March 25, 2011

beaches of the continent

The immense cities lie basking on the beaches of the continent like whales that have taken to the land. Arnold J. Toynbee

Decided, yesterday to head down to Brighton. Originally I’d worked out times to leave etc but when I checked the National Rail card Mary Jane had leant me, I found I couldn’t use it till after 10am. Got myself organised and headed for Victoria. The card that Mary Jane gave me got me a return ticket for £15. Was quite nicely surprised by that. The journey itself only took an hour and the train was virtually empty. So many beautiful little farm houses on the way down. The train was going to fast for me to get any photos.

I arrived just before midday and followed the crowd to leave the terminus. Momentarily felt a bit discombobulated – I always do for the first time in a new place – the feeling never lasts long though and in some ways it’s pleasant.

I decided to head straight for the beach. Looking around you can see the ground sloping away. Following this I reached the water in a few minutes. The ocean has no smell like what I’m used to when I’ve reached the coast at home. Even compared to the smell of water in Beirut. Part of me was expecting to relive one of my favourite smells.
Old Pier

Lady sharing her sandwich with the bird life

Looking out to sea

Standing on Brighton Beach
The other strangeness is the pebble beach. You may well think walking on the soft sand at Caloundra is hard, but I think this is worse. Sand collapses and you sink, the pebbles move in different directions so you sway a bit like a drunkard. I didn’t end up walking all the way down to the waters edge because of this. Also, the pebbles are really quite loud. The ocean was very still. It wasn’t really doing anything but lapping gently at the shore.

Its quite easy to see why this is a popular holiday spot. Very quaint and dare I say it, very English. I started off by walking towards the shell of the original pier. They were trying to restore it when someone set it alight.

Instead of walking further this way I turned and started heading towards the pier. Lots of fish and chip shops were open. A few little art galleries dotted along the promenade. Some of the art was incredible and really nice. One piece I wish I could have afforded to buy.

A little fishing museum, telling the history of Brighton sits across from a fresh fish vendor and a somewhat oversized prawn. The museum is small but well maintained. It’s nicely laid out, the labels are all neatly typed and it even has some audio visual props. One is of an old man singing a sea shanty in what appears to either be rhyming slang or cockney. Interesting but harsh at times to the ear. I didn’t stay long – can’t say I’m overly interested in Brighton’s fishing history and nothing really enticed me to stay.

Brighton Fishing Museum
Supervisory Seagull

The weird looking prawn
By this point I wasn’t far off being at ‘the’ Brighton Pier. A quiet fish and ship shop was coming up so I stopped for lunch. The fish and chips were quiet good but not even comparable to what the boys at Sandgate serve. As I ate, seagulls and pigeons started landing near me. Never really heard pigeons squeal and squawk like these were doing. They didn’t get fed though – fat little bastards.


View from my lunch table
Sat for a while watching people walking their dogs, young and old couples holding hands, uni students planning excuses and lies for not having gotten any work done, workmen setting up what may have turned out to be a Ferris wheel. The area was quiet compared to what I guess it would normally be like, but there was still an energy to it.

Left the beach promenade and wandered up to the ‘new’ Brighton Pier. I’d been forewarned that some of the planks were thin / loose / slightly scary so I was perhaps a little over cautious walking out on them. The pier itself is bigger than I expected. That is to say, longer.

Standing on Brighton Pier - you can see the water through the gaps

Screaming seagulls were flying overhead
I skipped the games arcade with its noise and flashing lights and walked out toward the end. Quite a few shops were shut being out of season but the shop which sells rock candy was open so I got myself some.

Further out you start to reach the amusement rides and the usual food vendors. There is a merry-go-round with vibrant colours – it’s gorgeous but I’m not entirely sure why there were roosters on it. Seemed strange to me. About now though I was starting to get a little bit wigged out by being able to see the ocean moving below my feet. Felt like I was going to fall through the pier and into the water. Ended up walking back quite fast and then trying to decide were to go next. Trusty google maps on my iphone pointed me in the direction of something called the pavilion near the museum and the art gallery.

The Pavilion looks nothing like the name traditionally suggests and is completely out of place for the rest of Brighton.  It literally looks like the Taj Mahal from the outside. Meandered my way around to what I figured was the front and seeing as it was, I walked in. what a sight was before me. Never have I seen anything so crazily splendid. Turns out I’d found George IVs pleasure palace without looking or knowing it was there.

I, begrudgingly, paid the £9.50 entry fee and was handed an audio guide. Bare in mind that while the entry hall had looked promising, the ticket hall didn’t. I walked through a double glass door and couldn’t believe my eyes. The whole interior is exactly opposite to what you expect from a palace and from what you see outside. It is wall to wall and floor to ceiling Chinese. It is amazing! I really wish I had been able to take photos in some of the rooms. My trying to describe them just doesn’t do them justice. My favourite though was the dining room. Reds and greens and dragons holding up chandeliers. Even original wall paper survives. Staggering!

The Dance Hall - image via Google

The Dining Hall - image via Google

The Kitchen - image via Google

Not sure which room this was - image via Google

Entry Hall - image via Google

Spent about two hours in the pavilion – the last few rooms in silence as my audio guide failed. I know I said in a previous post that I quite like audio guides, and I do – but the technology needs to be maintained, and mine looked like it might have been reaching the end of its days.

After I left the pavilion I went around to the Museum and Art Gallery. Decided before I did anything else I was having a spell and a cup of tea. Ended up with a lovely pot of Assam. I appear to be becoming quite English.

I didn’t end up spending a huge amount of time here though – I was a little bit pretty objected out. Checked trusty old google maps and found three streets of antique shops. The Lanes. Of the three, I only managed to get down one before the light was starting to fade.

By this point the legs were starting to feel a tad weary. As I walked back towards the train station I stopped every few meters down the street to take photos of the incredible graffiti. I don’t think you can really call it that though. These pieces took up the whole wall space wise. The design time, and time spent creating them is a scary thought. My favourite was the whales.

Alien eating Skull


The white light is the sky. Just to give some perspective.

The train back to London was running about ten to fifteen minutes late and they had only sent four carriages, so it was a warm, and for those standing, a long trip back.

Was home again by about 8pm.


  1. Sounds like you had a great time! My fave photos are the supervisory seagull and the merry-go-round. I have wanted to visit The Pavillion for so many years, I have read it described in so many Regency novels. All that chinoiserie!

  2. well written...beautiful photos