Friday, February 27, 2015

Brighton


It's felt like a wink and a blink since my last post, but it's been two weeks (!) and it's almost time for finals (!!) and I'm nearing the end of my time in London (!!!!!!!!!!)

(Very much exclaiming.)




I just got back from Brighton, which was a charmingly and surprisingly nostalgic experience (surprising because I'd never been there before). The town was a bit sad in the way that places are when they're waiting for crowds and sun and heat; when we arrived, Brighton Pier was glossy with rain and seawater, and the seagulls had taken over the abandoned cafes and shops lining the vacant boardwalk.


I'm not quite sure what I had thought we'd see-- sand and inner tubes, I expect-- but the shores in Brighton were surprisingly spartan for a beach town; no sand, just pebbles and pebbles and shells and more pebbles, sloping towards the water in speckled greys and browns. I suppose it was a rainy weekday at the end of February, but the seaside was almost entirely empty: just seagulls darting in and out of the water, high tide nipping at my toes, and the arcing lights of the Brighton Wheel above the town.

Further inland, down the more residential areas of Brighton, are townhouses in every shade of pastel you could imagine: periwinkle lavenders, blush pinks, sunny yellows, eggshell whites, seafoam greens, dusty blues.

Some of them were snugly packed into such neat rows that they reminded me a bit of the Neapolitan ice cream blocks that you used to be able to find in ice cream parlors across the Midwest during the summers. I remember this place near the lake, in Milwaukee, where they'd scoop straight off the blocks: dark, smooth chocolate (so brown it was almost purple) first, just a bit melty at the edges. Then the next layer, cream-yellow, fragrant with the speckles of vanilla bean, bright against the chocolate; and last, frosty chunks of fruit in strawberry ice cream too pink to be natural. Especially in the rain, the houses looked a bit like they were melting into each other; browns into yellows into pinks, and back again.

Our group took a break from the rain in the halls of the Royal Pavilion, which had the highest concentration of chandeliers I have ever seen. Our tour guide was also telling us that the dome of the Pavilion is often called "the Spanish Onion," or alternatively, "the Turnip".

(I kind of like the idea of the building being a giant turnip.)


A few of us took a break in a tucked away tearoom on the second floor, with giant ceramic pots of tea and a fog-lit view of the windy drizzle outside.


After tea, I wandered my way to this winding cobblestone street full of antique shops and Oxfam bookstores and tiny, snug cafes with names like "Milk, No Sugar" or "The Flying Coffee Bean."


After a romp through the street, and partially because the entrance was an intriguingly rundown turnstile (but mostly because I was beginning to turn into a rain-drenched prune) I slipped into a store called "Snooper's Paradise."

Incidentally, that name makes me think of pirates. I'm not really sure why.



The store was deceptively enormous; it was like a tent in Harry Potter, where the outside looks normal-sized and then you walk in and rooms just kind of pop up out of nowhere-- and these rooms were filled with the most random, disorganized, spectacular flurry of things. There was one cabinet filled with old skeleton keys, next to a cabinet of ceramic cats (some of them were quite terrifying), and piles and piles of records  scattered haphazardly between half-repaired bikes and pots of hand-carved wooden canes. And books! So many books!



But as cluttered and wonderful as the main floor was, my favourite part was attic; you had to clamber through chess sets and stacks of old playing cards to get to a crooked, creaky, crotchety staircase that wound up and up through fluttering papers hung in gilded swaths from the ceiling.



The attic was a long room filled with velvets and silks and lace and feathers, with warm light streaming from the tiny strings of lightbulbs stretching across the ceiling.

They had these beautiful upcycled sketchbooks made out of old book bindings, bowls of old pocket-watches and lockets, and an entire wall of old wedding dresses.





The place was a magpie's dream; everywhere you looked there was something sparkly or gilt or glimmering or mirrored.


I did end up tearing myself away from a rack of Dublin-knit sweaters to meet friends for dinner, and then the rest of the night was essay-writing and approximately a zillion and one pots of tea. But if you're ever in Brighton, North Laine had an abundance of really lovely antique stores, in a concentration that I haven't even found in London yet. And Snooper's Paradise, while sadly not a pirate abode, is still absolutely worth the visit.

I'm back in London now, and the sun's come out and it's starting to smell like spring and growing things. It's making me a bit giddy. Spring! Ah! Anyways. Theatre reviews and last assignments still exist... so, there's that.

last few crumbs of this week:
- For some reason, I have yet to find a favourite bookstore in London. I encountered some amazing ones in Stratford and Oxford, and Edinburgh was also particularly bookish. I don't know! Maybe that'll be my mission this week.
- Cafes in the city used to be called "penny universities" because so many writers and activists went there to discuss current events, academia, books, film, and all that jazz. People would come in and buy a penny coffee just to be able to stay and listen.
- There is a town called Broccoli somewhere on the National Rail line to Sussex. I will find this town. It will happen.

all my love (and all the broccoli),
j

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