After spending a week in crowded, hectic London working, doing yoga, eating delicious healthy takeout food and checking out comedian Russel Brand's stand-up special, we decided to take a long weekend in Brighton, the royal seaside resort town on the south coast of Britain.
London to Brighton
We woke up Friday morning in the Shoreditch area of London, enjoyed a workout, sauna and spa at our hotel, and hopped on the hour-long train to Brighton. As we watched the British countryside pass by, we feasted on a Marks & Spencer lunch of sandwiches, salads and watermelon, mango and cantaloupe. We walked about 15 minutes from the train station to our B&B, situated in a Victorian house less than a block from the beach. Then we set out to explore the city.
Brighton came to prominence in the 1800s as a royal seaside vacation spot, and royal-watchers made the popularity of Brighton skyrocket. It is now known as a hipster, progressive and healthy cultural center, sort of like the Portland of Europe. Our first top was at a vegan pizza spot (as we have nothing like that in Luxembourg). We brought our lunch to the beach, strolled past a Mr. Freeze slushee stand and mini golf course straight out of the 1980s, and then found a spot on the pebbly shore to devour the delicious margarita pizza (with cashew cheese) while watching show-offs on jet skis perform ticks for onlookers on the pier. Per custom, Dave took a swim in the cold water and impressed the teenagers around us, who screamed just dipping their feet in.
To burn off our lunch, we took a long walk on the famous Brighton Pier, which dates from 1899 and features a casino, arcade and amusement park, along with tons of county fair-like food options (funnel cakes, Belgian fries and of course fish and chips). The entire atmosphere on the pier felt like we were in a different era, and this feeling was confirmed when we entered the arcade and realized that the games hadn't been updated since we were in grade school. This lack of modernization turned out great for us, as Dave found his favorite childhood video games - we spent the next hour or so killing dinosaurs in an original Jurassic Park jeep, deep in nostalgia.
We continued our exploration of Brighton a short distance away at the Royal Pavillion, a former royal residence built in the late 1700s. Since we arrived just before closing time, we had nearly the entire Chinese, Indian and Islamic-inspired structure all to ourselves. We wandered from room to room, admiring the decadence and exotic feel of the place, especially since we have spent so much time in the more stately, buttoned up British palaces in country houses.
Hippie Sunset Scene
We took a quick break back at our place to refresh and headed back to the shore to explore up the coastline toward the remnants of the former pier, set about 100m offshore. The original Brighton entertainment pier fell into disrepair, was damaged by storms and arson, and now just the skeleton remains, creating a striking image, especially at sunset. We walked along the beach with a bottle of wine and marveled at the thousands of mostly young people, with tiny bonfires, hanging out, drinking and smoking. It felt like we were in a massive hippie chill beach party, which did not mesh at all with our preconceived notions about the preppy, sailor-like British coast. The sunset was blazing orange, making the whole scene feel like we were in a movie.
After enjoying the sunset, we grabbed some delicious pho for dinner - Brighton kills the game with healthy Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. This culinary diversity has not yet made it over to Luxembourg, so over the next couple of days we planned to take advantage.
Bike Ride to the Marina
The following morning we rented bikes (conveniently via an app - no human interaction required) and rode along the coast toward the marina. That morning hundreds of cars lined up for a beach-side car show. The cars involved in the show were in the style of the "Fast and the Furious" movies, except they were, on the whole, not the type of car you would want to show off - think a dated Mazda Miada with its hood open to display its engine, and a very dedicated owner waxing it up as we rode by. We rode for more than a mile through displays of many tacky and some cool cars, and even saw a dude coloring in a scratch to his ride with a permanent marker. As we rode past, we heard one woman exclaim, "I have never seen so many fragile male egos."
After returning our bikes, we did some shopping in the Lanes, a neighborhood of winding, narrow streets filled with jewelry shops, antique stores and tiny cafes. We pushed on to the North Laine neighborhood, which featured hippie vintage stores, juice bars, photogenic flower shops and tons of people out enjoying the unseasonably warm sun.
We wandered back toward our place, picked up another beach picnic, and spent the early afternoon laying out in the sun. We were enjoying our relaxing afternoon until a rock flew at us from out of nowhere. Dave jumped up and looked around, hoping to find some young punk to beat up, but the aggressor escaped unseen. We took that as our cue and headed back for an afternoon nap.
That evening, we enjoyed a nice but less spectacular sunset and started to get frustrated by everyone smoking cigarettes around us on the beach, so we headed into the city early and grabbed some ramen at a small Japanese restaurant. We ended the night with a long, meandering walk home through town, among some of the drunkest people we had ever seen. They were very entertaining and funny, but also a little unnerving when they came close, so we were on guard.
The next morning, we woke up and headed back to the train station, hopped on a train to London, took the tube to London City Airport, and were back in Lux by early afternoon. We found Brighton to be worth a weekend visit from London - we loved the elements of its royal heyday and the more modern healthy, hippie feel - the car show and constant cigarette smoke were not really our scene, but on the whole Brighton is cool, gritty and fun.
Check out our Brighton travel edit
Next up, road trip in Tuscany.
Expat Adventure Blog