Brighton has a real place in my heart. I have fond memories heading down there at the weekend with school friends and exploring the pier with my cousins and grandmother. Despite often facing brisk winds (and having to battle your way through it), I always found something so comforting about the place – and since my last trip in 2014, I have been eager to return.
So with my birthday on the horizon, I found the perfect excuse to book a weekend away. Perhaps January isn’t the best time to visit (imagine those hideous winds, times ten) but I was excited all the same, spending a weekend by the sea.
To ensure my trip was as perfect as I had envisioned, I booked a room at the one hotel I’ve been wanting to visit for as long as I can remember – Grand Brighton. With a fantastic discount on Hotels.com, I booked via their website and began counting down the days until we ventured there. Situated right on the seafront, with views of both piers (old and new) and amazing Italian Architecture, I couldn’t wait!
Despite a rather hideous journey down (it’s usually a direct train but we ended up taking two trains, a bus and a taxi due to engineering works – joy), we finally arrived at our home for the weekend – the very grand, Grand Hotel. With an imposing white exterior, it was every bit as amazing as I had imagined and this impression only got better as we stepped inside.
Probably the most spectacular part of the grand entry hall was the staircases, which wind up to the top to reveal an incredible dome window.
The spa was also rather pretty, although we only stayed for a moment to have a little nose around.
With such beautiful reception areas, we had very high hopes about our room – and luckily, were not disappointed. In fact any expectations I had were surpassed entirely, as we stepped into the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen. Pastel pink chairs, crushed velvet sofas and a huge cushion headboard were teamed with grey wood, the most luxuriously soft carpets and floor to ceiling white sash windows. It was pretty much any girls dream bedroom.
Oh and to add to the ‘dream’ aspect, there was even a walk-in dressing area, which lead through to the bathroom. It really doesn’t get more amazing than that.
It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the room, but eager to make the most of the daylight and explore the Lanes, which we had heard much about – we wrapped up warm and headed out.
Like something out of Harry Potter, the Lanes are full of unique, wooden fronted quirky little shops. We spent several hours (despite the trickling rain) getting lost in among jewellery shops and fudge stalls, before coming across the main attraction – Choccywoocydoodah – which had been on my list of places to visit, so I was pleased we stumbled upon it.
The amazing chocolate shop was everything I had envisioned and more, with milk and white chocolate sculptures everywhere you looked. Although I didn’t buy anything (silly lactose intolerance), we spent a good half an hour ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at all the displays, before heading upstairs to visit the cafe and secret tearoom, the latter of which can be hired out for private parties. It may cost a whopping £300 for ten people, but if you celebrate your birthday there, they will make you any kind of decadent chocolate creation you wish for. If that’s not a birthday treat, I don’t know what is.
We then made way for the North Laine, which I’d discovered via Google – was full of vegan cafes and restaurants. Although I’m technically not vegan, I do stick to a plant-based diet without eggs and dairy – and usually, this means that I can’t have any sweet treats (aside from Sorbets, which I’m not a huge fan of). So the fact there was a chance that there might be something suitable on offer, was of much excitement.
Eventually, we came across a small vegan deli and bakery, which to my delight – showcased an array of dairy and egg free cheesecakes. Made with soya cream, vanilla, cacao and vegan cheese, with a oatcake base, I could actually eat this sweet treat for once – so I ordered a large slice to take back to the hotel with me. Also on offer were aubergine and cacao brownies, pecan pies and rocky roads – all suitable for vegans. I was absolutely astounded by the choice on offer – which I would have to say even surpasses what London has to offer (is it just me – or are there hardly any of these around in the capital?).
With cheesecake in hand, we braved the ridiculously windy seafront to return to our hotel, with the image of our bedroom getting us through. Until you’ve been blown around to the point you have to cling to each other and run as fast as you can, I don’t think you can appreciate UK wind. Brighton, you win, hands down.
We spent a good couple of hours relaxing in our amazing surroundings, reading the (rather handily) provided Brighton guide book, with restaurant recommendations and attractions, before getting ready for dinner in the amazing bathroom (with the best selfie lighting – I have to admit).
We headed out for dinner (rather late) and hadn’t realised how hungry we both were, so ended up going into the first place we stumbled across – which happened to be an Italian called Piccolo (if I’m remembering correctly). A small family-run restaurant, with just a few marble tables and lit by candlelight, it seemed like the perfect place to round off an amazing day. The food wasn’t as amazing as I had imagined – as I ordered sea bass and it came still with the head (which I can never quite fathom why this would be appetising to a diner) however we had a lovely evening all the same.
With a cinema next-door, we decided to make the most of the evening and book ourselves in for the late showing of Star Wars – which was actually far better than I thought it would be. I’m usually not a fan of action/sci-fi type films but as with any hotly-anticipated blockbuster, it suited all audiences and I really enjoyed it.
Luckily for us, we didn’t have far to go before getting back ‘home’ – and having packed so much into our busy day, we fell straight to sleep.
We awoke to the most amazing view of the sea and this instantly makes me feel calm, no matter what is on my mind. I honestly think that being by the sea is the most relaxing thing ever for calming even the most anxious of minds (mine included) and I’d love to live right on the beach one day (although maybe somewhere with a sunnier climate).
After a peppermint tea in bed (wrapped up in our dressing gowns) we headed downstairs for breakfast, which was an amazing spread of hot items, pastries, fruit and cheeses. We filled ourselves up (knowing we would have to brave the wind and the cold again) and returned to our room to pack.
It was sad leaving the room we were both so fond of (me especially) but I promised myself that I would have a bedroom just like it one day. It will certainly be my inspiration anyway. We had one more peek of the sea from the balcony and said goodbye.
With a half-day free to explore, we left our bags at reception and headed out for a spot of shopping – which I have to say, Brighton is excellent for. Whether you want to avoid the bitter cold and rain and enjoy the comfort of a mall – or venture through the winding streets, I love that there’s something for everyone. We eventually chose to explore the shopping mall – which has all the typical favourites, like Topshop, Zara and Bershka. I spent the remainder of my Christmas money – and stopped at Itsu for some sushi.
Eventually it was time to properly say goodbye to Brighton, after our short but very lovely stay. We vowed to return in the summer, when hopefully – we could enjoy the city in all its glory a little better (and photograph more without torrential rain). The pier is somewhere I’d love to explore a bit more, because it has such lovely memories attached. Brighton, we will be back!
And if think I know where we’ll be booking a room…