Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

There’s nothing I like better on a sunny day than to pile in to a car full of people I love and meander down to the coast through country lanes and pretty villages. The closer to the sea you get, the greater the anticipation becomes; the air becomes fresher, salty, freeer, somehow, than the close, smutty city air I am used to breathing, and each bend in the road has the potential to reveal that first tantalising glimpse of the sea, sparkling enticingly in the distance.

On Saturday my family and I headed down to Brighton for a lovely day out together. We were going to see my brother’s girlfriend’s paintings displayed in the University of Brighton’s famous graduate show, where all of the final year BA students on applied arts and textiles courses display their work to thousands of people over one weekend as a kick start to their careers. It was a wonderful show and I predict there will be several future stars in the graduating class of 2010.

Below you can see one of Natalie’s beautiful paintings; she is half Danish and all of her paintings are depictions of her memories of childhood holidays spent in Denmark. You can also see a budding art critic sauntering along underneath; my three year old nephew George.

After looking around the show we moved on to a local organic restaurant and market style shop, Bill’s, for lunch. The food was delicious, but the interior itself was what entranced me the most; shelf upon shelf of the most delicious looking, beautifully packaged foods, some of which I had never seen before. From pickled lemons (no limes, though!) in jars to organic pink lemonade, jams and chutneys of all conceivable kinds to home made beers, there was something for everyone, and all arranged in a most eye catchingly colourful manner. Quite a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

After eating our fill, we headed off to the beach, making our way there through the lush gardens of the beautiful Georgian Royal Pavilion, commissioned by George IV in 1815 (not finished until 1823) and built by the famous architect John Nash. Brighton is now well known as a hub of ‘alternative’ culture and so somehow this exotic creation, with its minarets and oriental detailing, does not manage to look out of place by the British seaside. I didn’t get the chance to go inside, but the gardens were wonderful and I’d love to go back sans nephews for a longer look another time.

Finally we made it to the pebbly expanse of beach that is famous for its piers; one, a thriving holidaymakers’ heaven, complete with death-defying drop you over the edge if you don’t hold on tight fairground rides, the other a blackened skeleton, far out to sea, the only remains of the once fine Victorian structure that sadly burned down a few years ago. We had a wonderful time down at the beach; good company, deckchairs, icecream, a ride on the carousel and a paddle in the sea; all the ingredients you need for a glorious day out at the Great British seaside, and not a drop of rain in sight! Hurrah!


  1. Looks like you had a great time! I always regretted not going to Brighton and seeing the Pavilion when I was in England for a year, but sadly I didn’t find out about its existence until after I’d come home. I hope you do get a chance to go back and visit it properly, and then tell us all about it!

    1. It’s well known in England for being there, but not many people actually seem to go inside, so I don’t think you missed out on a quintessential English experience, don’t worry! I am definitely going to be heading back, though – I can’t resist a historical interior!

  2. That looks like a gorgeous way to spend the day. I really need to add Brighton to the list of places to go next time I’m in the UK.

    1. It was indeed! Brighton is definitely worth a visit and so easy to get to from London – just an hour’s train ride. There’s lots to see and do besides the beach – the shops are fantastic!

  3. What a great day for a trip to the shore – and pickled lemons, no less. I wonder if Amy March, aka May Alcott, had some on her trip abroad with her big sister Louisa?

    I, too, wonder about the pebble beach, and the burnt out structure takes on an alien aura. What a wonderful time you all must have had. Though I love your well penned reviews, it is nice now and then to wander about Great Britain with you as our guide.

    1. I wonder! Pickled limes sound more appetising though, don’t they?!

      It does, doesn’t it? Like a giant spider sitting out there, waiting to pounce. Thank you – sometimes I like to mix it up a bit and I’m glad you still enjoy reading about non book related topics!

  4. This is the sort of post that makes me regret even more than usual the fact that I live about as far from the sea as is possible in the British Isles. Gnashing of teeth and flashing of envious greeneyes at this end.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry!! I am lucky in that I live close to London and also within a reasonable driving distance to the coast. However, I do sometimes long for the expanses of rolling hills that others enjoy!

  5. What a lovely you had. When I lived in South London, we were always piling into the car/train to pop down to Brighton. There’s something about that town – maybe its reputation as the home of the dirty weekend, but it never failed to excite, even with a pebbly beach.

    1. Ha! Dirty weekend indeed – I saw plenty of hen/stag parties traipsing the streets on Saturday! There is something very holiday esque about Brighton – I think it’s the general alternative nature of the population- anything goes, just like when you’re on holiday abroad and don’t care what anyone else thinks!

  6. Oh me too – I LOVE the seaside – it is my favourite place – I love resorts and got together with my fiance at the seaside! I hate living in Oxford sometimes, it is so landlocked and so far from the sea.

    I must go down to the sea again…

    1. How lovely, Verity! The seaside is such a special place and always makes me feel that my little life and its problems are so insignificant compared to the enormity of the world out there beyond the horizon…I should go more often, but the weather is so unreliable, it’s hard to plan too far in advance.

  7. I love the seaside, even though I’ve recently being writing an essay for the OU course I’m doing, on the importance of sea and sand over the years. Piers were mentioned, of course, with their added ‘attractions’! But I hadn’t realised until the essay was sent that Brighton’s beach has no sand! Up here (Scotland), possibly because of the wild seas, our beaches trend to be beautiful sands, particularly up the north west coast.
    John (DH) and I would love to visit Brighton, partly because it’s famous for being great for vegans! And if we ever get there, we’d have to visit that shop! Wow! Is that tissue paper hanging from the ceiling? Gorgeous colours!
    Thanks for another interesting post. 🙂 I’m so glad I found your blog! 🙂

    1. What an interesting essay! What course was it for, if you don’t mind me asking? I think the use of piers in the Victorian times and the rise of seaside towns reachable by train from London is very interesting and telling in helping us to understand the Victorian mentality in many ways.
      No, there is most definitely NO sand – just very painful, huge pebbles! They make great skimming stones, though! You should definitely visit – Brighton is very vegan and vegetarian friendly and there plenty of such dishes on the menu at Bill’s. The hanging bits are carrier bags – they’re gorgeous colours, aren’t they? They really have paid attention to the smallest details.
      Thank you for reading it – I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my blog!

  8. Sounds like a marvellous trip, I do love a good day or two in Brighton, I used to hate it – for no reason whatsoever which is a weird little fact for you.

    The painting looks wonderful, I love how all of it has a wavey feel of the seaside, that probably makes no sense. I also love the look of that restaurant, stunning colours.

    Do you know I have never ever been to the Pavillion! I must!

    1. I’m not a massive fan of Brighton, I have to say – it’s become very crowded and too self consciously cool for my liking in the past few years, but on a quieter day out of season I do enjoy meandering through the Laines and having some chips on the beach! Thanks – the paintings are beautiful in the flesh but she charges a pretty penny so I wasn’t allowed to take one home!
      You MUST go to the pavilion – it would be right up your street! A Savidge weekend away beckons, I think!

  9. Everyone seems to going to trips here and there, people complaining they want a vacation too.. I can feel myself wanting to go somewhere too!

  10. What a lovely day out you look to have had, Rachel. I love the British seaside; there’s something so old-fashioned about it. We go to Scarborough and Whitby a lot – I love it there (it’s up north, Rachel, so you’d need to hire some husky dogs to bring you up here).

    1. I love the old fashioned simplicity of the British seaside too – no bells and whistles, just sea, pebbles, fish and chips and the odd carousel. That’s all you need! Hahahaha! Actually, I have been to Whitby, and I loved it – though it did take me all of 23 years to make it up there!!!

  11. I love the painting that you have shown. Although it is not of Brighton, your post makes me long to go back there. the last time I went it was pouring with rain and I was two hours (yes, two hours) late for an interview – so I didn’t really enjoy it. What a lovely post. If you love the old fashioned simplicty of the English countryside you might like where my parents live – Mundesley in north Norfolk. Hope you are reading a good book and having a lovely Tuesday evening.


    1. I’m glad that you liked the painting, Hannah! That doesn’t sound like a good day out – you definitely need to have a non stressful, non interview attending day there to enjoy the shops and have a sit in a cafe and do all the nice things Brighton can offer. I went to North Norfolk last summer and absolutely adored it – we camped in Cromer and drove around a bit – the countryside was so quintessentially British and there were beautiful, tumbledown churches everywhere. I loved it – Norfolk’s reputation for being flat and dull does it a real injustice!

  12. This is where I get the chance to make all those stranded inland feel very jealous, by saying that I only have to walk for twenty minutes to be on the coast: a fact I take advantage of most weekends, even in winter. Looking west I can see the mountains of North Wales, and to the north west there is a suprisingly elegant offshore wind farm, beyond which lies a wide open vista of sea and sky. It is that sense of space that I more than anything keeps me going back time after time. Antony Gormley’s “Another Place” installation has provided an added attraction in recent years.

    As for what piers tell us about the Victorians? It is probably rather obvious to suggest that they provided a means of walking over water while remaining fully clothed and, hence, fully respectable. Actually going in the sea was quite a complicated affair, involving bathing machines and elaborate costumes – some people now go out for the evening wearing less than our Victorian ancestors did when bathing! Piers were probably also tied up with Victorian obsessions about class. By charging an entrance fee they could keep out poorer folk and provide a space for ‘the right sort’ to promenade in the company of their peers (piers/peers, interesting, is their a connection I wonder?). I have a vague recollection of having read somewhere that popular resorts like Brighton had more than one pier not simply to meet demand, but also so as to target different classes of visitor.

    Thanks for another great blog post, Rachel.

    1. You have made me a bit jealous, David, though I would always prefer the buzz of London to a quiet life in the country for full time living. I love a break by the sea to relax and regroup but I love it simply because it’s a break from my normality – if it was my normality, I don’t think I’d find the sea as special or exciting.

      Your comments about piers are very interesting and I didn’t know that about there being different piers for different social classes – you’re a mine of information!

      You are welcome David- thanks for reading!

  13. I can hear the gulls now! Thank you for that virtual beach interlude as it’s raining here and very grey…blech.

    George looks terrific in front of Natalie’s painting with his outfit matching the colours!

    1. Those gulls! So evocative! Don’t be too jealous – the weather had turned by the next day and it’s a chilly damp night here now!

      Doesn’t he? I thought that when I took the photo! Shame he wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get a photo of him that wasn’t blurred!

  14. Oh wow. Glad to know that you had such a lovely time !Your post bought back lovely memories of Brighton. I was there in the freezing winter of 2006 and all I did was roam around in the amusement park by the sea. I remember winning a teddy bear at one of those games 🙂
    I still remember how pretty everything was even though it was biting cold.

    1. Haha! The British seaside in the winter isn’t fun, is it?! How lovely that you won a prize – I’ve never quite managed that. I’m glad to have brought back happy memories for you!

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