Back at the end of July, we were overdue a visit down south to visit Joe’s family. So, on a sunny Friday, we drove down to join them at Church Farm Caravan Holiday Park in the seaside resort town of Bognor Regis (officially the sunniest place in England).
We visited Bognor a few Christmasés ago when it was cold and windy so it was nice to see the area in its natural summer holiday habitat. I’m no stranger to the classic British caravan holiday — we always went to a Haven Holiday Park in Newquay when I was a kid, where it, of course, rained the entire week. So, in line with tradition, it was chucking it down before I even woke up on Saturday. Fortunately, we’d already planned to visit Joe’s nan in Hailsham, East Sussex so it was a lovely scenic drive there, where we were spoiled with a lunch feast and Victorian sponge cake.
Back at the park, we explored the grounds and I couldn’t believe the kids’ activities these days. There were all sorts, from trampolining and water walkerz to aqua gliders and riding segways. Back in my day, we had sandcastle competitions. There was, however, the usual arcade games, bowling and swimming pool so it was good to see that some things don’t change. The weather had picked up by that evening thankfully, so we enjoyed a walk over to Pagham Beach. Up north, we tend to have sand at our few and far between beaches so when I saw this shingle beach filled with pebbles, I was very confused — this is not a beach. Interestingly though, Joe has since educated me that most beaches on the south coast of England are like this because there’s not enough distance across the English Channel for the pebbles to be ground down into sand grains.
After a sunny family BBQ the following day, we made a spontaneous decision to go to Brighton for our last night. I’ve never been there before and as it was only an hour drive away, it seemed silly not to go. We found a cheap room at The Brighton Hotel (lucky we didn’t visit the following weekend for Brighton Pride as I’m sure the price would have doubled!), which was perfectly located across from the beach. What we didn’t anticipate is how difficult it is to park in Brighton — it reminded us of Manly in Sydney — you’re just driving around in circles hoping for a bit of luck. Well, that luck came our away after about 25 minutes and we managed to park right outside the hotel.
One speedy check-in and freshen up later, we were back out on the promenade for a lovely evening stroll. Brighton Beach and seafront is voted one of the top 10 city beach break destinations in the world and I’ve wanted to come here for yonks so I was loving the British charm! With the famous Brighton Palace Pier as a backdrop, the smell of hot doughnuts in the air and the sound of waves crashing in, it was like a much sparklier version of the north’s Blackpool.
Before we left Bognor, everyone was telling us to “find the laneways” so, in my head, I built it up to be an intricate maze of dark but cool alleyways to explore that we’d have to accidentally stumble across. Well, turns out, they’re pretty easy to find 😄
The Brighton Lanes is a shopper’s paradise of independent shops, designer boutiques, antique stores and cute gift shops, as well as plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants — I could easily spend an entire day there if I had enough time, but alas we were here for one night only and it was already past 8pm at this point. We stopped in at Donatello Italian for dinner which has a great cocktails list. I ordered a Brighton Rocks which consisted of Brighton gin, tonic, blue curacao and a chunk of Brighton minty rock. After five minutes, you could really taste the childhood nostalgia from the piece of rock — it was pretty good!
The following morning, we had until 11am to make the most out of our time in Brighton before the drive back up to Manchester, starting with a free hotel breakfast. We stay at Airbnb’s so often these days that this freebie was a real treat. I headed directly for the window seat and enjoyed my pancakes with a Brighton beach view. I’d definitely recommend The Brighton Hotel — affordable, great location and a yummy breakfast.
Afterwards, we had just enough time for another Brighton pier stroll and to venture up the British Airways i360 Viewing Tower. This is a fully enclosed glass viewing pod on the seafront which goes up to 162 metres in the sky so you can view the sights of Brighton. I think this could be a really great experience if it was quieter as there is a bar inside the pod where you can grab a glass of bubbles and wander around, but unfortunately for us, we were trapped in there with around 100 school kids. Brilliant.
Our 17 hours in Brighton was a short but sweet trip but I’m so glad we went!