Brighton: The UK Actually Has a Beach!

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If I could have named one thing about the UK that I was sure would definitely not in a million years impress me, it would have been its beaches. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by beaches of warm deep blue Caribbean waters and the whitest, finest sand. After spending many summers in Varadero, Cuba's most famous beach, not even its Miami or Hawaii counterparts were able to fulfill me. I thus did not look forward to visiting UK beaches, and only did so because the International Students House Travel Club organized a day trip to Brighton, a beach resort area on the south coast of the country.

As it turns out, Brighton did impress me. Sure, the sand looked dark and rocky, and the water colder than one could bear. But the beautiful Brighton Pier seemed to smile under a radiant sun. Parents and their children came to the pier in colorful clothes, sampling the many restaurants, arcade and fairground attractions. Along the seafront row, thousands of the finest automobiles lined up for InCarNation 1000, a show that celebrates the UK's best 1000 modified and performance cars. The day smelled of happiness and spring, and blooming flowers adorned the many terrace cafes offering delicious meals at surprisingly low prices.

The biggest surprise, however, was the Royal Pavilion. In the early 19th century, King George IV built a royal palace to engage in fanfare and lavish parties in this grandiose residence of Indo-Saracenic style and extravagant Oriental interiors. Our trip included admission to the palace, so I spent an hour walking through immense dance rooms, sumptuous dining halls, servant corridors, tea rooms, music rooms, libraries, and state-of-the-art kitchens. Whereas, from outside, the palace transported me to the Taj Mahal, its 3-D dragon ornaments, red tones and soft lighting inside evoked a Chinese atmosphere. By the end of my visit, it became apparent why George IV had envisioned this palace as a comfortable retreat where his guests could indulge in luxury and pleasure.

But the highlight of the trip was yet to come. Before we headed back to London, we stopped at Beachy Head, a nearby chalk headland also in the coast. There we were, standing on the highest chalk sea cliffs in Britain, absorbing the breathtaking views of lighthouses, tranquil waters and a setting sun. In this landmark for sailors, intrepid paragliding filled an unusually blue sky with vibrant colors. This had to be the most peaceful place in the world. So peaceful, indeed, that some of us lay on the grass and fell asleep, waking up just in time to run back to the bus.

This weekend is meant to be hot and dry, so why not get a train or bus down to Brighton for a spot of sun, sea and sand. 

Photo: Kjunstorm on Flickr

Maria is a guest blogger for Foreign Students. She posts regular updates of her experiences as a postgraduate student at LSE in London. Click here to see her older posts.


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