I’ve hopped across the Atlantic for the week – my first time back in the UK for Christmas in three years. As well as gluttony beyond belief, this longer trip also allows me to visit some of my favorite spots outside my hometown – and to be a tour guide for Ryan, who’s visiting too.
Today we headed down to Brighton and it wasn’t the warmest of welcomes. While I love this city – where I spent many a weekend as a teenager – it sure knows how to rain. We had grand ideas of browsing the Laines, munching chips on the Pier and racing each other on the bumper cars, but it just wasn’t the day for it. We could barely move against the wind.
As we passed the Royal Pavilion – a stunning, out-of-place building and former royal residence that caught Ryan’s eye – I realized that perhaps we could go inside, something I’d never done before. We checked it out and for £10 each, we could wander its rooms with an audio guide.
The outside of the building lets you know that this isn’t going to be any ordinary British architecture tour. The bulbous towers are a nod to India – and mean it’s often referred to as Brighton’s Taj Mahal. Inside it continues its exotic theme, with each room an homage to Chinese architecture, furniture and art.
From 1815 until 1822, it was transformed into a residence fit, quite literally, for a king. It became George IV’s seaside home when he was a prince, and later Queen Elizabeth’s before she took the throne. The interior is as opulent as you’d expect – chandeliers, high ceilings, plush bedrooms and a massive kitchen.
But apart from those, nothing was as I’d expected. The attention to detail and commitment to the Oriental theme was unwavering, and every room just became more and more absurd. It culminated with the music room, where painted snakes slithered across the wall paper and models of snakes wrapped around curtains. The chandeliers were enormous and took on the elaborates shapes of orchids dangling from the ceiling. It was so ridiculous but so stunning.
And they let us upstairs! I’ve been annoyed at the ‘No Entry’ signs on stairways of houses I’ve toured in recent weeks, so this was a welcome treat. An exhibition up there gave us more of a history of the building – including how it was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers in World War I – and another room held a little cafe for teas and cakes. Of course, there were some bedrooms too.
So while we may have been complaining all day about how soggy our shoes were, I was actually thankful for the rain – because it forced us to look for an inside activity, and I never even knew you could go in the Pavilion. It was a beauty.
We also found another way to dodge the rain – Terre a Terre, a vegetarian restaurant on East Street. The service was amazing and the food and cocktails were so creative and delicious.