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Don't mention the Rock
Brighton in General
Member Name: dee778
Brighton in General
Date: 20/01/11, updated on 20/01/11 (92 review reads)
Advantages: Something for everybody
Disadvantages: Pebbly beach
Brighton is genuinely one of those English tourist destinations that can fall under the banner of being 'all things to all men'. The diversity of its entertainment, its population and its architecture make it a constantly changing environment to visit time and time again; its long history and plentiful museums and grand architectural crescents make it a lovely place for the historian; and it vibrant arts scene with dramatic, music and theatre performances make it a wonderful weekend destination. In addition, as all seaside resorts do - it offers plenty for the young family in the form of traditional seaside fun and a beach that stretches for miles. Students, clubbers, children, the retired folk - all rub along side by side with sophisticated shoppers in this wonderful destination.
~~History and Architecture~~
Brighton has a long and varied history as it has transformed itself from a simple fishing village of Brighthelmstone to a cosmopolitan city. Its first transformation came in around 1830, when George, Prince of Wales made Brighton the most fashionable place to be seen as he created the magnificent Royal Pavillion and invited the socialites of the period to come and spend time by the sea. Many of Brighton's beautiful and imposing town houses, set in tranquil squares, were built in this period.
In the thirties and forties, Brighton became a little less fashionable, but it was during this time that some of the lovely Art Deco buildings were built, including the fantastic Saltdene Lido. The fifties, sixties and seventies saw Brighton as a popular holiday destination for the Kiss-Me-Quick style of holidays; fish and chips, Butlins and traditional seaside fun were enjoyed until the end of the century, when Brighton saw yet another renaissance. This saw Brighton recreated as a cultural centre for artists; part bohemian and one hundred percent trendy, The newly created artists' quarter, clubs, bars and restaurants sprang up around the city, revitalising the area and turning it into one of the most fashionable beachfronts in Britain.
~~Culture, Museums and Art~~
*The Brighton Pavilion is perhaps the main attraction for those wanting a historical experience. Created in 1822 by architect John Nash, this was the palace that George, Prince of Wales used to entertain his royal guests and hold court. The structure itself stands out from the surrounding architecture like the Taj Mahal; with its domes, curves and spires, it has been compared to a Moorish palace or an Indian temple. Inside, the opulence continues as you walk from one gilded room to another, soaking up the atmosphere and history of the time as you go. The restoration of the Royal Pavilion was completed in 1991, at a cost of £10 million.
*The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is located in the gardens of the Royal Pavilion, and contains galleries that include fashion and style, 20th century art and design, and world art. A lot of thought has gone into the creation of this museum and it is a really appealing visitor destination, featuring exciting interactive displays and historical collections that will appeal to all ages. Of particular interest is the Art Noveau collection in the 20th Century Decorative Art & Design gallery.
*Art Galleries in Brighton are too many to list. Small or large, they are found everywhere and are listed on www.brightonculture.co.uk website.
*Theatres include the Brighton Dome and the Theatre Royal, which had its 200th anniversary in 2007. There are also smaller theatres such as the Marlborough Theatre and Nightingale Theatre, both above pubs, which attract mostly local productions.
~~Beach Culture and Family Fun~~
The beach itself stretches out for an immense five miles right up to Hove. Brighton has both an upper and a lower promenade; the upper one running alongside the road, with the sea below and the rather ferocious cycle path on the opposite side. Cyclists in Brighton take their rights seriously, and you get a very aggressive response if you accidentally walk on the painted cycle path. Fish and chip shops, hotels and traditional sweet shops selling Brighton rock are found at this level. Much lower down, another paved path runs in parallel, but at sea level. Walking along this path allows you to look into art workshops and galleries, built into the brick arches of the upper promenade, or to sit at the quiet cafes that can be found at this level.
As well as providing the usual fun of paddling, swimming or just sunbathing, the beach front also has numerous beachside cafes, art galleries and shops, seafood stalls, sculptures and children's play areas. It is not unusual to see a sculptor constantly creating shapes out of large stones, small stalls selling photographs and tourist memorabilia, and musicians - all adding to the wonderful atmosphere along the seafront.
