Brighton: Arguably the country’s coolest city
We live in turbulent times – cash is tight and holidays abroad go out of the window when funds are scarce.
But in Brighton, Londoners have a close approximation to a foreign trip without breaking the bank.
You can be on the beach in about two hours from most parts of the capital.
Southern runs loads of trains to Brighton every hour and it only takes about 50 minutes, less than many people’s commute.
Once there, it’s a quick stroll down to the sea. For those who don’t know Brighton, it’s a gorgeous city.
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In 1997, the two large towns of Brighton and Hove were joined to form the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove, which was granted city status by the Queen as part of the Millennium celebrations in 2000.
The major part consists of Brighton.
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Notoriously bohemian, it’s typified by its seaside location and winding alleys hiding vintage stores and fish-and-chip shops.
We headed down one night after work and were at our boutique holiday home by the sea for 7pm.
We stayed in the Bird Cage, a 16th century cottage available to rent in Black Lion Lane in the centre of The Lanes.
It’s a lovely bolthole – a three-bedroom flat with mod-cons, furnished in a funky, retro-style, with unusual furniture and intriguing decor.
But the best part is the location. Black Lion Lane is a tiny alley between two pubs and Brighton’s myriad of restaurants and nightlife are on your doorstep – and it’s a stone’s throw from the beach.
In the afternoon, it is a real treat to nip into the house to change, or drop stuff off. We felt part of the hustle and bustle of this groovy city.
On the first night, we wandered down the promenade to the Grand Hotel – a building that harks back to Brighton’s past as Victorian England’s premier holiday destination.
The King’s Restaurant in The Grand was recommended so we visited.
We examined the menu – mainly English dishes and drank some crisp cocktails whilst staring out at the stormy and atmospheric sea from the conservatory.
We had pigeon breast and trout soup to start, both very good, but eclipsed by the beef and lamb main course.
Locally sourced lamb and beef from Somerset cooked to medium rare perfection with sides of vegetables and mashed potatoes was a mouth-watering combination.
The next day, after a relaxing breakfast in the flat, we headed for the Royal Pavilion, one of the city’s most famous attractions.
Built for the Prince Regent, later King George IV, in stages between 1787 and 1823, it is an oriental-themed palace with breathtaking furnishings and d�cor. It is home to some of the finest collections and examples of the chinoiserie style in Britain.
After working up an appetite we headed for lunch, Riddle and Finns, in The Lanes, is an institution and it’s easy to see why.
It doesn’t take bookings, but luckily we were late enough to find a table, and enjoyed a selection of fresh, cold and delicious oysters with a crisp Sancerre.
We tried an array of starters – scallops, teriyaki prawns, breaded mackerel and squid with chorizo, which were all very good.
But the crowing glory was the sea bream, caught fresh and delivered that morning, it was cooked simply with herbs and a little oil.
Riddle and Finns is an atmospheric little joint with some very reasonably priced fixed deals.
Feeling pretty mellow after our boozy luncheon, we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around the nooks and crannies of The Lanes, which contain jewellery shops, pubs, high-end fashion stores and quirky specialist shops.
The evening’s festivities were provided by the Krater Comedy Club, at Komedia, where stand-up seems as big a deal as in London – and the quality was very high.
A total of seven acts performed, all were good, with Canadian Sean Collins the pick of the bunch.
We went home with ribs firmly tickled.
On our final day the sun finally started shining, so we took the opportunity to have some fish and chips on the beach and wander around the archaic but glorious Brighton Pier.
We also spent some time in the buzzing outdoor markets in the North Laines, where you can buy anything from runes stones, to luxury milkshakes and kitsch furniture. Then it was time to leave, which left me feeling rather sad after the good times we had had.
But Brighton is not far from the capital, and with so much going on it won’t be long until I come back to arguably the coolest city in the country.
May is the perfect time to visit Brighton as the city comes alive with three weeks of festivals across the city from May 5 to 27:
Brighton Festival – 3 weeks of unrivalled arts celebration
Brighton Fringe - the third biggest fringe festival in the world, 3,000 performances in 193 venues
Artists Open Houses and HOUSE - view and buy original artworks in the artist’s home
Great Escape – Europe’s leading festival for new music, a Glastonbury by the sea, from May 10 to 12.