Friday, 8 July 2011

Brighton Rocks

It being the middle of Summer, we decided a trip to the seaside was in order, and with half price tickets to Brighton, it seemed the place to go.

The Brighton Clock Tower, erected in 1888 and depicting the long dead Prince Consort. 

From the train station, the first place we decided upon was the seaside. The foreshore was not where the quaint little wine shop we'd heard so much about was (from another housemate) but it was where the water was, where the jetty was and where there'd used to be a renown promenade along the sea front.  

Hitting the beach itself, of our little multicultural party, it was the Australians who sniggered slightly, the Canadian jumping for joy, and the Irish who was fool brave enough to go in.

Coming from the land of beaches, Brighton's just didn't live up to the hype generated. I know it's one of England's most popular and whenever the weather is considered to be sweltering (by their standards) it is one of the beaches that is pictured in newspapers, packed to the hilt with people.

For an Australian, pebbles (not sand, pebbles), pale green, anaemic looking water, blustery winds and limited sunshine, does not a beach make.

The rest of us consented to dip our toes into the English Channel but decided this particular 'summer' day was not warm enough to consider anything more. In fact, G's attire below is representative of the type of clothing many of us had decided as being more appropriate. 

So, having snapped our shots and checked out the beach...


...we headed off, in search of something better.

On the Palace pier, Caramel decided to undertake the challenge of the mechanical bull, with limited success, while the rest of us enjoyed the opportunity to take photos, and checked out the gambling dens and fairground rides on offer.

Having dined on Fish and Chips, we headed inland in search of our next amusement.

Growing up, I'd been given the guidebook to the Brighton Pavilion for no apparent reason, ensuring that it was always on my list of places to see. As a result, as the afternoon wore on, a few of us headed off on our self imposed history lesson while the others wandered through the winding streets of Brighton in search of coffee and interesting lolly shops.

Brighton Pavilion isn't quite like any other Royal Palace. It feels more appropriate coming out of a fairy tale than coming from the staid British royal family. Build by George IV in his younger, wilder days, its hard to believe it started life as a respectable farmhouse. 


The garden front of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton - from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826)
With too much time on his hands and a reason to remain in the area (he had installed his illegally wedded wife, the widowed, Catholic, former Mrs Fitzherbert in a nearby villa), he slowly added to the building, initially more rooms, better kitchens... but gradually the additions took on a more cosmetic nature adding stone baubles, eastern style lacework, domes and minarets which would all seem more appropriate on a mosque than the holiday house of a future king.  

Truthfully, Brighton Pavilion is a little over the top by any standards. However it has been beautifully orchestrated and the palace as a whole, inside and out gleams with character and originality. 
With the exception of a few rooms, decorated in a later style, the oriental theme permeates throughout the palace. Patterns, styles and accessories were chosen to purvey the contemporary image of the east, be it Egypt, the Middle East, India or as far away as China and Japan. 

The Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826)
The Grand Saloon at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826)
The South Galleries at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton from John Nash’s Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826)
Wallpaper in the King William IV Room, Brighton Pavilion
Bannisters made of iron were cast to resemble bamboo cane, typical Chinese scenes decorate the walls, in the Saloon exists a couch in the form of an Egyptian River boat on crocodile feet. In the dining room the table is centred under a three-dimensional dragon that clasps the chandelier in its claws, echoing the dragons etched and sketched throughout the pavilion, while pillars in the various rooms appear as palm fronds, papyrus reeds or in muted Chinese styles topped with additional dragons. Even the kitchen is in keeping, with the ceiling supported by tall poles decorated in palm fronds. 

The Royal Kitchen at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826)
However there is still an English element to the Pavilion. Some of the rooms, though oriental in style are in soft muted colours atypical of the colours of Chinese porcelain and Egyptian murals. Cherubs and Roman Deities still decorate the furniture, much of which is European in style with only superficial decoration tying it in with the Oriental theme of the room.

Having marvelled in wonder, and absorbed our fill we left the gift shop laden with postcards and guidebooks and headed in search of the others.

The day ended with a slightly circuitous route back to the train station and London, via a lolly shop or two where we felt the need to purchases just a few local sweets and chocolates... for the journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...