Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 34 - Brighton Pier, Royal Pavillion,Wheel, Theatre Royal

Sunday 29th April 2012

The weather has not abated.  As we snuggle in our cosy room at No 14 we can hear the rain pattering on the window and the wind gusting through the streets.  There are few pleasures greater than snuggling down in a cosy duvee, warm and dry knowing outside is so uninviting.  We wander down to breakfast and take our time.  Hubby has the full English which here at No 14 includes the best sausages of the trip.  In the course of our weeks of travelling we have had a good range of sausages. The worst mistake, to our way of thinking, is to try to make the sausage healthier.  Sausages require some fat or they are tough and dry or mealy.  Here at No 14 they are proper pork sausages. Very very good indeed.  I sample sausage from hubby, but am more than content with my Alpen muesli. It is seriously good. I’ll have to track that down and see if I can find it in Australia.
After brekkie we wander back upstairs.  Its after midday before we can bring ourselves to go outside, but we are nothing if not dedicated sight see-ers, and the time comes when we feel enthusiastic about going out.  We had originally intended to visit Brighton Pier last night, but in the conditions that just wasn’t going to happen.  So our first priority today is to check out the pier.  The rain and wind has eased leaving a clean washed waterfront for us to explore. 
As we approach the pier I feel pleased that we were lazy this morning. Had we dragged ourself out it would have been reluctantly and only from a sense of obligation. Now we are enthusiastic and excited. At the entrance to the pier a range of food outlets are open. Eateries that are protected from the prevailing wind are open, those that aren’t are closed.  Makes sense.  There is the delicious smell of hot donuts or waffles on the air. Everything is beautifully maintained, not even the remotest sense of age or tiredness about Brighton Pier.  The design on the Pier is clever.  Running down the centre of the pier is a barrier with windows so that no matter what the weather is doing you just pick the side that is protected and promenade to your heart’s content.  
Free deck chairs are provided for a spot of sun bathing if the mood strikes you.  
Obviously Brighton Pier is a cultural icon and as such it is an essential element of any visit to Brighton, so that’s why I’m here.  Hubby has his own reasons.  Hubby is looking for pinball machines and we understand there are a couple of games venues on the pier.  He is quite excited about it. He's been really looking forward to this. We wander into the game arcades and look around.  Hubby is crestfallen to find that as far as we can see there is not one single pinball machine on Brighton Pier.  :o(  Not one.  Sniff.  There are few things hubby loves more than pinball.  Come to think of it I forgot to note that he even found a pinball machine at one of our lunch stops on the battlefields tour, but not here.  Mostly the game arcades on Brighton Pier are gambling rooms. Poker machines are not in short supply, and there is also a large array of what I think of as “kiddie gambling” machines.  Put in your money for a (slim) chance of winning some crappy toy or something.  There are some game machines such as motorbike racing that sort of thing,  and there’s a good number of air hockey tables, I’m sure we could have fun… but none of that tempts hubby.  He’s struggling to deal with his disappointment. He’s really very upset.
We continue on our exploration and find ourselves at what we would think of as a “fun pier”. It has a carousel (the gallopers) and helter skelter, sizzler (which at home we call a cha cha), a roller coaster and other rides. None are operating at the moment. Staff are busily sweeping up and drying seats after the rain.  It’s a real old fashioned sort of place and looks like a lot of fun.  
To the west is the carcass of the second pier that featured in Carry on Girls
On our return promenade down the pier we stop along the way here and there to read the heritage trail signs.  These describe various aspects of the contribution that the pier has made to the life of Brighton over the generations. Our stops provide an opportunity to enjoy the views up and down the coast. The sun breaks through and the coastline shines.  It’s all very pretty, and very English.
The white cliffs?

The stones crack against eachother making a much louder break than we get at home on the sandy beaches.
