Brighton: A Royal wonder

It was one of those perfect nights. The night was young, I was relaxed, but still sprightly; the iPad was fully charged.

I fluffed the pillows, had a sip of water, pulled my hair out, then settled my shoulders.

I clicked into the iPad and onto the internet and for the umpteenth night, I entered a royal name and continued my latest bedtime hobby: reading up on our royal family.

That night I entered Queen Victoria into the search tool, clicked on the Wikipedia link and began my journey.

I realised I didn’t know all that much about the fabled Alexandrina Victoria, who married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and with whom she had nine children. (Note: Don’t count out Albert as a moniker for a future sibling of Prince George) and so skipped my way eagerly through her history.

I’d usually progress forward, through the generations, but not knowing much of her story, I trekked backward instead, learning about her round-about rise to Regent (her father was the fourth son of King George III and Victoria inherited the throne after her father’s three elder brothers died without leaving any legitimate surviving children).

She inherited the throne from her uncle who served as William IV, who had in turn been handed the throne after his elder brother George IV had died.

And there it was. A little ding sounded in my little brain. George IV. I clicked through into his Wikipedia page. And yes. I was right. It was he. George IV, King of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Hanover. And the man responsible for one of the more pleasant days I’ve had in the last 50-odd.

The dashing Prince Regent, who was granted an annual sum of millions to enjoy and spend without regard. The Prince for whom we have to thank the fashions of the Regency era, the remodelled Buckingham Palace and rebuilt Windsor Castle. And my personal favourite, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

I delved further and there was another heart-warming surprise that had me beaming for the next hour: it was the great man’s bon anniversaire. It was the night of what would have been his 352nd birthday.

And it took me back to a good month past when Flieds and I ventured south of London to the glorious English seaside, on a day drenched in sunshine and good vibes, energised by morning exercise, and peppy thanks to our self-satisfied travelling style; we were Brighton bound for a day of exploring.

On our list were the Booth Museum of Natural History (a must-do when wandering with the Flieds), the Royal Pavilion, pier, beach, fish and chips, and a wander of the laneways.

We landed at the godly hour of 11am and treaded up hill to the local natural history museum. Flieds is no stranger to a taxidermy exhibition, and a curator by profession, so while I was easy to impress, the Booth had its work cut out for it in hosting my companion.

Founded in 1874 by an Edward Booth, the museum was a treasure trove of birds, butterflies, fossils, bones and skeletons, all neatly compiled in floor to ceiling rows of well-presented boxes.

It was brilliant. The collection extensive, the displays thoughtful, the animals lifelike. Flieds gave it the nod.

We considered the fallen-out-of-fashion art of taxidermy; the adventurous 19th century anthropologists and explorers who wandered the globe, returning with carefully preserved creatures for the likes of us to consider centuries later.

It was also a nice touch that Flieds was clad in a rarity of a fashion find; she was wearing a safari-themed cotton shirt. She posed in her African safari shirt in front of an African lion. I hate to repeat myself, but it was a really nice touch.

We left there after donating a pound or two and wandered off in search of the pier and the royal residence and pleasure palace of King George IV.

King from 1820 until he died in 1830, George IV had the Royal Pavilion built over a forty year period while he was Prince Regent.

The Royal Pavilion was built as a seaside retreat for George in the style of 19th century Indian architecture and quite simply stood out like a sore palace amongst the quaint laneways and seaside spirit of lovely ‘ol Brighton.

The distracting twangs of the sitar greeted us as we entered the gardens. We lined up, said yes please to the free audio tour, and began our palace wander. And what a wonder it was.

The Royal Pavilion now lays claim to being one of the best, most expansive, most enjoyable residence tours I have ever been on.

The wealth of rooms we visited. The state of the home and its furnishings. The pleasant voice guiding us through.

Its exotic Indian exterior and oriental interior; its entrance; its staircase; its grand dining hall; its music room; its huge huge kitchen. We marvelled at all.

Decorated in an oriental style, with a touch of the medieval, the Royal Pavilion’s grand dining hall was perhaps the most impressive. It featured extensive wall murals, plush red furnishings and ornate gold flourishes and the most extravagant chandelier – hanging low with sculpted dragons and bursting into a ripe flower – I had ever beheld. The dining table was set for a grand feast. I entered the room and my jaw dropped. I turned to watch Flieds’ jaw do the same.

I was reading Game of Thrones (book five of the series) on the way down, and like most who have read or watched the TV series, am slightly obsessed. When I entered that dining hall and saw the dragons on the chandelier, on the walls, in the furnishings, I very nearly pondered: Are they real?

We ventured into the upstairs and bedroom quarters – George had a marble plunge pool, secret passages, and bad gout – and also learned we very nearly never had a Hot Prince Harry. Had George’s daughter Charlotte not died in childbirth, it would have been a Charlottean era and not a Victorian era that was entered. Queen Victoria was Prince Harry’s great-great-great-great grandmother.

From the Royal Pavilion we collected our jaws from the floor and trotted down to the pier. We took the obligatory shots before the Brigfton pier lights and the ferris wheel and considered churos while walking the pier.

We abstained and instead ate fish and chips which were served with the delightfully bad customer service I had come to expect from Britain.

We washed it down with a bottle of wine and set off to tour the quirky lanes; perusing, browsing and delighting at what the seaside city had to offer.

Nearing home time we returned to the beach for an ice cream, a relax on the stone beach and what turned out to be a rather pleasant perv on a very good looking family.

They were three generations, all in good health and spirits and clad in the most well-matched display of rich, country casual. They were a gentle wash of blues, greys, whites, denim and a flourish of mustard. They wore boat shoes and neat wool knits, the girls denim smocks, the men and boys all chinos; boat shoes were on all and grandma was perfectly pearled.

But all too soon, it was time to leave and for the train we had to depart.

We bid a last glance at the Perfect Family and headed for the train. It was caught in perfect time, the perfect end to our perfect day.

Our heads lolling, snoozing ever so lightly, we journeyed back that easy hour plus trip, both marvelling and pleased at the darn good day we’d shared by the seaside.

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