TIR Feb_Mar18.pdf - Page 33

personally speaking
by John Wardall
Oh to be in England…
to be in England
now that April’s there…”
Robert Browning’s famous,
wistful poem, eulogizing the
joys of spring, trees bursting
into leaf, flowers opening and
birds tweeting, sounds pretty
good when you are battling
the cold, howling wind and
the driving rain on the Brighton promenade in December.
The consolation, however,
is that you really don’t need
clement weather to enjoy
the sceptred isle – even its
coastal resorts in the middle
of winter.
A quick trip to the UK at
the end of last year brought
recollections from many years
ago and an introduction to a
couple of new experiences. In
fact, the old and the new are
what make Brighton such a
great place to visit.
The convenience of British
Airways’ seasonal non-stop
service from Cape Town to
Gatwick was a bonus, only a
30-minute drive to the coast
or a 20-minute train ride
from the airport to Brighton
or other parts of the south
Memories returned of
boarding school days at a
nearby prep school torture
chamber of cold showers, a
starvation diet and
the inevitable
six of
the best for the most minor
infringement of unimaginably
ludicrous rules.
The educational philosophy in those days was that
the more uncomfortable and
painful the experience, the
more character building it
was. Regrettably, I am proof it
didn’t work.
There were occasional
escapes to play sports at Rottingdean School, just outside
Brighton, the highlight being
the drive past the playing
fields at Roedean, source of
many future society debutantes, where the girls would
be playing hockey to the
whistles and encouragement
of the hormone-filled boys
hanging out of the coach windows. All very non-PC these
days but par for the course
Relief from scholastic
drudgery would come at halfterm, when parents descended and hauled their errant
offspring to breaks in the
seaside towns dotted along
the English Channel.
Mine was always Brighton,
where the air was supposedly
bracing and healthy and a
daily fast march along the
promenade and up to the end
of the West Pier was mandated by my military father.
Alas, that pier burned
down in 2003 but the
skeletal remains of
the pavilion at
the end
tinue to rise out of the sea
and have become one of the
most photographed relics in
And all is not lost, at the
former entrance to the pier
now stands British Airways
i360, the new most recognisable feature in this most
typical of English resorts.
The architects, who also
designed the London Eye,
refer to it as a vertical pier
and the airline refers to rides
on it as flights. It is a moving
observation tower, the highest
in the world, where a glass
pod rises 138 metres up the
central core, providing the
most spectacular 360 degree
views along the Sussex coast
and into the Channel.
The ride lasts 30 minutes,
during which “passengers”
can walk around the perimeter, take photographs and
have a drink at the bar. On a
clear day, views stretch as far
as the Isle of Wight.
To the east is the still-operating Palace Pier, with
fairground attractions and,
if you must, coin-in-the-slot
machines to relieve you of
loose change. The only problem in the UK is that feeding
loose change into them can
cost R20 a shot.
At the base of the i360 is
the West Beach Bar & Kitchen, a souvenir shop and facilities for meetings, conferences
and special events.
Everything in Brighton is
within walking distance, so
the main attractions can all
be visited in a couple of days.
For the less energetic, bike
hire is a good option, with 15
miles of cycle lanes along the
seafront. And, for those who
want to be in touch, all of the
buses have free wifi on board.
The traditional British
seaside resorts all attracted
domestic tourists with a huge
range of entertainment from
top performers, theatre, galleries, restaurants and pubs
and Brighton is no exception,
even in the off-season.
I am not usually a b&b fan,
addicted to personal privacy;
even as a small boy, I became
accustomed to staying at The
Old Ship or the stately Grand
Hotel, where the IRA tried to
blow up Maggie Thatcher and
the British cabinet at a Conservative Party conference
in 1984. But the experience
of staying at the outstanding
b&b No. 27 Brighton this time
changed my perceptions.
It is owned and run by the
charming Diego, from the
Canary Islands no less, and
his English partner Wayne.
The hospitality was warm
and efficient, the b&b was
immaculately furnished
with their own collection of
antiques and collectibles and
the full – and I mean full –
English breakfast was superb.
My compliments to the chef.
You can recommend it with
Ideally located, it is a
15-minute stroll to the i360
or the Royal Pavilion, the
seaside palace built from
1787 for the Prince Regent,
later King George IV, to
entertain his never-ending
train of mistresses, and well
worth a visit. It is even closer
to The Lanes, the maze of
narrow streets and alleys,
where collectors browse the
numerous antiques and brica-brac stores for undiscovered
treasures, then repose to the
numerous neighbouring pubs
and restaurants.
Few will visit Britain, of
course, without at least a couple of days in London. Forget
driving; traffic in London is
a nightmare and a rental car
will accrue horrendous surcharges operating in the city,
not to mention parking.
continued on page 34
H British Airways’ i360 provides the best views along the
Channel coast.
Travel Industry Review | February/March 2018 33

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