If Stratford was Britain’s first tourist resort, Brighton followed.  By the end of the 17th century the bracing sea air and chilly salt water established the then village (now city) as a place of recuperation and rest.  Soon the then Prince of Wales, later to become George IV, had also discovered Brighton and was embarking on his grandiose project for the Royal Pavilion (but more of than anon).  With his support Brighton was to become the trendy place to be seen and reside in from time to time, but before even George became King in 1820, it was beginning to lose its aura and his niece, Queen Victoria, in fact only visited the place twice, she much more preferring the more secluded Osborn on the Isle of Wight, away from prying eyes.  The arrival of the railways in the 1840s attracted another, much larger audience and towards the end of the century the Sussex seaside resort vied with Blackpool as the place to take one’s holidays.  Perhaps somewhat upmarket.

Today Brighton (or Islington-by-the-sea, as some in the media suggest) is still a popular leisure area and conference centre location although its clean but stony beach, somewhat variable British weather and a cold sea can make it less attractive than the continental hot spots, now so accessible with the budget airlines.

What Brighton does have is The Pavilion, the royal palace of George, Prince of Wales, later to become King George IV, perhaps unfairly portrayed in the film “The Madness of King George” as a pompous and devious son to a monarch who clearly had mental problems.  In fact history seems to show that both kings had their many virtues.  Prince George was devoted to the Arts and as can be seen in the Pavilion, a dab hand at getting the most out of his architects and planners, whilst his father “Farmer George” had to deal with the loss of much of North America, the French Revolution, Bonaparte and some extremely talented politicians.

To say that the Royal Pavilion is Brighton’s answer to the Taj Mahal is simply not true.  Yes it is in some ways a palace built for love, but a love for high spirits, perhaps women, but not a woman.  It is a blend of domes and minarets, Indian on the outside and a much Chinese interior.  Some of its heart is just mouth watering, typically the wonderful and ornate grand dining area.  However Prince George’s practical ideas are seen just as well with a very fine and well laid out kitchen and serving area.  Work started on what was a former farmhouse in 1783 and took 30 years and £500,000 to build; huge money for the time.  It really was the centre of fashion and social activities with Rossini performing in the Music Room and Lord Byron pontificating to the assembled nobilities.  A visit costs £7.50 and includes one of the best audio tours available.  A slow meander through the various staterooms and private apartments can be broken with refreshments on the terrace of the Queen Adelaide tearoom.

In order to stay alive as a seaside resort Brighton has to cater for all tastes.  The single remaining pier, now renamed the Brighton Palace Pier, is a tasteful and well-kept throwback from a former age, except for the prices charged by some of the attractions.  The front, in spite of some updating, is still very 1960s with three of the major hotels definitely upgraded, but others clearly catering for the coach party clientele at rock bottom prices.  The famous Lanes, once the home of antique and jewellery emporiums still exists, and with plenty of traditional shops seemingly thriving.  But it is also an area for trendy up-market boutiques and Al Fresco restaurants.  Walk down the famous Marine Parade or take Volk’s Electric Railway, a taxi, or your car (there is plenty of free parking space) to the Brighton Marina, opened as long ago as 1978 by The Queen.  Today it is a successful waterfront area with cafes, shops and moorings for 1,500 yachts and boats.  The railway, by the way, is the oldest remaining operating electric railway in the world opening to the public on 4 August 1883.

Brighton has always been the home of the live theatre and performing arts.  Available is less than in pre-TV times but nevertheless within the next few months Buddy finds itself on tour as well as Swan Lake for what is probably a different audience.  The magnificent Brighton Dome, once the royal ridding stable, has just played to Jackie Mason, solo for two hours, with Elaine Page, another true international star, this time British, on in November.  There is the Corn Exchange and the Brighton Pavilion Theatre too. If your stay in Brighton is for a week Sussex has much to offer, whatever your taste or years.  The Bluebell Railway, Pevensey Castle and 1066, Parham House and Gardens, Chichester, Arundel and Goodwood.  Finally Brighton Racecourse, set right on the edge of the city, but really part of the rolling downs.  Magnificent.

Brighton has a number of major hotels on the seafront;  The Thistle, The De Vere Grand, Hilton Metropole, the new Holiday Inn and Ramada Jarvis Norfolk.  Whilst the first two have seen renovation in recent years it is the Hilton Metropole that is now in the middle of a major, £7.5m renovation project.  It is said the breakfast can’t be beaten, and with an the indoor swimming pool fine for both the serious water buff and the family, but the bedrooms, whilst adequate, cannot compete with the huge, land is of no consequence, type of property, prevalent typically in the United States.  It is a comfortable residence.

Brighton is an easy train ride from London Victoria (55mins) or via the M23 (for Gatwick) by road.  It is a throwback in some ways from yesteryear, but it does have a charm all of its own.  Choose a week or weekend when the theatre is at its best, visit the Royal Pavilion.  Eat well and surprisingly cheaply.  You won’t be disappointed and will want to come back or as many of the new residents from London, actually move here!