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Brighton: A great trip from London

Perhaps it was the salty air of Dover's Cliffs. Maybe it was the e-mail from a friend encouraging me to experience it. Was it the notorious name?

Brighton. I had heard the name so many times and even though it is only about 50 miles from London, I had never been to this seaside town. As a Bermudian I never quite understood the point. I'm afraid a beach will never impress. OK, maybe not never. I was impressed by Sri Lanka's ... but that's another story.

Back in Britain, my e-mailing friend assured me Brighton was more than beach. I decided it was time. It was time to add its infamous name to my list of trips under $100 from London. Yes, if you have been following the last few weeks I have been to Stockholm and Sigtuna in Sweden; Sachsenhausen and Berlin in Germany; Hampstead and Dover in England. Check all of these adventures out on my website: www.robynswanderings.com.

I was further encouraged to jump to Brighton because the train trip was less than an hour from London Bridge Tube Station and it cost less than £10! Just a tad cheaper than the £50,000 the iconic Brighton Royal Pavilion sold for in 1850. The creation of George IV, the Royal Pavilion was originally a farmhouse before he decided to reinvent it. Now the Pavilion is a draw for crowds visiting this seaside town. Well, at least, it was for me!

However, I've never been a map reader. Yes, I admit. I am one of those people whot has to literally stand in a map before orienting myself. Luckily for directionally challenged people like myself, Brighton has Visitor Information Centres dotted around the city. I found the closest one to the train station hiding in a toy and model museum. I gave the models a miss and followed the man's directions.

They sent me meandering through streets lined with multi-coloured stores, organic cafes and leather markets, that might have looked more comfortable on Middle Road, Bermuda rather than North Laine, Brighton.

Eventually, I found it! Well, the Pavilion Gardens first and then the Royal Pavilion.

It was a witches' castle. What am I talking about? You know you've made them. Every kid in Bermuda has. You've held the wet sand in your hands and made drip castles.

What you were making has in fact been sitting on Brighton's seaside since the 1800s: The Royal Pavilion. And for £9.50 you can experience one of the most ridiculously over-the-top, formerly private, homes in Britain. Originally a farmhouse when George IV the Prince of Wales rented it in the 1780s, it grew along with his reputation of drinking, womanising and gambling and Brighton's! A former fishing town, Brighton also started to transform into a seaside retreat for the rich and famous.

When George was sworn in as Prince Regent in 1811 because his father George III was incapable of acting as the monarch, the villa grew. John Nash stepped in.He introduced minarets and domes to the exterior while lathering the interior with enormous dragons and seashell-encrusted ceilings in the red-walled music room. No expense was spared, which is all I could think of as I walked through with my complimentary audio guide.

Queen Victoria ended up inheriting the palace, but even with all of its grandeur it could barely fit her growing family. Plus she was all about austerity. The opulent palace didn't quite fit with her vibe so she decided to sell it.

The City of Brighton was quite happy to purchase the former palace to ensure somewhere for tourists to visit. Hey, I bought a ticket.

Thoroughly impressed by George IV's ability to spend money, I decided it was time to learn a little more about Brighton in the last couple of years. Sitting right next to the former palace is the Brighton Museum. Convenient.

Random. Free. Both are reasons to visit this museum that offers some insight to the more recent history of Brighton.The museum documents the growth of this capital of clubbing in Britain as well as its trendsetters. Of course there is the fashion and style section with random outfits provided by everyone from the gothic icons to the grunge mixed with Egyptian antiques. I did say random. Feeling thoroughly acquainted with the history of Brighton I figured it was time to head to the seaside.

Of course the seaside is what Brighton is about! I mean that's why the rich and powerful people started coming here.The seaside was more than just a beach. It was a health clinic. Yes, a health resort of sorts. In the early 1800s Richard Russell created these 'dippings' which included a total immersion into the sea water to cure-all. I can imagine he was paid a pretty penny for these! Heck I can do that. OK no I can't. I'm Bermudian. I wasn't going anywhere near the water.

So luckily for me, the Brighton Pier is still standing and could keep me well above the frigid waters below.

The pier is the epitome of traditional British seaside. Painted white, filled with an amusement park, rows of junk food and, of course, a candy store, the pier is somewhere to sit and enjoy the views if you're lucky and find a nice day. Other than that? It's not much and the day was too cold for me! I hit the end and headed back to the interior to find a coffee and somewhere warm.

Luckily I could take my pick in the narrow streets in the area called The Lanes, i.e.old, bricked buildings creating human-size mazes. Cute stores filled with antiques and clothes called my name. I ignored them and found a tiny coffee place to enjoy watching the fellow lost souls.

The light was fading. It was time. Time to finish my enjoyment of the beachside retreat and head back to London. Which is why Brighton is a great trip from Britain's capital. It's an afternoon, it's a weekend, it can be both. I know, I know, there are supposed to be great clubs in Brighton. I didn't have the energy. I will have to see them next time.

That's because I still have to find a few more trips from London that cost under $100! And I did it. Perhaps it was time to come clean. To Bath it is next week and, of course, check my website www.robynswanderings.com for your daily travel dish!

Brighton's traditional seaside Pier.

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Published December 01, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 10:25 am)

Brighton: A great trip from London

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