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An Impromptu Day in Brighton

The sound of waves breaking and kids playing on the beach, are probably two of  life's greatest joys.

"Oh shit! ... the tickets!" 
And so started our day-trip to Leeds Castle.
 
But the title says "Brighton"! Ok, ok, give me a sec.
We visited Leeds Castle a year ago and  we then found out that entry tickets last for a year - a year coming up next Saturday, we decided it was now or never if we wanted to go back.
Only, half way down - or rather round - the M25, I realised that I forgot the tickets...at home!
 
Laughter, shaking of heads and change of course: Brighton it is! 

We hadn't been to Brighton in years. I mean, it's cool and all, but it's gained a reputation for imitating Ibiza with a cross-over to 80's arcade leftovers, ergo not what comes to mind for a relaxing Sunday. Well, we were pleasantly proven wrong! 

Brighton is cool; that's true. But there is something different about it now, much more sophisticated. 
As we were driving into town, we spotted Pippi Longstrumfen walking down the street to the left, Bangkok Ladyboys Show to the right, then straight into Brighton Football Club supporters, across from the 10th Tattoo Convention and finally into a noisy mini parade of the local moppet club.
That's cool by everybody's standards. 

Left: The Old Pier ruins from i360. Right: A quick drink at the Hilton Terrace, with  a view of the Old Pier ruins.
 
Walking around...
 
Apart from the Pavilion and the Pier, Brighton's most famous attractions, there is plenty more to see.
Firstly, we treated ourselves to some Scampi & Chips with plenty of salt & vinegar; had to be done, only make sure you are quick, the seagulls love chips! 
Then we went straight for the sea, sat down and watched the waves break onto the pebbles. Life slows down after a couple of minutes and your senses are indulged to blue skies dotted with humongous white seagulls, waves relentlessly beating on the Pier stilts, kids playing all around and the smell of sea-salt, fish&chips and hot-dogs lingering in the air.

Then we discovered that the Beach Walk - the stretch between the new and old Piers - has been transformed to a vibrant, clean-cut pedestrian zone, to suit everyone's needs.
Smart, upmarket and relaxed beach-bars are scattered all along the Beach Walk, depending on your mood. Ohso Social Beach Bar seemed to be the spot where all the vibrant, young things (yes, I've been watching Downton again) meet up to mingle and enjoy a drink, with a view of the Pier and the sea; while further down the Walk the music turns up louder and louder, bars spot clever names such as the Krakken and you can even lounge and smoke shisha, on the beach; a bit of everything to suit all tastes and budgets.

In-between the beach bars, we spotted art galleries squeezed under the arches.
We even run into Brighton's Fishing Museum, entry is free and it's the perfect spot for kids to explore a whole fishing boat up-close.
We even got to participate in an "active art installation", throwing colourful pebbles on the beach, right next to "Afloat" or the Brighton Doughnut, as it's affectionately known!
This city is so alive!

We kept walking but as the crowds were getting bigger and bigger, waiting for Brighton football-team victory parade, we crossed onto the other side of the street and had a quick cocktail at the Hilton's Waterhouse Bar & Terrace. We were treated to a small cheerful tour of Brighton's moppet club, who made so much noise that I felt we were in Italy! So much fun!  


Left: The deck at BA's i360. Right: simple pleasures, scampi and chips, eat it fast before the seagulls do!

Left: Lounging around the i360 deck. Right: view of the Brighton football team victory parade from the i360 flight - and spot these cool arty rooftops too!
View of the seafront from i360's flight!

British Airways i360...

After our drink at the Hilton, still no parade in sight, even more Brighton football supporters gathering by the sides of the road, we knew it was time to escape the crowds.
"Let's go for a "flight" onto the new British Airways i360".
"Let's!"

You can't miss it, it's set up right in front of the old Pier ruins, towering over the elegant Regency Square. 
As we "took off" the ground, we realised that the procession honouring Brighton football team players was finally underway and we got to see it all from up high, we couldn't have timed it better. Close to 3,000 people were following the bus carrying the players, all very orderly but very, very proud.

The views were amazing.
The "flight" takes around 20 minutes, which would have normally been ample time for me to finish my G&T;  oh yes, there is a bar "in-flight" too.
But, I was so busy admiring the English riviera the whole time, running from side to side,  that as we were landing, I had to enlist my husband's help to finish my drink. This never happens!
The coast looks simply amazing from high up. I got a sense of California living, with all of the high blocks of flats on one side and the glistening sea on the other.

Walking away from the beach and into the charming Lanes for dinner.


My gorgeous dinner, such an array of flavours and textures

Dinner at...
My favourite part was finding Plateau, a French bistro in the Lanes.
The food was fresh, tasty and imaginative.