So, what to do next?  Hubby’s mood is in need of support.  We’ve done a lot of grand buildings. Castles, palaces and listed buildings of various kinds.  One of the must do attractions in Brighton is the Royal Pavillion.  Sigh.  Not sure we’re in the mood for that.  We wander through the Lanes in search of a tempting lunch option.  I’m craving something not too rich today.  In the end we opt for Toasters which it may surprise you serves toasted sandwiches. Hubby orders a banana milkshake which comes served with cream on top and little candy coated chocolate lollies sprinked in it.  I had some sort of red berry juice which appears to have been made on the premises.  Hubby goes for a Hombre toaster and wins the competition easily.  This is described as Mexican beef chili, melted cheese , chopped peppers and tomatoes served as a triple toasted sandwich with a light salad £3.85. I ordered a cashew satay: cashew nut butter, chicken and roasted vegetables served as a triple toasted sandwich with a light salad. White or granary bread.  £3.95.  Hubby not only won I may have to retire from the competition entirely.  My cashew satay was inexcusably bland for a sandwich with the word Satay in the name. In fact it's just inexcusably bland, period. Grrr.. but at least it wasn’t rich.  I also couldn’t resist trying a crumpet for 65p.  The crumpet was good and identical to the ones we get at home.  One of the high points of lunch was a ring side seat as the bloke from the café next door moved a table out the front of his place over to a space more where Toasters has their tables.  Chests puff. Territory is squabbled over quietly.  The bloke next door really has the shits.  We think he’s crazy. The place he’s moved his table to is horrible and looks like it would be poorly serviced and hard to see from the café in question.  Ah, the cut and thrust of pavement dining.
After lunch we wander through the Lanes for a while, but it mostly seems to be dining places and pubs and upmarket shops of various kinds. Nothing particularly interesting to us.  We consult our map and head up towards the Royal Pavillion.  Hubby’s quite taken with the idea of making our way up to the toy museum but we’re not really committed to anything at this point.  I laugh when we find that the royal pavilion is not as white as it looks in the famous photos.  That’s also a common comment about the Sydney Opera house which also appears white in bright sunlight but is actually a creamy colour up close.
We snap the obligatory photos of the Pavillion.  Excitement as I spot a squirrel on a tree.  Irritation as some other tourists just barge right in and scare it away completely oblivious at first then they just move right in and scare it away. Still, wasn't it nice of the squirrel to stay put and pose for us before the people came.
We admire the gardens of the Royal Pavillion which have been restored to an original layout that applied when it was still a royal residence.  
We’re struggling in the enthusiasm department.  Finally as we are hanging around procrastinating I notice the sign that says they have a current exhibition about Princess Charlotte. I’d like to know more about Princess Charlotte.  The memorial to her in St George’s Chapel Windsor, which is probably the most magnificent marble monument I have ever seen, has really sparked my curiosity.   “Look” I say to hubby, “I think we really just have to bite the bullet and go into the pavilion for a look. If we’re not enjoying it we can leave. I’m interested in Princess Charlotte, and look at that weeny little glimpse of the interiors they give you on the promo.. it looks like it might be different to what we’ve seen. It’s a universally acknowledged Brighton must do. We should probably just do it.”
We pay and claim our audio guides and head on in.  WOOOWWWW!  The Royal Pavillion wastes no time in grabbing your attention.  This is like no other royal or aristocratic house we have seen before.  This is incredible…. .and this is how I’m feeling in the first room!  Each room is remarkable. Even the audio guide is fascinating.  We listen with rapt attention.  The staff are equally enthusiastic and I pause my guide to join Hubby in a chat with one of the room guards.  We’re looking at the various nodding Chinese figures.  They’ve got all the heads mixed up!  They know this now and our information explains how they know, but they leave it how it was originally assembled from the crate.
