Well Steve and I had a most jolly time on the South Coast; the weather was beautiful, the sea air fresh and invigorating, the ice cream lush, the history fabulous and the shopping remarkably fun! Despite the pebbled beach destroying my red polka-dotted flip flops on day one (my cumbersome feet may have sunk too deep in the stone to allow my flimsy foot wear to survive), forcing me to walk the length and breadth of the seaside town bare footed (yes, the pebbles thwarted me post closing time for any shoe selling shops) this was not a sign of unhappy days before me – however the Du Maurier / Hitchcock style bird watching did settle me a little uneasy! Brighton proved to be one of the most enjoyable breaks I have ever had and I very much look forward to plotting other jaunts in the future.
The Royal Pavilion is one of the most remarkable buildings I have ever encountered. Originally on the site of a farm house, George IV (1762 – 1830), as Prince Regent (and spending FAR too much of the money England didn’t have) developed it into one of the most stunning palaces England can offer to the happy tourist. Based on the style of grandeur seen in India during the nineteenth century, George set about filling every inch of his pleasure-house, walls and all, with the most ridiculously ornate and outrageously splendid. When you look upon the insides with its contrasting chinoiseriestyle, its dragons and serpents entwining amidst the most glamorous of chandeliers you will ever see, you start to think that our Prince Regent was something of a lunatic! It was indeed his father who was the Mad King, allowing George Junior (hang on, there’s something slightly Bush-like about this . . . .) to go crazy with the cash book – hence this fairytale land of opulence – in fact, I would go so far as to say this place is as close as you will ever come to a real fairytale palace, a place were wishes, it would seem, really did come true.
Sadly I was unable to take my own photos of the Pavilion’s interior for obvious restoration issues so I have found a couple of the incredible dragon which sits above the banqueting hall, the dragon which holds a chandelier of unbelievable size. I simply could not stop staring. I want one. I want a giant dragon to hold my lights in my house, preferably one as malevolent looking as that of George’s. The room literally took my breath away and is in every essence what the Pavilion’s existence was meant to be, a place for the Prince to entertain friends and lovers, but rarely his wife. The rich, the famous and the influential sat at George’s table, but never more than 30, and never with George at the head – he liked to be central with the flames of the month surrounding him. He was very much a cad, a dandy, nothing but the finest and most frivolous would do – even for the troops of his named regiment were dressed in glamour at an outrageous cost; he was also in debt to his tailor to the tune of something like £1.5 million! Just on personal items! In the kitchen (itself a thing of sheer envy, even to modern standards) there lists all the courses at a particularly large banquet for Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, including 36 main courses and 32 side dishes – the appetisers, entrées, starters, puddings, deserts, cheeses etc were too numerous to count. To feed at the Royal Pavilion was indeed yet another extravagant event. Sheer indulgence in every sense does not even come close to being an accurate description of George’s fun-house!
Sadly, when his niece Victoria came to the throne she was not at all taken by Brighton and its Pavilion, leaving it to fall into disarray. Eventually, the town was able to purchase the building, allowing it to be with us today. Queen Victoria eventually gave back some of the items she had taken from the Pavilion so that the people of Brighton could make best use of this jewel. Other items seen within have also been loaned by our current Majesty. But there has not always been a Royal connection, during the second world war the Pavilion was turned into an army hospital, treating mostly the injured from the serving forces from India – possibly a rather British assumption of making them feel at home!
I had a wonderful time in the Pavilion, as I also did having a mooch in the little boutique-type shops of the very medieval feeling Lanes shopping area, and the more bohemian quirks of shops in North Laine. I have to say though, I was most excited about the recently opened flagship Dolly Dagger shop and one of only three Irregular Choice shoe shops, the web sites of which I have spent many an hour cooing over. It was quite girly to get so giddy over such things, but hell! I was on Holiday!
Plenty walking and plenty fresh air and a bizarre afternoon having a couple of pints with two people from my home town – the world is very small at times – our few days at the beach were too short lived. But our rest and relaxation was over – next stop, London. And one hell of an itinerary!
And finally, another song from my beloved Horrible Histories, just to give you a quick over view of George IV . . .