Sunday, 12 July 2009

Day 1 - South Coast - Brighton - Things to do

For everything to do in Brighton, check out Visit Brighton's website. Here're a couple of things to do and see.

The most obvious one is to go to the beach. Don't expect international standards. It's all pebbles, and the water temperature is well-entrenched on the chilly side for most of the year, although it does get up into the early 20 degrees C in late summer.

Royal Pavilion - a somewhat interesting looking palace built by King George IV, restored to 1823 glory. It looks like a mini Taj Mahal. It's apparently very impressive inside, but I didn't manage to fit it in.

Everyone knows the Brighton Pier, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. But visit anyway, only cos everyone else does, and if you have kids, they'll love "The Booster" and the other fun rides.

For live music and entertainment, head to The Brighton Centre. Bands such as Coldplay, The Killers, Robbie Williams etc have all played here. And various state orchestras for the grannies.
At the Brighton Dome, the entertainment seems a bit more alternative, with jazz, tango and African acts playing.

The Brighton Aquarium, called Sea Life, is great for kids. There's a walk-through sea tunnel.

If you want to scare the pants off your loved one, or terrify your young kids, take them on Brighton's most haunting Ghost 01273 328 297. It lasts about an hour, and is run by Jack the Ripper...jokes, it's run by someone who hasn't murdered anyone...will find out for sure, and stick it on this post tomorrow.

Day 1 - South Coast - Brighton - Whitburn Lodge

Just a block up from the sea-front, but thankfully in a quiet street and a bit of a distance from the crowds near the pier, Whitburn Lodge B&B is a low-key, trendy triple storey maisonette. The 5 rooms are modern, original and look brand new - they could be out of a city boutique hotel. Spotlessly clean - and smells nice too. Lots of big windows. Bathroom showers are like fire-hoses - great pressure! My room had huge sash windows down to the floor, looking out over the street below - you can hear the sea from your bed. It's got 4 stars from England Tourism.

Owned and run by Louise McCann (English) and Phil Kay (New Zealander!), Whitburn has a laid-back, yet classy and professional atmosphere. Guests get their own keys, and left to their own devices. Rooms have small flat screen TVs and WiFi. Louise and Phil have been in Brighton for several years, moving down to the coast from Surrey to escape civilisation in the north. They've got good tips for sightseeing and eating.

Whitburn Lodge room

Whitburn Lodge

Day 1 - South Coast - Brighton - Great places to eat

There seem to be quite a few good places to eat in Brighton.

I had lunch at Bill's Produce Store at 100 North Road in Brighton. Vibey cafe type atmosphere. Lots of fresh ingredients. Plenty of people waiting for a table. I had a ciabatta (£6.10) with cheshire cheese, chutney, spinach, rocket, basil, spring onions and smoked bacon. Wasn't overly impressed, quite small, not that tasty. I kept looking at the table next to me where a lady was eating the all-day Bill's breakfast (£7.80) - looked great.

Bill's Produce Store - good, healthy vibe

Dinner was at Terre a Terre - The Vegetarian Restaurant. Now, I'm no veggie, but I'm no bloody thirsty carnivore either, so I'm in the middle when it comes to veg. I've had some tasteless veggie dishes before in my life, so I wasn't very excited about going to Terre a Terre. But even if my expectations were sky-high, the experience would have blown my socks off. I am sure I could become a vegetarian if all my meals tasted like mine. Really, really tasty and filling meal.

Had rocket salad, with homebaked bread with olive oil/balsamic vinegar. Then something called Carbonara Kinky (£13.95) , which you can try figure out for yourself from the following description on the menu: Courgette spaghetti tossed in torn basil, lemon and black pepper, topped with smoked carbonara Parmesan custard cream, served with fresh pasta blankes crammed with creamed goats cheese sumi.

I took about half an hour to work out what this all means, but gave up and ordered it anyway. Take it from me that it tasted damn good (I'm no food snob, but my stomach knows a good meal when it sees one). And they serve organic beer, so your hangover will be environmentally friendly.

Day 1 - South Coast - Brighton - First impressions

First impressions of Brighton: busy, touristy, cosmopolitan, fun, windy, sunny, lots of kids and families, relaxed atmosphere. I don't think it's a place for a romantic weekend of the traditional kind. But if you like rollercoasters, bumper cars, miniature golf, merry go-rounds, donuts, balloons...then it's worth it. The highlight of Brighton Pier is "The Booster"...a two-pronged centrifugal fun ride 20 metres up in the air. Check out the video I shot. Don't do it if you've had noodles for lunch. I was too scared to do it.

Brighton seems great for families with young kids. You can't really swim on the beach. Water was too rough. And Sam the lifeguard told me that the average water temperature is about 15 degrees C. In winter it gets down to a paltry 5 degrees! And it maxes out at about 22 degrees C in summer.

Miniature golf course

Mushy peas anyone?

Brighton beach lifeguard

Brighton beach view

Brighton Pier

Keeping warm on Brighton Beach!

Brighton local on the pier

Day 1 - South Coast - Peacehaven - Water all the way around

I filled up a bottle with seawater at Peacehaven, and I'm going to take it with around the coast of Britain, and empty it out in the exact same spot! I noticed the shark warning...not very conspicuous!

Day 1 - South Coast - Peacehaven - 0 Degrees!

There's an official marker for the Greenwich Meridian (0 Degrees, 0 minutes longitude) on the south coast at Peacehaven.

I met Ron Dodd there, a 65-year-old former engineer from Tyneside on the east coast of England. He's cycling from Land's End near Cornwall to Dover Castle. It's a three week trip, and I happened to bump into him at the Greenwich marker. Ron has a tip: make sure you cycle along the south coast from WEST to EAST...the prevailing wind is a westerly!

He's stayed at B&Bs all the way - average price per night is £35 roughly. "Time is not my master" Ron says. "I was made to retire 6 years ago, and I was happy to go!" Since then, he's cycled all over Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and now England. Favourite village on this trip? Corfe. The best thing about cycling? The views of the sea.

If you're looking for advice from Ron on cycling in Britain, let me know your details by making a comment, and I'll send you his number. He's someone you could talk to all day.

Cyclist Ron Dodd at the Greenwich Meridian Marker: from here to Cape Town in South Africa is exactly 5 961 spherical miles, to Wellington in New Zealand is 11 735 spherical miles, to Hong Kong is 6 003 spherical miles. Not sure what spherical miles are? Direct, as-the-crow-flies across the earth's sphere?

Ron Dodd - intrepid cyclist from Tyne on the east coast...I'll end up there in a few weeks.

Day 1 - South Coast - Peacehaven - The Start!

The view on the Greenwich Meridian looking south over the English Channel. Brown sea, very windy...but it's here that I start my trip! And I'll end up back here in about a month. This video probably won't be nominated for an Oscar, but hey, it's for the record!