In due course we come to the banquet room.  My audio guide cheerfully asks me how I felt entering this room. Was I awestruck?  Hell yes. My mouth is gaping open in wonder.  Well, that’s the exactly the effect this room was supposed to have.  My god! it was successful then wasn’t it.  The chandelier is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  The chandelier is suspended from the claws of a huge dragon under an array of palm leaves some of which are painted others of which sit proud of the ceiling.  It is not your average chandelier in any respect. There is not a single space we see in the Royal Pavillion Brighton that is not fabulous and/or fascinating.  Eventually we come to the Music room.  Is it possible that this is even more gob-smacking than the banquet room? It’s a tough call.  I think the banquet room takes the prize for me. The kitchens are also on display. State of the art in their day and they too have a consistent décor with the chinoiserie.  The Royal Pavillion Brighton is not like anywhere else.  A hearty round of applause to the people of Brighton for their obvious foresight in acquiring the property when Queen Victoria sold it and their commitment to this marvelous place. 
The exhibition on Princess Charlotte was quite small but very interesting, and at times funny and shocking too.  We also enjoyed another exhibition that tells of the time during the Great War when the pavilion was used as a hospital for the many troops from the sub-continent.  Both Hubby and I come out from the Royal Pavillion beaming.  We’ve spend the remainder of our afternoon in there and loved every minute of it.
We have another commitment tonight so we’re keen for a rest before we have to head out again, so we make our way towards home.  
We wander back down towards the waterfront. Stopping to marvel at the sewing machines in the Spitalfields shop. Upstairs, downstairs on every facade, cute black and gold sewing machines fill the windows.  Continuting on we notice that Aqua Dulce does not appear to be open, though times on the door suggest it should be. Glad we didn't spend time hunting for it.
I was quite keen to visit the fishing museum, but of course it is now closed. However the waterfront around it is very nice and I really enjoy the historic boats arranged attractively in the area.  We stroll towards the pier and I am very glad we detoured to take in this part of the beachfront.
As we pass the entry to the pier the rides are operating and the atmosphere is unabated.  I suggest that it might be fun to have a ride on something.  No deal.  Hubby is angry at the Pier and he just can’t get past it.  As a compromise I suggest perhaps grandpa might like to ride the Brighton Wheel?  He seemed quite keen on that earlier.  He’s a reluctant but I manage to guilt him into it.  Heaven knows why. I hate that sort of thing.  I don’t like heights. I guess it just feels wrong not to ride anything at all when in Brighton, so up we go.  Once I get over the initial “oh lord, what on earth were you thinking woman…. You know you have a lifelong hatred of these damn things”  We settle in to listen to the commentary and try to spot the various landmarks pointed out.  I enjoyed hearing that the fictional Lady Penelope from the Thunderbirds attended school somewhere to the east there in the hinterland somewhere; and that Abba won the Eurovision song contest at the Brighton Dome. ....but really it’s pretty pointless. You don’t see much from up there.. it’s not all bad though.. I’m feeling like a risk taker!.  Ridiculous!  Oh what a pair of old fogeys we’ve become!.. well... actually we've always been old fogeys really... 
We have time for just a short nana nap. Neither of us is particularly hungry after the substantial lunch.  It’s an easy walk over to the Theatre Royal. We have tickets to the Carpenters Story.  It’s a tribute band not some sort of dramatization.  We are seated next to a friendly couple whose son gave them the tickets for Christmas. We enjoy chatting with them in breaks in the show.  The friendly people in England are one of the country’s best attributes.  The tribute band is outstanding.  I can hardly believe that they managed to find someone with a voice so similar to Karen Carpenter’s.. and they sang There’s a Kind of Hush too which is my favourite Carpenter’s song. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl.   Just near us there is a gay couple seated.  They are absolutely rabid Carpenters fans and really get into it in a big big way.  Hubby and I think their level of cheeriness suggests some sort of chemical enhancement has been indulged in.  Whatever.  They certainly gave the people around them a laugh.  I’ve never been to a tribute band before. Everyone joins in the songs and has a lovely time. Men perhaps even more than the women. I really booked the tix because I wanted to see something at the Theatre Royal, and I quite like the Carpenters, but it was fun.  I might have to do more of that in future.
It’s late by the time the show is over. We’re feeling pretty good as we walk home.  I insist on a detour to the waterfront to see the Pier all lit up. Brighton has been fun. We’ve really enjoyed our day here. 

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