Fri 27 Sep - Headcorn, England

Brighton rocks...but it doesn't rock as much as Blackpool, in our view at least.

It was a 2 hour drive to Brighton from Headcorn through lovely countryside A and B roads. Windy, a bit narrow and occasionally with heavy woodlands which turned the road into a dark tunnel.

Once at Brighton, we found our way to the seashore and parked (pay and display of course) and made our way directly to the main pier, a long anticipated moment for Hans.

Brighton does have a beach as opposed to Blackpool that has a beach of sorts during low tide only.

We passed a disappointing new type of Ferris wheel on our way towards the pier. It looked like the London Eye, all fancy, air conditioned, VIP packages etc... and expensive. No business from us, we were after shabby chic, not this.

Ahh... The famous Brighton Pier. There were posters advertising various live music events, including a tribute band doing The Who's "Quadrophenia", an iconic album about Brighton from the mods and rockers days as well as later a movie with the same name that was filmed here.

Upstairs... On the pier...

Downstairs... From the pier, which actually was in a way more interesting.

Looking eastwards towards the Marina in the distance. As usual, there were not many people on the beach and no swimmers. The water was not quite as cold as the water off Blackpool, but it certainly did not invite swimming.

What? The Swedish flag? Why? Hans gave it the thumbs down. Or was that for the "Eye"?

We stopped for a cup of our own thermos tea on the pier and we bought 4 expensive and not very nice sugar donuts to go with it. We did not make use of the free(!) deck chairs as it was windy and we sought some protection instead. Nice to sit and watch the people wander by. Still an icon, with at least wannabe iconic people passing by.

However, we were a bit disappointed with Brighton Pier, for example - you can't get to the very end of the pier, no go zones due to lots and lots the amusement rides, all too glammed up and everything seemed too overpriced. Blackpool's piers rule! So let's check out what else is along Brighton Beach's seafront.

Looking westwards - like Blackpool the seafront is lined with guest houses, although these look a bit more posh.

We were not sure whether this was a retaining wall or old wharf but it seemed hopeful that these fisherman would catch anything with the receding tide. They would soon be casting onto a dry beach.

Ok, the beach is not sand, it is pebbles, but we thought we would try it out for sunbathing comfort. Zero!

Under the pier is as gloomy and grotty as Hans could hope for - visions of mod riots filled his mind.

Yep, this looked sinister enough during the day, never mind at night. Cool.

Further westwards there were various fishing relics along the beach belonging to the Brighton fishing museum, and this seagull was making the most of the high position.

Picturesque deck chairs but no one used any of them, perhaps due to the cool blowing wind... Or did they charge for these? We didn't know.

We came across some fresh seafood shacks selling cold local specialties including cockles, whelks, shrimp, crab and mussels. You could get a little pot for about £2 so we tried a mix.

Hans liked it more than Di so went back for another pot of crayfish tails this time. Equally good.

That part was better than Blackpool which didn't have any of these eateries along the water from what we could see.

Di preferred this guy - called a Brighton lobster but we think he was more crayfish (and the little crayfish tails were yummy).

Hans working through his second pot.

It was around lunchtime and we spotted the Brighton Smokehouse, specializing in smoked fish - so lunch was an easy choice.

So, in we went. The people running this place have been here 16 years so they definitely knew what they were doing.

A hot kipper on a roll for Hans. He loved it as it was very tasty. Di had smoked mackerel pate on toast, which was also good.

At this time, we needed to get back to our car to put more £ into the parking meter. Parking where we had the car was limited to 2 hours, and that was not nearly enough to explore Brighton's seafront, never mind off the water a bit.

Then we saw this guy cleaning windows and every other surface it seemed. We stopped and gawked. Amazing. We were impressed.

After moving our car a few metres and paying for an additional 2 hours of parking, we were back at the seafront. There were 3 or 4 promenades on at least 3 levels, including under shelter should the weather require it.

The same area as per above, but from the beach and including not beach huts but storage units. We wondered how people got hold of these spaces. They probably had been in the same family for generations and been handed down to the offspring.

Hans on one of the promenades.

This is where we split for an hour or so. Di wanted to go on this little electric train which went east and Hans wanted to explore Brighton's seafront further west. We agreed to meet back in an hour.

Bye Di... Feeling a bit lonely...?

Di enjoyed her train journey which went as far as the marina and returned. A few highlights included the train passing through it's own storage shed, which was gloomy and full of cobwebs, and also passing a naturist (nudist) section of the beach. The council had put up signs and tried to give them some privacy by mounding pebbles up to about 2 metres high behind the area, but it did not stop one naked chap wandering further to exhibit himself...not too bad really...seen worse although the weather was cool...

Hans was also on the lookout for the Grand Hotel and he found it soon enough a bit to the west of the pier. We understand that Grand Hotel featured as a backdrop for the rockers and mods clashes of the sixties and therefore also in the movie Quadrophenia.

"Bell Boy-y... Gotta keep running now...". Apologies for all of you who are not familiar with the Who's musical masterpiece of Quadrophenia. "Bell Boy" is one of the key songs and the album cover has an image taken from this spot just inside the entrance of Grand Hotel. Hans felt... sentimental. He quietly wondered how sick the real "bell boys" would be hearing references to that song.

The seafront here had a beach volleyball court (empty) and a basketball court (game on) plus a lot of eateries and drinking holes. Definitely more of a party atmosphere along the seafront than in Blackpool.

Hans wandered back to the train station, caught up with Di and we were on our way. Di has found out that the seafront area to the east of Brighton was supposed to be very rugged and beautiful, including a white cliff formation referred to as the Seven Sisters. We decided to head home that way.

We saw this from the car, not that scenic, but a funny name for us anyway.

We zigzagged along the water, including a few dead ends, saw some scenery as per below, but we didn't stop. It appeared that the Seven Sisters white cliffs can only be seen by foot, once you've paid to enter a national trust area. Too much effort for us at that time. We kept moving eastwards towards Eastbourne.

As the time approached 5pm, we decided to take ourselves back to Headcorn with a quick pitstop at a brand new Starbucks with absolutely no customers when we arrived. The place even smelt new from paint etc. All refreshed and with coffee with continued on our journey, with the bonus of having Google maps updated so we knew where we were and how to get home. Thanks Starbucks for providing the free wifi.

Back in Headcorn some time after 6pm. The families had made a haircut appointment with a home visit from a local hairdressing bloke named Iain. First off to get a haircut was John... Before pic...

...and after pic.

Then Richard had his hair done, but we forgot to take pictures as we were chatting away. We did remember when it was Ruth's turn. Before...

...and after. She looked equally happy before as well as after...

Nothing for Will - he was working at the local pub.

Richard and Ruth again cooked up a storm, this time a nice cutlet of hake fish, with veggies. Very very nice. No pics from the dining table as we just had too good a time. A very good and tasty fishy kind of day. Now, it's good night from us.

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