We tried merguez for the first time ever, a salami-type sausage made of spiced lamb, typical of north African countries. Beautiful and strong flavour alongside a vibrant tomato salad, topped with almond pesto. By the way, I tried this almond-tomato pesto on pasta at home and it was such a new flavour!

Wines and ciders are sourced both locally and from France but they are all "fresh", in other words they are not as matured as your average bottle. It is a very acquired taste, not convinced it's the one for me, it felt a bit dry or rather harsh, but I am not one for dry wines anyway, so maybe not the best judge.

But then, everything else faded away as I had the tastiest skate roulade, filled with herby butter, served with caviar. There were so many textures and flavours complementing each other, all on one plate. We loved that place, it made us feel that we had popped over to France for dinner.
  
The Pier at dusk and right on the beach, the "active art installation" made up of colourful pebbles.

After dinner we strolled along the seafront on our way to the car. Such a difference.
It was 10:30 at night, there was hardly anyone there, the Pier lights were glistening in the dusk and we got the peace and quiet we had come here for. 
We walked down to the beach and sat there listening to the waves for a while, we just couldn't get ourselves in the car after such a lovely day of sunshine, fresh air and open sea!  

Pub In The Park, Marlow

No Summer Party is complete without a jug or rather... pot of Pimms!
 
The first event of the season! Here comes summer 2017! 
 
Organised by the talented chef Tom Kerridge, promising to gather foodies and BBC cooking show devotees to the quintessentially English riverside town of Marlow - Pub in the Park was created.
 
Tickets went on sale about a month and a half ago - they sold out within 2 hours!
I got a WhatsApp group going, just to make sure I bugged my friends enough, to get tickets on time. It worked! Six of us dissented to Marlow last Sunday afternoon to sample gastro-pub dishes by the river, in the sunshine!

Let's talk numbers... Tickets were priced at £40 per person, possibly on the steep side;  
All dishes cost £5 each, which I found sensible. We got around 12 dishes to try amongst the 6 of us, that's another £10 each plus maybe another £15 each for drinks. That's roughly £65 per person. Food for thought...
 
Plum Cider, for all sweet-tooth piggies, present company included!  
 
Aloo Chaat...by Atul Kochar, who has recently taken up the Compleate Angler in Marlow and I hear more and more satisfied customers recommending it lately. 

Sunlight in a bite - smocked haddock arancini!

My absolute favourite dish: Smoked Haddock Arancini with Egg yolk & Lemon pickle, by the Hardwick, delicious and creamy!
 
Most interesting dish: Malted Pork cheek Choux bun with Bacon crunch, by the Hand & Flowers - the choux bun was interesting, although a bit hard to bite into, but once you got past that, the pork cheek was a sweet and smooth surprise!   
 
Gotta have a curry: Aloo Chaat - a modern version, with fried potato chunks, by Atul Kochar!
 
Pity that some of the dishes had run out, even as early as the event had started. I wonder how that happened, the event was otherwise so well organised. We had all picked our favourite dishes in the taxi, on the way to the Park and had a plan for each of us to go get our favourites and then re-group and try a bit of everything; so, childish as we are, we were a bit disappointed that we didn't get to try what we had planned...venison chilli, pan-fried fois gras, all very popular and all very...finished!  
 
Most unexpected dish: Sweet and Spicy Korean Fried Chicken, by Galvin Hop - soft and crispy at the same time, sweet and spicy all in one go...oh yes, that was in the name!
 

What a clever open fire pit: smashed potatoes, barbecued feta, sea bream...all so smoky and delicious! Only, remember not to lean against it!  
Left: The Big Green Egg. Right: Barbecued duck and lettuce hearts
 
We got into a tasting session organised by the Big Green Egg, a company that sells interesting BBQs and fire pits designed for open fire cooking. All you had to do was queue up and be patient...sounds simple enough but when there is so much temptation around, time is of the essence!
We sampled duck and barbecued pork but surprise- surprise,  the best dish of them all was barbecued asparagus with grated parmigiana. Sh-moking!
 
After walking around the different stalls, we camped by the music stage and had the most un-co-ordinated picnic ever: Everybody kept bringing dishes and little local products from the stalls around. Mixing pork scratchings with chilli marmalade and charcoal cheese...hmmm ...washed down with Plum Cider, Mojitos and Espresso Martinis! What were we thinking?

My husband presented me with a block of charcoal cheese. He was so proud that he got me a gift! It could have been worse, he could have got me the Garlic Beer, so pheew!


Left: Goodies from Tom Kerridge's own pub, terrine with asparagus and spicy sausages with white beans.
Our camp-site in the sun and our un-conventional mess of a picnic! Special appearance by the Charcoal Cheese!  
 
There was live music until 11pm, by the Riffles, which kept us swaying and if you happened to see us reeling at some point, well, we are still proud of it! I would have loved to see Toploader on Saturday or Sophie Ellis Bextor on Friday too, but we got fireworks, so there! 
 
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