Monday, September 30, 2013

The Royal Pavilion and Gardens

Astonishing.  That's the word that comes to mind each time I think of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England.  In my last post I told you how much I liked Brighton, and the Pavilion is one big reason why I know I will return there.    

In 1815, George IV commissioned John Nash to transform his more modest Marine Pavilion (pictured below) into an Oriental pleasure palace.  

Nash superimposed a cast iron frame over the Pavilion, turning the neoclassical structure into an ornate, domed and turreted wonder.

Photography is not permitted inside the Pavilion, but you can click here for a peek at the opulent interiors, which are not Indian in style, but Chinese.  

In addition to grand rooms like the Banqueting Hall and the Music Room, visitors can see the impressive Great Kitchen where the famous French chef Antonin Careme once cooked elaborate banquets with dozens of dishes for the guests of George IV.

Also on show are George IV's private rooms as well as the apartments where Queen Victoria later stayed on her few visits to the Pavilion before she sold it to the city of Brighton in 1850.  Victoria craved privacy, which was not something she could find in this bustling and fashionable seaside resort.

If you visit the Royal Pavilion, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to take in the excellent audio tour of the palace.  Once you've seen the inside, you can wander in the gardens that surround the Pavilion.  The gardens are open to the public, and they were full of picnickers and strollers each time I visited.

I think the Pavilion makes for a perfect long morning visit--allow at least two hours--followed by lunch at a cafe or bistro in the nearby Lanes district.  The Lanes are winding pedestrian alleys filled with jewelry stores, antiques shops, and wonderful restaurants.  We met friends and headed over to Riddle & Finns, a popular seafood place with a charming atmosphere.  There I had some of the best bouillabaisse of my life!

If you're in Brighton for a few days, be sure to visit the Pavilion more than once, so that you can take in the sight of its beautiful roofline at sunset.  Its location in the center of the city makes it easy to walk to from almost every neighborhood, and I can't think of a better spot for a romantic stroll before dinner.

I have more to share from the trip, but I needed to give the Pavilion a post all its own.  I'll be back soon with some links to must-see places in Greenwich and Sussex.

While I'm in travel mode, I should mention an amazing giveaway happening over at my friend Vicki Archer's blog.  If you love Provence and have been wanting to visit, definitely head over to French Essence, where Vicki will be giving a week-long stay at her village house, Le Petit Bijou, in St Remy de Provence.  She is celebrating her fifth anniversary of blogging with this incredibly generous contest.   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bluer than the Deep Blue Sea: Coming Home from Across the Pond

We spent the last days of summer in London and on the Sussex shore.  It was Mr. and Mrs. Magpie and Mrs. Magpie's Mum on a weeklong adventure that left us with our suitcases and brains stuffed to overflowing with treasures.  Sine we've been back, I've been a bit blue.  

I always love London, and I'll have photos and links to share, as always, but for today, just a few pared down shots of Brighton.  I'd never been to Brighton before, but I had heard so much about it that I felt I knew what to expect: tatty seaside town, pier, greasy fish and chips, tacky shops.  Brighton does have those things, of course, but it has so much more, and I developed a little crush on the place.

I have loads of Brighton photos to post, places to mention, and adventures to share.  They'll be coming soon.  Well, just as soon as I can pull myself up out of these blues.  

I slip into a sort of melancholy whenever I return from England.  To call it homesickness is too grand a word, since I have never stayed there for more than a stretch of a few weeks, but I do miss it terribly every single time I come back.  What's to miss?  Well, in the case of Brighton, there's this:  

"But, Gigi," you may say, "you live near the sea in the States!"  

Ah, yes, I do, and I love it.  I also love the seaside in Brighton.  It's quite different.  For one, the beach is made of large, knobbly pebbles, not sand, and the water there tends towards pale greeny blues that we don't often see in Maine.  And then there's the chalk cliffs.  Here we have granite ones.  Both are awe inspiring, but they make for completely different sorts of experiences.    

What I think impressed me most in Brighton was the architecture, from the Georgian and Victorian townhouses to the quirky shops of North Laine.

And then there is King George IV's Royal Pavilion.  I think that deserves a post all its own, don't you?   

We've been back since the beginning of the month, and life has been full and eventful and rich, but I can't shake these blues, so I think I shall wallow in their depth a bit longer and wade back to shore only when I'm good and ready.  

In the meantime, I promise that I really will have some wonderful links and photos to share.  Misery, after all, loves company, so you can long for some lazy days by the beautiful sea with me.