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.