One of the great things about being an expat is the thrill of those infrequent trips home – and for me, one such trip came along last week when I got to spend a few days in the UK for work, combined with some welcome ‘me time’ to catch up with my nearest and dearest. This had been the first trip home since my newly acquired interests of blogging and photography, so I was keen to consider what opportunities might exist to practice both.
Unfortunately in recent times my trips to the UK have become all too rare, and when I do get the chance to visit, I’m often struck by the changes that I see both to my home town of Crawley, and to the surrounding areas. New buildings come along, and old buildings disappear, even the demographics of the town appear to have changed considerably in recent years, and perhaps I see this more, simply because of the infrequency of my visits.
But for taking my camera out for some practice, I decided to venture a little further afield, and to head down the A23 to one of my favourite places, the wonderful town (or so I thought) of Brighton. I learnt whilst there this time, that in fact Brighton is now part of the city of ‘Brighton and Hove’ – how out of date I am! As a youngster, I spent many days, and evenings in Brighton, it is a place of some great memories, so I always enjoy the chance to return.
As the main intent was to take some photos, I decided to drive down quite early, in order to avoid the numerous shoppers and tourists that regularly fill Brighton’s streets, but the downside of this approach was that on arrival it was cold, grey, and very windy! On the plus side, it was easy to park – although my jaw dropped at the sign showing the car parking fees – in fact my 5 hour stay incurred a charge of £20!
Although Brighton has many different districts, I wanted to focus on what is probably my favourite, an area known as ‘The Lanes’ – this is a collection of picturesque narrow streets (or lanes!) filled with some excellent shops, boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants, many of which are unique to this area; it’s really great that you don’t see so many of the standard high street brands there.
However, despite the cold and wind, I (foolishly) decided that the day would best be served by starting with a visit to the sea front. The walk from the car park took me past the Town Hall, various pubs, and even a celebrity chef restaurant before I hit the bracing wind coming off the English Channel.
After a few snaps, my chattering teeth encouraged me to seek the relative shelter of The Lanes, so it was time to move on.
The origins of The Lanes date back to the late 18th Century, and today the area is bordered by several of Brighton’s major shopping streets including North Street and Ship Street, and the wonderful Royal Pavilion Estate.
I spent the next couple of hours exploring the lanes, doing lots of window shopping, and seeking out various (what I hoped to be) interesting photographic opportunities. I loved the numerous times that natural frames were presented, although when photographing these, it could take quite a wait to ensure no one was walking by.
The final part of my walk around Brighton took me to the nearby grounds of the Royal Pavilion Estate, which features as its centrepiece, the magnificent Royal Pavilion.
Construction on the Pavilion began in 1797 and it gained its ‘Royal’ tag by virtue of being a home for George, Prince of Wales, who went on to become Prince Regent. Following his death in 1830, the Pavilion became a favourite residence of his successor, King William IV, but in subsequent years Queen Victoria had different views. She bought and developed Osbourne House, in the Isle of Wight, and this was to become her favoured summer residence.
In 1850, following its fall from Royal popularity, the government of the day agreed to sell the Pavilion to the town’s authorities for £53,000, and it has been developed and grown as a major tourist attraction ever since – these days some 400,000 people visit the Royal Pavilion annually.
Whilst I have visited the open rooms of the Pavilion on previous visits, I had never walked around the gardens of the Royal Estate. By this time, the grey skies of early morning had begun to clear, and the sun was trying to make a welcome appearance, so the estate and the surrounding areas made an ideal setting for the final part of my day.
For more information and a great day out, check out the websites of The Lanes, and The Royal Pavilion: