In many ways, Brighton marked the start of a whole new life for me.
When you think about places you want to visit for a weekend break, you might think about places your friends have recommended, places you’ve always wanted to go or places that mean something special to you.
For this particular trip I just fancied having a chocolate cake from Brighton chocolatiers, Choccywoccydodah, who I had been following on the TV. It’s that simple. I knew nothing of the city, I didn’t even know where it was. When I found out it was a good 5 -6 hour drive from where I live, I still wasn’t deterred. That chocolate was just too alluring!
After doing some heavy research about what else we could do on our trip other than stuffing our faces full of chocolate, I began to realise just how popular it was. I’d seen Brighton Pier on TV many times, and had always heard of it as being a fun seaside town, but it never crossed my mind to make a holiday there. And that got me thinking.
Why not? There looks like there’s lots to do and see and it seems like it will be a great chilled out break (consequently it was so much more than that, but I’ll get onto that in a minute.)
Thus marked a shift in my thinking, and a firm decision was made in my mind then and there. The UK is full of Brighton’s – or at least, full of great places to visit with vibrant culture, beautiful scenery and fascinating history. So I’ve made it my mission to explore as much of this fair country as I can. Ok I could go abroad and soak in the sunshine, which I still do now and then, but it means so much more to me to appreciate and enjoy my native land.
So, revelation discovered, we packed our bags, added back pillows to the seats of my car that has in no way been built for a 600 mile round trip, and set off to the seaside.
After a long drive down through the pouring rain, much to our delight the skies had “Brightoned” up (sorry), and when we arrived on the prom we were instantly greeted by crisp sea air and the hypnotic cries of seagulls. From the ferris wheel dominating the coastline, to the famous pier reaching out toward the horizon, Brighton oozed a timeless charm.
Our hotel was set on one of the side streets just off the main promenade, with our room boasting an enviable seaview complete with iconic Brighton wheel. I’d chosen One Broad Street because the rooms looked so light and airy, with a bit of quirky colour thrown in. We knew it would have a fun vibe and were not disappointed when we were greeted with a warm welcome from the owners , and shown to our beautiful room.
First on our Brighton to-do list was to find the chocolatiers that had inspired the whole trip, and boy was it worth travelling 300 miles for!
Walking into the Choccywoccydoodah shop was like walking into a childhood dream. As if the dazzling window display wasn’t enough, the red-walled shop was filled with shelves upon shelves of exquisitely crafted chocolate. Only problem was, what to go for first!
And the cafe was no disappointment either. Perched in the window of an equally quirky and boudoir-esque interior, we delved into all levels of chocolate heaven, with a rich dark hot chocolate and generous slab of chocolate cake and ice cream. Mmmmm!
It was so good we even went back the next day to try out more of the delicious menu. If you’re planning a trip yourself, make sure you leave plenty of time. The cafe is extremely popular, so you could expect to join the queue for a table, particularly on a weekend. But trust me – it’s well worth the wait!
Next stop was Brighton’s most popular attraction, the pier itself. We waddled back along the stretch of the promenade, past rows of typical seaside gift shops colourful with Brighton Rock and giant lollipops.
Since we were visiting in early March, and on a weekday, the pier was almost empty, which added to the charming nostalgia of the place. Again, being out of season most of the Pier shops and the fairground at the end were closed, but it was still a great feeling to wander around. I can imagine it’s a very different place in the height of summer, but I have a particular soft spot for nostalgia so I soaked in the unexpected calm and went with it.
Now I mentioned earlier in the post that this wasn’t just an ordinary trip…
Later in the evening we had hoped to return to the Pier for some fish and chips, but were a little disappointed to find it closed early – again due to it being out of season we guessed. Instead we headed to Harry Ramsden’s across the road, so we still got our chips fix!
By this time the mist has rolled in from the sea, and the whole coast was shrouded in fog – it was magical. So much so that Andrew decided now would be a good idea to check out the beach. Sure – in the dark – in the fog – great idea. With some persuasion I gave in and we headed out onto the sands, where just a few minutes later he got down on one knee and proposed.
It was wonderfully romantic and the fog just added to it all. I said yes, in case you’re wondering…
Understandably on cloud 9, we woke on day two with a plan to explore the city. At breakfast we found a number of local leaflets and hatched our plan for the day: check out the Pavilion, have a wander around Brighton Museum, get some souvenirs and have dinner at a small local jazz club.
The Pavilion was stunning. I hadn’t expected to find something like this in the UK let alone in Brighton, but there it was. It’s even more impressive in real life so I’d definitely recommend a visit. Although we didn’t go in, the exterior was enough to take my breath away. I hear they have an ice rink in the winter – I imagine that would make a most stunning backdrop. If anybody’s been let me know.
Next onto the Musuem of Brighton and Hove which was full of great artifacts and fun interactive exhibitions. One of the guards – I forget his name – was brilliant. Very knowledgeable and so eager to help with photos etc.
Looking back the day seem to pass by in a bit of a blur – but I remember feeling distinctly romantic and very chilled out. The city has a great vibe which is helped by it’s very friendly residents.
To finish off what had been a magical trip, we planned an evening at The Verdict. We loved how relaxed the whole place felt. There was one choice on the menu- just whatever the chef was cooking that day which happened to be (a very delicious) lasagna. The interior had more of a cafe vibe about it – I assume it’s open during the day as well.
After dinner we made our way down to a cosy basement where we enjoyed a few sets of jazz and a couple of drinks in a caberet sort of layout. Definitely worth a visit if you’re a jazz lover, even if you only stay for a set or two.
And that was it. We returned to find a congratulatory bottle of champagne outside our door, courtesy of the hotel, and were given a hearty send off with a delicious breakfast – Andrew was a particular fan of the sausages which I believe were locally sourced.
So all in all Brighton was wonderfully unexpected in so many ways. An amazing atmosphere, bursting with culture and a great arts and music scene, to-die-for chocolate, kitsch and over the top, retro and nostalgic, chilled and friendly, with a surprise proposal in the mist to top it all off.
And so we were inspired to start our on-going tour of the UK…