Travel: Relaxing vibe and shopping heaven in ‘San Francisco’ of the south coast

Brighton Pavilion.
Brighton Pavilion.
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Bohemian Brighton has so many things going for it that it’s difficult to know where to start.

Its position on the South Coast around 50 miles directly below London means that it attracts many people from the capital for a long weekend.

I had come much further of course, but once I had negotiated the M25 I realised why I had enjoyed such a good time there on my only other previous visit about five years ago.

At the centre is the grand pier – surrounded on both sides by a pebble-strewn beach – with nearby Hove a few minutes walk to the west and a plethora of cafes, bars, street singers and musicians in between.

As luck would have it, on the long weekend I was there in May the weather was glorious and the latter area proved a perfect spot to soak up the rays with a beer and ice creams along with hundreds of other sun lovers.

Less than a mile or so the other side of the pier is Brighton Marina which, apart from an impressive collection of moored-up boats,also boasts an eight-screen cinema, a 26-lane bowling alley, a casino and various shops and restaurants.

Friday evening was spent enjoying a pleasant walk and meal there.

For shopping lovers there are retail outlets galore in Brighton, with the famous Lanes offering something for everyone. North Laine, in particular, is full of an eclectic mix of independent, quirky shops, surrounded by the ubiquitous street cafes and pubs.

If you like perusing things out of the ordinary and looking for a bargain to boot, then you really are in shopping heaven!

Back on to the sea front where a recent addition (certainly since I was last here) is the British Airways i360, which describes itself as the world’s tallest observation tower.

It reaches a height of 138 metres and purports to offer 360 degree views across Brighton, the South Downs and even the Isle of Wight on a clear day.

The city also boasts the exotic Royal Pavilion which was built as a seaside pleasure palace for George IV. Spectacular-looking from the outside, it purports to mix regency grandeur with the visual style of India and China and is well worth a visit.

With the famous Dome arts venue nearby and the city’s football team also preparing for its first ever season in the Premier League, the popularity of Brighton shows no sign of waning.

But what makes it an even more attractive destination to head for, despite its long distance my Yorkshire home, is its vibe. For many years Brighton has been known for its large gay and lesbian population and its tolerant attitude to minority groups. Nowhere is this more evident than in its pubs where we saw countless same sex couples kissing and holding hands, oblivious to those around them.

Even today, how many other places in this country could this happen, without being accompanied by some negative, intolerant comments or aggressive action from other people?
In this respect Brighton is one of the very few destinations I have been to where there has been such a genuinely relaxed ‘go with the flow’ atmosphere where everyone is clearly just out to have a good time and enjoy each others company.

That feeling was tangible the last time I came to Brighton and I felt it once again this time. The only other occasions I have felt such a similar vibe is the couple of times I have been lucky enough to visit San Francisco.