There are two piers in Brighton; the picturesque West Pier is now a silhouetted wreck against the sea after suffering two fires in 2003. Built in 1866, it is one of only two Grade 1 listed piers in the UK and has long been the centre of a campaign to restore it to it's former glory.
The Palace Pier opened in 1899. A traditional Victorian pier, this is the goal of most of the younger visitors, as it holds a fairground at the very end, an amusement arcade and many small stalls, together with various traditional food and drink outlets.
After the fun of the pier has been exhausted, it is nice to take a calming trip along the world's oldest operating electric railway. Volk's Electric Railway is a narrow gauge railway that runs the length of the seafront from the pier to Brighton Marina. It was originally created in 1883. It used to run right past the nudist beach, but that was a long time ago and things may have changed!
Brighton Sea Life Centre will take a little more time, but also holds a wealth of entertainment and education. Hidden away in the bowels of the earth, this sea life centre has more atmosphere than many others of its genre. The main aquarium hall, which is 224ft long, is the original 1872 listed building, with stone alcoves and echoing vaulted roofs. The rest of the visit contains a wonderful diversity of entertainment, from the underwater glass tunnel, to hands on experiences with various forms of undersea life - but the mystery and gloom that this Victorian Aquarium offers makes it head and shoulders above any of the others that I have visited.
Although Brighton has a traditional high street style centre, with a wide variety of large chain stores and other traditional shops, it is The Lanes complex that really attracts the discerning shopper. This area is near to the seafront, and is a maze of narrow alleyways that follow the street pattern of the original fishing village. The Lanes contain predominantly designer clothing shops, jewellers, antique shops, restaurants and pubs - all unique, without a car in sight, and with a strangely European feel.
~~Places to Eat~~
As you may expect from a cosmopolitan city such as Brighton, it is crammed full of wonderful places to eat and drink. There are far too many to mention, so I will just list a few of my favourites.
*Alfresco. With a beautiful location, right on the seafront and just opposite the ruins of the old West Pier, Alfresco is a modern beachfront restaurant set within an art deco style building, which offers contemporary Italian cuisine. The best thing about Alfresco is the curving design, which affords a 280 degree view of the sea, either inside in winter or outside on the curving balcony in summer. The perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down, with a chilled glass of white wine and a bowl of olives.
*Bill's Eatery. Café style dining in a unique old bus depot, this restaurant is always packed and offers snacks, light meals and delicious deserts of the very best quality.
*Food For Friends is a vegetarian restaurant with an amazing selection of delicious main courses and a relaxed atmosphere.
*Pompoko is a delicious Japanese restaurant located very centrally in The Lanes area. A cross between a restaurant, a café and a takeaway, this is a favourite amongst the locals.
~~Places to Stay~~
Although Brighton is full of accommodation of all types, ranging from the homely B&B to the cosmopolitan hotel, there is one place that has to be mentioned.
The Grand Hotel is symbolic of Brighton's Victorian splendour and for a long time has been THE place to stay. With 121 rooms contained within a really imposing seafront building and a fairly hefty price tag, this hotel is a magnificent building. Often remembered as being the site of the 1984 IRA bomb attack, and the attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher, the structure of the hotel is now as sound as ever and any stay there will combine luxury and history.
For those who want to make their stay a little cheaper, there are two campsites in Brighton; the Sheepcote Valley and the Blackberry Wood campsite.
I have so many memories of Brighton; from playing on the beach as a child, walking past the ruins of the Grand Hotel with my best friend after the IRA bombing, having a romantic first date there with my husband, taking my own children to the aquarium, and now as I am older, spending more civilised days out shopping and having lunch with friends.
I have seen it go through tatty times, wild times and now more sophisticated times - but I have always loved it and still think of a visit to Brighton as the perfect day out.
Summary: A place I return to time and time again
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