Before the nights draw in and lazy summer weekends are replaced by phonics homework, 4th birthday parties and swimming lessons, we decided to flee London in pursuit of some good old fashioned seaside fun in Brighton.
The Girls and I drove down on Friday afternoon and despite the pit stop so the youngest could answer a call of nature on a busy main road in East Croydon for what felt like eternity, the drive down was fairly uneventful, even with normal Friday traffic. We were door to door from Herne Hill in under 2 hours. My husband joined us after work and was in Brighton within a little over an hour by train from London Bridge. Ah how the other half live. 😉
We hired an AirBnB for the weekend so we could go about our toddler rearing business in relative peace. The last time we stayed in a “proper” hotel as a family, my husband and I ended up eating salt and vinegar chip sticks in the bathroom while the girls refused to sleep in their cots in the main bedroom.
The Victorian terraced house we rented was a brisk, and flipping steep, 15 minute walk from Brighton station in an area called Seven Dials, a suburban “village” with the right mix of pubs, vintage shops, nurseries and play parks to give a family friendly but not quite ready to give up on life just yet, setting.
The girls were mega excited to be sleeping in a different house, especially one with Netflix on the TV in their bedroom. Setling them did take a little longer because they were so wired but having their own space was great and they quickly crashed out, in fact we all did, perhaps it was the sea air.
All bets were off on the diet front so my husband did a click and collect at The Flour Pot Bakery and we lazed around in our PJs, eating freshly baked pain au chocolat as big as our heads and drinking their signature coffee. All to a backing track of seagulls circling over head.
For lunch we headed to Casa Don Carlos in the Lanes. As soon as the door opened to this traditional Spanish restaurant we were greeted like long lost family and squeezed in, buggy and all. The staff made a huge fuss of the Girls and they loved being able to pick at all the different Tapas. The food was amazing but the most spectacular dish was the Chorizo which they doused in sherry and set fire to at the table. Our youngest travelling companion started singing Happy Birthday at full pelt much to the amusement of our neighbouring tables.
You clearly can’t visit Brighton without eating chips on the sea front so in the interests of the girls cultural education, we decided to do just that for our dinner. I had it on good authority from a local that Be Fries were the best in town. This hipster chippy delivered on the hype, their Belgian fries were crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, these moorish armadillos of fried potato goodness were simply glorious. The poor, yet unnervingly passive aggressive and bloody huge, seagulls didn’t get a look in.
North Laine and The Lanes
A bazaar of vintage and independent clothing stores punctuated with achingly cool art galleries and snug eateries. As its name suggests it is a maze of small streets which are heaving at the weekends but this only serves to add to it’s quirky charm. A word from the wise, and someone who can’t navigate their way out of a paper bag without technology, don’t arrange to meet anyone in The Lanes, Google Maps struggles with the winding streets and you could end up running rudely late for a coffee at The Marwood, a Brighton to the core collection of self titled Coffee Ninjas, because you got terribly lost or was it because you were deliberating over whether you needed a vintage record player in your life?
The Duck House, blew the girls tiny minds. As its name suggests, it specialises in rubber ducks. At over £8 a duck they are not cheap but they were an eclectic bunch with a duck for every social event, job description and A list celebrity going. We had to constantly stop the children putting the Pope duck in their mouths and running out with an armful of busty nurse ducks but it was a lot of fun to look around and well worth ducking in.
If, like me, you like the idea of shopping in quirky independents but lack the imagination and flair to pull the vintage look off without looking like an extra in AbFab, you might prefer to head over to the more mainstream yet fashionable Duke’s Lane. Liam Gallagher’s cult clothing brand Pretty Green, has a permanent home here, where for £200 you too can look like a Rock n Roll Star on the school run in a Parka. I sought refuge nearby in the safety of good old Ted Baker and trusted friend Oasis.
I love the variety of shopping areas in London but sometimes it is nice to have all the good High Street names within spitting distance which is exactly what we found here. The weather was predictably British and raining so we directly to Churchill Square, grabbed a strong coffee at Cafe Coho, a locally owned award winning espresso bar.
We spent a good hour in the Lego Store. There was a Duplo construction area for little kids which meant we got to talk and enjoy hot coffees in relative peace, who am I kidding? I stood there on my phone while my husband pressed his nose excitedly against the display case of the Lego replica Star Wars Millennium Falcon. When he said he thought that “the children” would enjoy a trip to the Lego store, I think he may have been referring to his inner child.
We stocked up on children’s party gifts at Copenhagen’s Flying Tiger, since we will be attending a birthday party ever Saturday until well after we wave goodbye to the EU, I am stock piling their ingenious puzzles and crafts.
Indulge your inner magpie in independent family jewellers T. H. Baker, they stock a raft of famous jewellery brands but it’s their second hand jewellery that is really inspiring and romantic. I am a bit biased though as my engagement ring came from here and was originally part of an antique diamond necklace.
We are fully paid up members of The Paw Patrol, (sadly that’s not actually a thing, unless you are a speaking dog with your own vehicle and a penchant for rescuing a spoilt chicken but not being able to gnaw its leg) so when I saw there was a live tour, I knew I had the perfect birthday present for our nearly 2 year old. In London they only had it on at Wembley, which I thought was too big a venue for the girls. It was also a mission to get there. Which is why we decided to get tickets to the show at the Brighton Centre and make a weekend of it. The venue was perfect, toilets in easy reach, intimate enough that they could all see the stage, the staff were extremely helpful and best of all, when faced with an hour of kid entertainment, you can easily get to the bar for a beer in the interval. Incidentally, they have not wanted to watch another episode.
When it comes to good old fashioned British seaside fun, Brighton Palace Pier is the crown jewels. At £2.50 per ride, the prices were a little less traditional. The girls loved soaring around on The Dragon Fly. It was off season so the pier was much quieter than in the height of summer.
While the girls had a lesson in stone skimming from their dad, I sat on the beach looking out to sea where the waves crashed onto the charred remains of the original pier and the sunlight sliced through the brooding autumn clouds, it felt good to breathe in the sea air.
“Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly” Van Morrison.
This was a whirlwind 24 hour visit, i’m sure I missed a tonne of great stuff but we will be back. I think she enjoyed it.
What is your favourite thing to do in Brighton?