Brighton: By the Sea!

[Our theme song for the day; I even wore stripes.]

I’m not very good at waking up when I’m supposed to. I’m not very good at going to bed when I’m supposed to, either. It’s no surprise that I slept through quite a number of my alarms. I had intended to wake up gracefully and eat cake and drink coffee and plan for our thrilling day out in Brighton, but that was not to be. I simply darted into the shower, jumped into some clothes, then we smashed ourselves into a very crowded train. It was alarmingly full of people; we weren’t entirely sure that Jessica was going to make it on as she seemed to be half in and half out, but we all shoved up and got on.

I haven’t taken that many trains in Europe, but I should and I shall. We were a bit confused at first about which platform we needed to use to go to Brighton, but it was easy enough to figure out after reading through a few boards. It can be a bit stressful though, because the platforms don’t open for boarding until just a few minutes before the train is scheduled to depart. We made it on, though, and were soon headed south.

The view was rather nice with loads of hills and picturesque English villages dotting the landscape. I was particularly fond of one that had a massive house sat high on a hill, towering over the other peasants below.

To pass the time, I tried making conversation with Jessica, but she has severe hearing issues. Example:

BEN:               “Have you looked into hearing aids?”

JESSICA:       “Huh?”

This went on for a while, so I gave up and she went back to her endless singing. She sings all the damn time and always the same five songs. I have nothing against singing, of course, and I like to regularly engage in the practice myself, but when it’s never ending, it can be exceptionally fatiguing!

I think I fell in love with Brighton the second I got off the train. The atmosphere was so different from London. Here the air was clear and brilliantly blue. The sun shone hot down upon the revelers. Birds squawked all over the place. You could smell the water from the English Channel — in a good way — and I had to happily sigh. I’m at my best when I’m near the water. I can’t wait to someday live near the sea or the ocean or a river or anything with loads of water. Whenever you put people near water, they’re instantly more charming and relaxed. I’m sure there’s some kind of scientific study that will back up my hypothesis.

We were a bit starved, but I had to go down and see the water before I could do anything else. We hurried down the charming street, went into the creepy pedestrian tunnel — I detest those things — and found ourselves BY THE SEA!

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Oh, reader, it was absolutely glorious to be there! The water was so beautiful and alarmingly blue. The turquoise English Channel nearly blended into the similarly shaded sky and there were little clouds lazily puffing along the horizon. Have I ever been happier or more content? Probably not. Even Jessica seemed happy and she’s rarely happy. She was looking radiant today:

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She’s had some work done.

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We are best near water as I said. I also think this might be a genetic trait. My father’s side of the family comes from Cornwall near a beautiful place called St. Ives that I hope to soon visit. I don’t think I’ll be able to manage it on this trip, I’ll save that for the future. Anyway, the photos that I’ve seen of St. Ives were very much like Brighton…except a bit more tropical-esque and sandy. That Gulf Stream is the craziest thing in the world.

IMG_1540[She sang too much.]

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IMG_7261We had a lovely time down there on the beach looking at the beautiful rocks that had been tumbled smooth by the endless crashing of waves. There were so many colors and so many patterns and it was absolutely gorgeous. Annoyingly, our childlike pleasures were interrupted by a beggar. I try, reader, really I do, to have patience with these people, but I’m not very good at it. I have nothing against the begging trade, mind you, I just really don’t appreciate the ones that seem to assume we have money dripping from our pockets. I barely make enough money to sustain my lifestyle, let alone support every bum in Brighton. If they had sung a song or danced or did a comedy routine or done anything at all besides boringly ask for money, I wouldn’t be quite so offended. I  often do give them a little something…especially if they have a cat. When I went to school in Paris, there was an old Bosnian woman who was always in one particular Métro station with her very tame feline companion. I don’t know how much money I’ve given that cat.

After he’d gone away, mumbling something about £4 shoes from Primark, we went back to having a lovely time. There was a group of women in full burqas in front of us who were having a wonderful afternoon teasing each other and tossing rocks into the sea.

We were near to dying from starvation, so we picked up our belongings and the rocks that we had to keep and went back up the road to a pub called the Bright Helm. Jessica absolutely adored her fish and chips there and I had a nice, if uninspired, plate of pasta. We also ordered a pitcher of Pimm’s to drink, as it was a warm day and that’s the thing to do. Jessica loves this stuff, but I’m really not that big of a fan. I think there’s rum in it, and I really don’t care much for rum. I do make a delightful nectarine cocktail that uses rum, so I’m not totally opposed to it, I’m just more of a clear alcohol person. Give me all the gin and vodka and Saint Germain in the world…even white wine, just nothing with color. MERCI.

After we finished at the pub, we decided to mindlessly wander through the charming streets full of charming shops. At this point, I loved it more than ever. It was so ridiculously peaceful and you could do anything you wanted to do and eat anything you wanted to eat. In Brighton, pleasure is only limited by your imagination. This is one of those cities like Paris or San Francisco where you could remain in total happiness for the rest of your days. You never have to leave places like that because they’re perfect.

IMG_7265[This shop was full of wonderful little gag gifts and inappropriate postcards saying things like I LOVE MY PENIS.]

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I really enjoyed a combination thrift shop/antique shop where I tried on my first Burberry trench coat. I could have wept. It was only £95, but it was far from my size and decades out of style. Oh well.

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As we were wandering, Jessica heard some music, so we followed it into this wonderfully exotic garden. The plants were lush and overgrown — they were obviously tended, but in a way to make it seem almost wild like being in a jungle. I adored it. This is exactly the aesthetic that I love. I’m mad for things that look old and abandoned, but are clearly fully operational and under control. That’s why I’m having such a hard time figuring out how to design my shade fountain cocktail pavilion back home. I want it to look like it’s been babbling away for a hundred years.

