Brighton, United Kingdom
We had to be up and at ’em this morning after an almost restful 6 hour post-Shakespeare sleep – it was time to move on, and leave London behind.
Somehow we managed to squish everything into our dangerously-overflowing suitcases and still check out on time. Rather than enjoy lugging said suitcases around the tube, we just jumped in a black cab to go to Waterloo station, to collect the rental car that will be out companion for the rest of the UK leg of the trip.
They were a bit excited at the rental place, and we were pretty lucky – we were given a brand new car, the first one of these they had ever received. So we walk out the back to see we have been blessed with, a Fiat 500 X. It’s a dinky little Fiat 500 that has been given a load of steroids and two extra doors. Being a manual, and a diesel manual at that, I wasn’t sure how I was going to go – but I got it off to a start with nary a hitch and before you know it, bam there I am in the think of (almost) central London traffic. Eek! The cheap GPS we bought lives up to its price by taking forever to recover when I pretty much instantly missed one of the turns it told me to take. Thank goodness Perry was there with the map on his phone to help me out. We only had a bit of a minor detour before getting back on track.
Ah, London traffic, what can I say. There’s a lot, and then there’s some more. I didn’t even get into third gear for the first 30 minutes. It’s got me stuffed why most people actually choose to drive a manual here when you spend almost all of your time stuck or moving at 1 or 2 miles per hours. The other thing that has me confused a few times is the way lanes disappear and reappear with basically no notice. Am I merging? Are we splitting? Anyone’s guess sometimes, really. Still, I didn’t manage to hit anyone so I guess thats alright, and I should be extremely grateful for the leg workout due to the number of times we had to stop / start / stop / start … I think we covered about 10 miles in the first hour … I wasn’t quite prepared for how slow the traffic was.
Traffics just a fact of life, and eventually we got through it, only a freeway where I could eventually use all of the 6 available gears, up to 70 mph (about 110 km/h). It was good to finally give the left foot a bit of a rest. The car itself has performed admirably, and I soon discovered something I was very thankful for – hill-start assist. It hold the car after you take the door off the brake, when doing a hill start. The handbrake is electric, so it wouldn’t really work for hill starts, so thank goodness the car generally helps us novices who haven’t driven a manual car in a couple of years.
Approaching Brighton, the traffic of course came back, but not to worry because hey, it means we were at Brighton! We saw the Brighton Pier in the distance, and before you know it we were driving on the road alongside it. We sought out a parking area near ‘The Lanes’ shopping streets, and noticed a bit of a queue. When we finally reached the boomlet and ticket machine it became clear what was going on. The carpark was full, so it was only letting one car in as soon as another car left. So after a good long wait, it was time to get in and try and find that one remaining spot that had become free. I found one, which was of course stolen by a dick in a Lexus – no surprise there. But only 30 seconds later someone left right next to us so lo and behold, parking!
But enough about the boring detail of our exciting trip through a car park – what about Brighton? First impressions are of old world charm, perhaps a little faded, but charm nonetheless. One thing that became clear very quickly is it’s no secret what town St Kilda in Melbourne was modelled from. Apart from the lack of trams, at times it looks very similar along the waterfront. Except of course the beach is all pebbles and not sand. To my Australian eye, it sure is unusual, but of course it doesn’t stop people getting down there and basking in whats left of the sun. The pier itself was full of amusements, seagulls, strong breezes, and spectacular views back to the Brighton waterfront. We only had a brief wander around the pier as it was time to get to our accommodation – we had to wait a little bit for the person with the keys to get home.
The only bad thing I can say about our accommodation is its on the third floor and its all stars – which is only a right pain in the **** when you have a ridiculously heavy suitcase … yep I needed a break after the second floor before I could tackle the next flight of stairs. Its a nice little one bedroom flat we rented via AirBNB – the loungeroom and bedroom look out to the water and the Pier, which is a nice bonus. As its someone’s home, it has all the creature comforts, such as a washing machine, and a proper-sized fridge – some of things you just don’t get in the hotels. So many thanks for Kevin for letting us stay in his place, while he’s off in his own holiday.
The other bonus of having a proper kitchen is that we had our first non-restaurant meal in almost a month. Down to the local Morrisons, we bought a cooked chock and some salad and wraps – made a really nice change to eat in after a long and tiring day. I was also thrilled to hear, as we walked down an alley, a great busker singing his very cheery rendition of The Smiths’ “Heaven knows I’m miserable now”. Ah, this is how you really know you’re in England!
Dinner was lovely, and the night was spent in front of the telly – but that was about all we had energy for after a night of little sleep and a big (ish) drive. Let’s see what tomorrow will bring!