Tuesday, May 03, 2005


On Saturday, I decided to go to Brighton. Less than an hour from London, Brighton is one of England’s very popular seaside towns. When I first arrived, despite being nearly noon, it was still so foggy I could barely see the ocean even from the beach. Luckily, after getting some lunch, the fog burned off and the clouds moved away, leaving a clear, bright afternoon.

Ah…the beach. It conjures up images of running across the sand, jumping through waves, and relaxing on a smooth, soft beach. Unfortunately, this is Brighton. Yes, there is a beach and there are waves. However, this still being May, the ocean is still freezing. And, this being Brighton, there isn’t any sand - the beach is entirely rocks.

On the internet I read that the beach was made of pebbles. I don’t know about you, but ‘pebbles’ generally calls to mind small rocks about the size of peas. You know, bigger than the stuff in small aquariums (that would be ‘gravel’) but smaller than the crushed rocks they use on driveways (hmmm…that would be ‘gravel,’ too…). (Somewhere, I’ve seen a list of rock size and the proper rock term to describe it…I need to look for that.)

Oh sure, there were some little pea-sized rocks on the beach, but most were the size of walnuts. And I’m talking about the walnuts when they fall off the trees and still have those green, yucky husks on them. You know, the size of chicken eggs. Extra large, grade A chicken eggs. So, lying on the beach in Brighton is, well, like lying on a pile of rocks. At least the rocks are generally rounded rather than having all those sharp edges. But still, a round rock jutting up in the centre of your spine is still enough to annoy you.

Have you ever tried to climb a pile of that gravel they dump in your driveway before it gets spread about? You take one step and the gravel starts to shift under you. Once the gravel is spread out and is reasonably deep (several inches is plenty), each step is like slogging through, oh I don’t know…it’s almost like slogging through one of those ball pits at Chucky Cheese. Combine that with bare feet. Yeah, fun.

Such is the beach in Brighton. It’s a rocky, shifting, hard-to-love beach.

But luckily, God saw fit to place a beach in the midst of all the touristy money-traps and souvenir shops in Brighton. (What is it about a beach that just screams ‘miniature golf’ and ‘tacky plastic junk’?) Otherwise, all those naff shops would just be sitting in the middle of nowhere.

Once you’ve burned…I mean…laid on the beach for long enough, and once you’ve walked to the end of the piers, head inland a bit. Not much, but just out of sight of the water. There you go. Now look around. What do you see? Yes! It’s this little shopping area called The Lanes. See the narrow streets, the interesting shops, and the restaurants? Now, go just a bit further.

By walking just a bit further, you’ll come across a Middle Eastern styled building complete with shapely domes and spires. (My Lonely Planet says it’s a mixture of Moorish and Indian styles.) That’s the Royal Pavilion, once a palace of one of the King Georges – IV, I believe. I didn’t get to go in because I found it too late.

What I did get to go inside was the El Mexicano. They call themselves ‘A Taste of Mexico.’ For a starter, I had the nachos – chips with melted cheese and sliced jalapenos with red salsa on the side. The chips were thick without being too thick; the melted cheese was actual cheese (two kinds), not gloopy cheese-like sauce. For my main course, I had the Tacos el Cameron (my Spanish isn’t great, but evidently there was someone named Cameron and I took his food). It had stir-fried shrimp and tuna and some vegetables and spices all wrapped up in a tortilla and lightly fried (just enough to be brown and crispy, not enough to by drippy and greasy). Served with rice, a small salady thing and guacamole, it was wonderful. (www.elmexicano.co.uk)

I took the train back to London, walked about some, and headed home. Here’s a helpful hint: when you see a poster marked ‘STOP – READ THIS IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING BY TRAIN THIS WEEKEND’ you probably should. Those posters explained why no trains were running to Stevenage that night. You read that correctly. Imagine my surprise to watch the train departure board, looking for ‘Stevenage,’ watching all those little town names scroll by, thinking ‘gosh…where is Stevenage?’

It seems that, due to planned engineering works, there were no trains between Welwyn and Stevenage after 1500 on Saturday through until sometime Monday. Luckily, there were rail replacement coaches from Welwyn to Stevenage. (And all that was explained on the posters. But, honestly, I don’t remember seeing those posters Saturday morning…really.)

Anyway, I got home safely.


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