Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brighton Beach Memoirs

I'm currently in Bath, where I would love to stay until I can go back to Europe, but it's awfully expensive and I don't do hostel dorms long term. Plus, I have so much to show and tell from Paris, you will get sick of hearing about the city. I'd like a good month or more there, but the Schengen treaty is getting in my way. Gah.

Anyway...I'm skipping ahead to Brighton for a minute, because it was where the Gypsy Sisters ended their European Adventure...for the time being. It will almost certainly resume at some point, probably on a recurring basis. But this trip was special in so many ways, we were both sad to see it come to an end, mainly because of all the laughter.

It had been about ten days since we'd last seen each other in Nice. And, as soon as Martha opened the door to our room in Brighton for me, we started laughing at all the things we had to tell each other.

However, we are both looking forward to what the future holds. Martha will be getting her RV and starting a huge U.S. road trip, while I've got family coming over in several weeks and I can't wait to see new things with them, as well as show them some of my favorites. Loose plans are in place for me to pick up a small camper van of my own and meet up again with Martha in San Diego, sometime in the Fall. We shall see.

In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed our last couple of days together in Brighton.

Martha had been there since the afternoon, and had walked along the Promenade to the Pier. But by the time I got there, summer had disappeared. It was chilly enough for me to put my coat on for the walk from the train station to the hotel, and a thick fog had rolled in.

I'd had a long day of travel from Paris, flying into Heathrow, then catching the train to Brighton. There was a lot of luggage hauling, starting with 5 flights down from my Paris apartment, because the elevator didn't come when I called it. Then two tube journeys and a train, in stations which didn't have many escalators, meant I was in pain for almost two days. Time to cull the suitcase again.

Anyway, Martha had traveled a few hours herself. So all we wanted to do by that time was go out to dinner and come back to the room. Brighton isn't that big, and everything we wanted to see could fit into one day.

So we went to a very nice Chinese place around the corner from our hotel, where the food wasn't bad and the service was amazing. Of course, I am a terrible food blogger, so no pictures. But you all know what Chinese food looks like, right?

Next day, we went to a big church Martha had read about, but they were closed. So we hit the BIG attraction in town, the Royal Pavilion. This thing had been turning up in historical novels I've read since I was in high school, and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see it.

I'd never come before because there was just never time to fit Brighton in, just to see this one thing. But while Martha didn't want to go back into London for her last night, just to turn around the next morning and head back to the airport for 9 a.m., she also didn't want to spend her last night too far from the airport. Brighton is on the other side of Gatwick from London, an easy trip in, so this was the perfect opportunity to visit.

And it was totally worth it.

They don't allow any photos at all inside the palace, so I can only show you the exterior, and never have I been so disappointed about that rule. But their photos are way better than anything I could have taken, anyway, and the exterior should give you a good idea of what to expect inside.

The guy who built this was the Regent that is referred to when you hear the term Regency England. He built it when he was young and in good health, and it was meant to be a pleasure palace, where he could entertain his friends with food, music, cards and anything else that might be entertaining.

It's interesting - to me, at least - for the practical architectural details, as well as the unusual décor. But it is the décor that is so entirely over the top. Please, please click on the link above and go take a look at this place. And if you ever get anywhere close to Brighton - it's only an hour's train ride from London, you can go and be back by lunchtime  - do consider going to see it in person. It's even better than the photos.

There is also a great deal of interesting information related to it. Not only all the stories from the period when it was built, but it was also used as a military hospital during the first world war. Seriously, this place is so worth a trip.

Afterward, we took a roundabout route back to our hotel. Brighton is quite the funky little city, which I did not know. Lots of colorful streets.

Though I love these narrow alleys in all the European cities we've been to.

There was a wild little indoor marketplace, where we spotted some interesting things. Martha and I particularly liked this picket fence bench and the matching wheelbarrow chairs.

We stopped in at St. Paul's church, which had a truly gorgeous altar. It also got a couple of things
very right, which I've seen done less well elsewhere.

First, the confessional area is in a corner, which gives it a feeling of privacy even though the priest is still the only one completely enclosed. This confessional at least has a taller outside wall, lending even a greater feeling of privacy.

Almost every single church we've seen on this trip has the person making confession just wide open to the world. I don't know when it became common to enclose the entire thing, but I grew up with confessionals that had three units, the priest in the middle with a sinner on either side of him.

That's a pretty efficient setup, too. It allows non-stop confessing, with each side being changed as the other side was in progress.

But another thing I like about the arrangement at this church is the little spot where the confessors can go immediately to pray whatever penance they were assigned. It's a really great space, with the flowers, statue and its own huge crucifix to pray to.

But you know they can hear the next person going to confession, and that has to be distracting. Not to mention, the person going to confession knows there is someone right behind him...I always think situations like this make a great starting point for a murder mystery. You know, someone randomly overhearing something. Anyway...

Next, a wealthy Brighton native donated the funds to have doors added to the back, which were necessary in order to let tourists in the back during services. The fish design is relevant to Brighton being a fishing town and also has Catholic connotations. They were done by an artist and are lovely. But they don't seem out of place at all, partially due to the heavy metal fittings all around them and for the handles.

Now, this is how you mix modern additions and historical landmarks. Although I like those pyramids at the Louvre, in and of themselves, I still do not like the way they mix with their surroundings.

Back to Brighton...

The day was beautiful, though still a bit cold. We went walking on the beach, made up entirely of large pebbles, and there were a lot of people out in the sunshine. Nobody in the water, though. Must have been freezing.

Then we finished with a late lunch celebration of our trip. Again, no photos of our two different scallops appetizers, plus the oyster one that we shared. Or of the seafood pasta entrees. Not even the desserts, which included a monster banana split made with FRIED bananas, y'all. FRIED bananas. Martha was in heaven.

I did finally remember to grab a photo of the champagne. Or, at least, the empty bottle and glasses. It was a really great ending to an amazing trip.


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