We arrived in London right at the start of the Paralympic Games, so to avoid the crowds we decided to head out of town for a week or so before returning for our flights to Dubai. Our place of choice was the seaside town of Brighton.
A couple of things attracted us to the idea of staying in Brighton, firstly I had some faint but good memories of it as a young kid, secondly the weather was looking good by England standards and so a beach sounded appealing and thirdly the Brighton Pier looked like it might bring some of the joy that the kids found at the Santa Monica Pier in LA.
We found a fantastic, huge, 2 bedroom apartment with a little courtyard just a very short walk from the beach, for just over a week, and we decided that this was a good time and place to slow down a bit and gradually explore the area a little piece at a time.
Everything we saw and did here was within walking distance of our apartment. We particularly enjoyed:
The Brighton Palace Pier: The Brighton Pier was a lot of fun, it still has some old school rides suitable for the kids and it has a pretty cool old world charm, as it should have since it was built in 1899. We visited it twice, at the beginning and the end of our time here, although the kids would have been happy to come every day. The Helter Skelter slide and the Log Flume were the favourites, there were also carousels, bumper boats, a jumping castle slide, roller coasters and arcade alley style games, and of course a fish and chip restaurant. Apparently the pier is currently for sale for around £30m if anyone is interested!
If £30m is out of your budget, there is also the Brighton West Pier, it was closed in the 1970’s and has since been a little damaged by fire, I am sure they’d do a good price on this one.
The Brighton Beach: The shingle beaches are very different to the sand beaches at home but although the English may be envious of some of our beaches, we really liked the pebble beach for something different. The kids loved sorting through stones and throwing them left, right and centre and we loved that they came home clean and not full of sand. The beach here is huge, very wide, and the foreshore is full of restaurants, cafes and more rides for the kids. We ended up at the beach at some point nearly every day.
Whilst we did have mostly good weather, with a fair bit of sun and only a few showers, there was one day when it was hot, sunny and blue skies in the morning and suddenly turned very wild and windy in the afternoon, but rather than retreating indoors it seems everyone, including us, flocked to the beach to watch the storm thrash the waves about. It was a fantastic sight, although not something we could do justice to in photo’s.
Artist Studios: There are some artist studios along the beachfront, in the arches of the original sea wall. We spent some time in one of the larger ones speaking with three of the resident artists. Apparently one artist has rented the whole space from the Council for 30 years and he has a small glass studio at the front. He then rents out the balance space to about five other artists who come and go, staying for between one month and a couple of years. Skye and Tess had a good talk to an artist about her semi-abstract drawings while Ari and I chatted to a lady who was writing and illustrating a children’s book about dragons, a third guy we spoke with was screen printing retro style T Shirt designs. It was a really great relaxed yet productive atmosphere and they were all really happy to show the kids around and explain the art processes.
The Penny Arcades: I remember as a kid Grandma and Grandad used to save up pennies between our visits and we sometimes got to spend time in the penny arcades at Whitby or somewhere. So it was fun to find a little penny arcade museum on the foreshore with all the old machines still in working order, although they were much older than any we played with as kids. There were still the same games as I remembered in the newer arcades and the kids enjoyed playing on those for a while.
Sea Life Aquarium: The aquarium down near the pier is really quite good, whilst it’s not as fantastic as The Deep in Hull, it was much bigger than we expected and it’s housed in an historic stone building right at the seafront with a great atmosphere and interactive exhibits for the kids, they enjoyed holding starfish for example and if they answered some questions posted around the aquarium they got a gold medal, which became Ari’s Olympic Medal that he would not give up for the world, we spent much time playing ‘Olympics’, Ari’s favourite event is ‘The Mile’, in which he competes as an “able bodied athlete”. It was very dark inside the aquarium so this photo is the best I could do to give some idea of what it’s like.
The Volk’s Railway: The oldest operating electric railway in the world, built in 1883, runs for 2km along the seafront from the Pier to the Marina. It was a nice way to explore further up the beach since our apartment was about 2km down the beach in the other direction from the Pier, at Hove.
The Royal Pavilion: It’s hard not to notice this Palace in the middle of Brighton, it was built in 1787 in an Indo-Saracenic style typical of 19th Century India but not so typical of Brighton. By the time it passed down through the Royals to Queen Victoria it was sold to the city, because apparently she wasn’t a fan of Brighton, so it’s now a museum.
Recipease: This is a Jamie Oliver restaurant with a really casual cafe with great food at the front and a cooking school at the back where you can go and cook your own lunch or dinner. The staff were extremely friendly and seemed happy to be working there and their coffee was by far the best we found in Brighton (I think they were the only one’s who knew what a ‘flat white’ is). This place would work very well in James Street Newfarm I am sure.
Parks: Brighton has some fantastic parks, the best two that we spent time at were St Ann’s Well Gardens and Hove Park both have fantastic playgrounds and Cafe’s, Hove Park has a huge thumb print concreted into the ground as a maze, here is a Google Maps image of it.
All in all we really enjoyed our time in Brighton, it was nice to have the large space of the apartment and to just slowly explore the local area. The kids seemed really happy and relaxed and Ari has mentioned Brighton quite a few times since we have left.