Brighton has always been one of the popular destinations in England. When I was doing master’s in the UK, everyone I knew was raving about Brighton, and it seemed like I was the only one who hadn’t visited. Until I left England, I still hadn’t had the chance to go, and I regretted that.
When my friend Farah came here for a vacation, we put Brighton on the list, and went there one Friday morning. The weather that day was perfect for a beach day; gloriously warm and sunny with clear blue sky.
We got off at the train station, and I quickly turned on my GPS to guide us to the pier (a little tip: if you’re without GPS, don’t worry. Just follow the crowd, and you’ll be fine). Halfway there, we got distracted by a delicious smell wafting in the air. With grumbling stomachs, we gave up to the temptation and followed the smell. There, at a small park, werefood stands lining up one after another, (I’d later find out that there was a weekly food market at Brighthelm Garden). We spent the first 15 minutes walking around to see everything in there, deciding on one dish before changing it as soon as we saw the next stand. I finally settled for jerk chicken, pulled pork, and a spicy wing by Soul Street Kitchen, and devoured it like I hadn’t seen food for a week. The food itself was amazing, but it was the jalapeno and coriander sauce that brought the dish to another level.
Full and happy, we continued our walk to the pier, but not before stopping at Boho Gelato.
The ice cream was good, but it was waaay too sweet for me.
And now we got to the part which was less interesting, at least for me: the pier.
This seems to be the main destination for people who are going to Brighton, but I couldn’t figure out why people like this place. The tawdry pier and loud arcade, standing obnoxiously at the center, were off putting. The shops and restaurants looked like they had seen better days, looking neither inviting nor interesting. I honestly think the beach would be so much better without the pier and arcade. Mainly the arcade.
But truth be told, if you forgot for a second that the horrendous arcade was behind you, it wasn’t that bad.
One thing I noted when I was here: the seagulls were HUGE, and they liked to fly low. Nothing happened to me, but I was still traumatized from that time in St. Ives when a seagull flew right at me to have a bite of my Cornish pasty. Thanks to that, now I’m very apprehensive about seagulls.
We decided to walk down to the beach before we left. With the sun-soaked pebbles still warm, we sat happily, chatting and observing fellow beach-goers around us.
Finally, as the wind got stronger and colder, we left the beach and made our way back to the station, and it was on our way there that I got to see the nicer side of Brighton.
The city was lively, in a way that’s totally different than the beach. Some people were milling around, while others were basking in the sun; serenaded by a busker nearby. Despite the crowd, this place had a soothing vibe, and I could feel myself relaxing as I took photo after photo of the Royal Pavillion.
This unexpected finding helped ease the bad impression of Brighton, but I still wasn’t very much keen on this place. I know this wasn’t a fair assessment, considering I only spent a few hours in there, and obviously, I haven’t seen much. But it seems to me that the beach and the pier – the defining features for what Brighton is famous for – were my least favorite parts of Brighton.
Later that night, I tried to explain this to H, which had been to Brighton once. “I really don’t like the beach and the pier. It’s all…” I paused, trying to find the right word to describe it.
“Tacky?” he offered a suggestion.
Because it was. The pier, the arcade, and the tourist attractions were all detracting; it was like the disturbing, loud strum of a guitar that drowned the vocalist’s golden voice. It had the potential to be amazing, but the noise just took it away.
Would I come back again to visit Brighton? Maybe. But if so, I’ll stay clear of the beach area.