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[I got a bit carried away with the pictures here, but I loved it.]

As we were walking through this park, we found ourselves at the Royal Pavilion (above), which is an absolutely stunning architectural marvel. It was a Royal Palace for the Prince of Wales built about 200 years ago and is designed to look like a building straight out of India. The designer was very successful and you’re transported to a foreign world just being there.

We saw a sign for cake, though, so we hustled right over to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. The cake wasn’t that great, so we didn’t get any, but we did peruse the eclectic little museum.

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It didn’t have any grand theme, but there were small rooms filled with nice exhibits. There was a small wing of Egyptian antiquities and it was nice to see how minor museums deal with my favorite subject — I’m so used to visiting grand museums with massive collections. There was even one of Salvidor Dalí’s famous Mae West lip sofas — one of only five in the world!

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We left the museum and went back toward the sea, it has a strong magnetism, and headed down the Brighton Pier.

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Like all piers, the elegance is nowhere in sight. Still, there were hints of what it might have been in the Victorian era, when elegant men and women would slowly saunter up and down and enjoy the truly sensational views of the city. Now it’s full of coin operated machines and fried foods, so that wasn’t thrilling for me.

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Jessica nearly made a bird friend, but it had no time for her shit:

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There was a Haunted House attraction I wanted to go on so that I could pretend to be Hyacinth Bucket taking a group of senior citizens to the sea…but we never did get around to that. WATCH:

Instead, we headed back into the city to visit a bakery that I had read wonderful things about called Julian Plumart. It was a very fine bakery and the macarons that I ordered were lovely, the passion fruit one was especially delightful. I’m beginning to think that anything with passion fruit in it will make me an immediate fan. We enjoyed their free WiFi for a considerable time before making our way up the road where we bumped into a gypsy carriage selling tattoos. Jessica found one that said “I ❤ Harry Styles,” so she had to get that. It was £6. MADNESS!

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Carrying on, we found a mall. I’ve never been to a mall in Europe…at least not that I can remember. Have I? I’ve been to department stores. It was kind of fun to wander around and see what shops we have that they do and what ones we don’t. We were particularly intrigued by a fast food place that had a menu consisting entirely of baked potatoes. The combinations were strange, though. Why would you want to have a baked potato topped with cottage cheese or baked beans? Maybe it’s good? I don’t really care to find out.

We went into a new part of town to visit a vegetarian restaurant called Iydea that I had been wanting to try. The staff was very friendly, the food was rather good, and the portions were more than reasonable. I had curry, roasted potatoes, and a beet salad. It was a strange combination of shredded beets, orange juice, ginger, and tomatoes. Weird, but rather tasty. I should have had the quiche, though, I can make curry any time.

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It was time to head back down into the older part of town to find the Theater Royal where we were going to see Dawn French.

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It wasn’t difficult at all to find, but we had arrived rather early, so we stopped in at a little café next to the theater for coffee and tea. We had a nice time on their free WiFi, but we forgot to pay and I feel awful about it.

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It’s weird here, you order inside and go outside and then you have to go back inside to pay. Maybe it’s part of the culture here, but it’s not something I’m accustomed to. I’m used to paying when I order and then departing at my leisure, which explains why this happened. I will have to send them some money, I suppose, because I don’t want the kindly proprietor to think I’m some common hoodlum.

Finally, it was time to go into the theater. It was a lovely place and we had very nice seats at the very front of the second balcony. The seats were so very small! It’s awful going to old-fashioned theaters. As time has gone on, people have become much taller and wider than they were in the Victorian times, so when you have legs like mine that stretch on for days, it’s a bit of a challenge to find a comfortable position, but I wasn’t about to complain, I was going to see DAWN FRENCH!

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I can’t even remember now how I first found out about her. It was probably from watching Absolutely Fabulous and falling madly in love with everything Jennifer Saunders has ever done. Jennifer and Dawn are comedy partners and have had many shows on the BBC which I adore, so my love for Dawn has grown as my love for Jennifer has grown to astronomical proportions. She’s basically one of my personal deities at this point.

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I was so happy to finally see her when she came out on stage. I loved this little snipped I had read in a magazine earlier that day:

…It’s also worth coming, if only to finally witness what size she actually is. Can we believe the stolen images of so many women’s magazines? What is the truth? Is she so unfeasible large that she can hardly live? Or does she sleep in a matchbox? Marvel at how one woman can mercilessly murder so much chocolate, and yet remain so curiously slim.

The show was so funny and I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Her solo tour debut was very personal and she talked mainly about the important people in her life. It was very well constructed and the comedy was well intertwined with the more serious issues, like her father’s suicide. My favorite bit, though, was about her evil drunk grandmother, who seemed like a person that I would get along well with.

During the interval, Jessica and I got drinks and mingled with the crowd and actually talked to people. We chatted with a lovely elderly couple who loved Brighton just as much as we did and encouraged us to come back and often. I will certainly be doing so, too, I’d rather go to Brighton than London! Plus, you can walk on the beach in winter with a light jacket and they laughed at the concept of snow, so I’m totally sold. Packing my bags.

I was sad to see the show end. It was so good and I love Dawn more than ever. I hope that someday I’ll be able to see Jennifer Saunders. That might be a bad idea, though. I’d probably start crying and just drop dead.

Starved, we went over to Nando’s for some nibbles and then made our way back to the train. This one made all the stops on the way back to London, so it was a bit lengthy. When we were finally back in London, the Tubes had stopped running, so we had to catch the Night Bus, which was more pleasant than I had thought. The route back to Hackney was rather lovely and it was a good view of a very active city late at night.

Back in the apartment and completely exhausted, I fell immediately to sleep.

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