There are three major cities along the south coast of England that would-be tourists are likely to visit:
- Portsmouth – the obvious choice, home of everything you’d actually find interesting, what a great city!
- Southampton – feeling suicidal? Or maybe you just need a reminder that your life isn’t quite as bad as you think?
- That Other One – no, not Plymouth, the one the other way, you know, in every sense of the phrase. Huh? Yeah? Yeah, you know what I mean!
That other one is Brighton.
Getting To Brighton
If you’re heading in from the west then the A27 provides the most direct route. Pay special attention when you turn off the A27 lest you accidentally head off towards Lewes. I headed off towards Lewes once. Once! We never talk about the Lewes experience.
If you’re heading in from the east or coming down from London then you’ll need to look at a map or get yourself one of those fancy satellite navigational thingies because I live to the west of Brighton so using those routes really isn’t in my interest.
Getting Around Brighton
You could try walking but it’s quite a sprawling city with lots more hilly areas than you’d expect so I wouldn’t if I were you. Driving is an option but it’s also not a good one. The bus does provide the most convenient method of getting into and around the city proper from the outskirts but please bear in mind that "most convenient" is a very relative term in this case.
Brighton provides a Park & Ride service from the Withdean Stadium. Simply park at the Withdean Stadium (signposted clearly on your way in unless you’ve accidentally ended up in Lewes when suddenly everything is backwards and scary and all you want to do is not crash and get out quickly, but we don’t talk about Lewes) and then ride on the bus right into the heart of Brighton. They used to provide a dedicated bus for the service but now they just put you on the number 27 route which is far, far, far longer and takes you on a three quarters of an hour in-depth exploration of, apparently, every single bus stop Brighton has to offer. I’m not saying that someone on Brighton’s council has a brother who manufactures bus stop poles so they thought it would be a good idea to erect one every forty feet, and I’m not saying that Brighton is full of the laziest people on the planet who think nothing of letting the bus stop to allow people on or off then waiting for it to close its doors and lurch away at 2 miles per hour before immediately pressing the button to ask the bus to stop again a couple of metres further on because it’s just that tiny fraction nearer their particular destination and screw everyone else on the bus anyway… but I am thinking it.
Brighton, like other places, has shops. They are, for the most part, just like the shops you see where you live. If you’ve come to Brighton for these shops you really should have just stayed at home. Unless you live in Lewes. I could understand if you lived in Lewes. For obvious reasons. Which we won’t mention.
Brighton also has the "famous" Brighton Lanes! Think Harry Potter-style narrow, cramped, winding paths tucked between buildings offering trinkets and sparkly things and odd things and excitement and danger and you will be way off! It’s mainly just antique jewellery, much of it hovering within the Garish Even For A Victorian zone, and "arty" and "crafty" guff. But my wife likes to spend my money there and I fear her wrath.
The People Of Brighton
Wow! No, I mean Wow! I like a little bit of individuality as much as the next nazi but, seriously! Let’s put it this way: if you ever wake up and think "I really fancy a trip out today" but then discover that all you’ve got in your house to wear is a pink sock, one torn stocking, flippers, a sparkly mini-skirt, a sheet of clear plastic, a green bowler hat with "Kiss Me! I’m Swedish!" scrawled in biro across its top, and some slices of wafer-thin ham that’s just exceeded its consume-by date then put aside any notion of staying in and crying yourself to sleep, throw the lot on you and see what sticks where, and get yourself to Brighton quick! They won’t bat an eyelid there. I swear. Brighton is more-or-less a magnet for the mentally ill. I mean that in a good way. Really.
Picture the scene: it’s more than a thousand years ago. You’re part of a small group of people looking to start a new community. You’re tired of the dark ages. You want to form a new bright town. Bright town. Yes, it’s got a ring to it. You’re looking for a place with a lovely beach. But you’re also tired so sod it all, why not just set up camp right here by this pebbly expanse instead?
And that’s how Brighton was discovered. I don’t know why Brighton beach has some sort of world-famous status or why the Victorians thought it was some red-hot destination but, well, opium was really big back then. Maybe people like pebbles. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against a good pebble myself. Just, when it comes to beaches, I’m more of a sand person. Yes, I travel in single file to hide my numbers.
Brighton has two piers. One of them is small, black, and crispy but Roger Daltrey has an alibi and can’t be blamed for this one. The other one is still standing and you’ll probably end up walking along its length during the half-hour window you’ve allotted youself in Brighton before needing to get back on the world’s most tedious bus route back to your car.
There’s plenty to see and do along the pier. Get scammed by carnies! Get shat on by seagulls! Step through the Stargate!
Or why not just soak up some rays…
… with your hat on? And gloves. And cardigan. And over-cardigan. And coat. And extra coat. And blanket.
Brighton: it’s not Lewes!