Brighton is ‘The Lanes’, a contemporary twist on the back streets of ‘old Blighty’. Once the heart of the fishing town of Brighthelmstone, Brighton Lanes’ historic quarter is a fabulous maze of twisting alleyways showcasing wonderful little stores (designer fashion, jewellery, antiques, pet couture, homewares), coffee shops, restaurants and pubs. Even if you don’t stay overnight in Brighton, go shopping here for a day and experience the best of old world merged with new.
EAT AND DRINK
As self-confessed foodies, we were in heaven in Brighton. There’s so much to choose from (fine dining, comedy clubs, tapas bars, international cuisine, pubs, diners…) that it’s difficult to know where to start (and stop) but we would recommend two discoveries, both located in Brighton’s Lanes, not too far from the ocean front.
We found The Mesmerist (Prince Albert Street, Brighton) to be a large, clean, cosy pub with a nice selection of seating, beers and food. It’s described as being an “absinthe inspired wonderland of the weird and burlesque,” and is a perfect spot to sit, indulge in a wine, listen to some music and watch shoppers pass by outside. Conversely, Street Thai (Brighton Square) is smaller, quite modern but very well priced. The food and cocktails here were delicious and I look forward to going back for another Massaman Curry.
A trip to Brighton would not be the same if you missed a stroll on the famous Brighton Pier. We were blessed with sun over our weekend in Brighton, and even though it was cold, there’s something enchanting about wandering around a pier like this, with its ice-cream stalls, game arcade, amusement rides, bar and restaurants overlooking the ocean. Brighton Pier is open all year unless weather is extreme, and photos reflect the epitome of what we all imagine is the quintessential English beach side city scene.
Simply wandering throughout the city and along the esplanade will inspire the photographer within, as landmarks like The Brighton Dome, Royal Pavilion or any number of streets and buildings dating back offer glimpses into Art Deco, Regency or Victorian periods.
It’s easy to see the allure of this charming city by the sea – endlessly entertaining regardless of the weather, and well worth a wander if you’re trekking to this part of the globe.