Coming to London, I was completely expecting living in weather very similar to Seattle. Rain everyday and always carrying a rain jacket with you. So far we’ve had a few gray days, but for the most part, it’s been days with blue skies albeit the arctic wind gusts that chill you to the bone. The cold weather brought autumn to London very quickly, around mid October, and now it’s nothing but winter. They days are only light for 8 hours and my daily walk across Waterloo bridge leaves me with teeth chattering in need of a hot drink. When the opportunity to get out of London for the weekend came in the form of my flatmate Jess, I was packed and ready to adventure to the seaside in five minutes flat. I’ve gotten so used to moving around every weekend, that God forbid I stay in one place for more than two weeks.
On Saturday afternoon, I met Jess at Victoria train station where we caught a 3:45 train to Eastbourne, the town she’s from. Once you’re out of the congested buildings of London, you get the most scenic views of the countryside (of course, I didn’t realize this until on our way back… thank you 4:30 pm sunsets). We were met at the train station an hour and a half later by her dad, and had a quick drive to her family home. It was the most amazing feeling to set foot inside a home again – to have the noise of family interacting and something cooking. I felt refreshed in the ten minutes I had been there. Jess took me on a night time drive past Beachy Head, through the South Downs, and back along the Eastbourne sea front. Even though it was dark and hard to see, we parked the car and stood on top of the hill that had a beautiful view of the town lights – it was invigorating to feel the crazy wind almost blowing you off your feet and feel the salt water in the air. We had an incredible homemade risotto dinner and cups of tea before heading off to sleep.
The next morning came with gray skies that showed promise of turning blue and pain au chocolat in the oven. The family crowded around the breakfast table as we planned our day trip to Brighton. Around 10 AM, we drove off along the beginning of the Seven Sisters cliffs on our way to Brighton. Jess, her sister and I ventured down the lanes until we bumped into Chockywockydoodah, a stunning and quirky chocolate shop that has a cafe upstairs. The decadence of the hot chocolate we had filled us up for another round of roaming the streets that led to the Brighton Pier.
I know that I often write about how this experience wasn’t one I had high expectations for – I didn’t have expectations because I knew that as the four months dwindled down, I would find my own way and travel at my own pace. Little did I know that I would add people into my tiny family of friends, ones I hope to visit time and time again and keep for a lifetime. Jess and the other girls in my flat have made me feel a bit more at home, despite being thousands of miles away from the place I grew up. I think the biggest thing I’ve come to realize regarding friends, is that each one made connects you to something you’ve experienced – and the girls in London will forever be a part of the time I explored the world for a few months.
I’ve had Brighton on my bucket list for a while now, ever since finding out about the beautiful seaside town in a video a few years ago. Coming up to the pier was breathtaking. This art installation was so stunning – it’s composed of holes in a large sheet of metal and what ever the background is you’re looking at makes the intended art work seen. Pretty cool, especially when later as we were watching the movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (trust me I was definitely giggling when they said the title to me too), we saw this piece as they walked along the pier.
The pier extends out into the sea and has beautiful railings along the planked pathway. The salt water regularly rusts the beautiful designs, but the maintenance crew does a good job of repainting over it all to make it look fresh and new. If you head inside of the building on the pier, you are immersed into a world of arcade games and a carnival atmosphere. We were on a hunt for the vintage-inspired stores in the North Laines so we opted to turn back after a short amount of time. I can imaging if you were traveling with young children, this would be the highlight of their trip.
We left the pier and headed past the Brighton Royal Pavilion that was build by a young Prince Regent in 1787 as his seaside home. It was magnificent in design, and unfortunately my pictures of the palace didn’t turn out as I was oblivious to the smudge on my lens (cue mad blogger). Anyways, the North Laines are winding pedestrian roads that have everything from leather goods shops to house goods to coffee shops and costume stores. An eclectic mix, I guess you could call it. I was in love with every single store we walked into – but was constantly reminded of the already big challenge I have of packing up to head back to the states. I did buy a few postcards to add to my ever-growing collection of places I’ve visited in my lifetime, so at least those don’t weigh much!
Jess’s family headed back around midday and left us to continue wandering through the city. A few hours later, when the hot chocolate calories were being burned off, we were feeling hungry and settled for a ginormous spread of salads, olives, dolmas, and three kinds of dips. Scrumptious! I’ll definitely be experimenting with making different kinds of dips when I’m back to having all of my own kitchen supplies, because the beet and mint puree was pure ecstasy. We sat there until it was sunset and then made our way to the main street where we caught the Brighton & Hove bus back to Eastbourne – only about an hour ride through the most scenic views of the sea.
When we got home, we watched Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging – which as I mentioned earlier, featured a lot of Eastbourne and Brighton in between the adorable preteen plot to learn to kiss. By 7 PM, the family was downstairs with the addition of Jess’s Nana for a traditional Sunday roast dinner. It felt like a miniature Thanksgiving meal. Roast pork, cabbage, green beans, potatoes, gravy.. basically everything you could ask for. Even better was the flapjack dessert that reminded me of my Mom’s famous oatmeal and raisin cookies that can put a smile on the saddest of faces. I didn’t realize how much I missed being in a home-like atmosphere until I had taste of it in Jess’s home. I’m extremely excited for the remaining five weeks of my time in London, but pulling into Gold River once again will be a welcome sight. The next morning we took an early train back into the hustle and bustle of London – feeling refreshed from the weekend away, the buildings made me excited to be back in one of my favorite places.
Being so far away from home forces me to get out and explore this beautiful country I get for a short time. I’m encouraged by the people I’ve come to be friends with and am so excited to start planning future adventures (hint, hint – planning a little trip for next summer)! What gives you the motivation to explore the world, or even your own town? I’ll end this post with a little quote that used to seem cliché to me but now makes a lot more sense after some very unexpected and joyful trips.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” – Martin Buber
Lots of love,