Wow, a month and a bit really passes in a hurry! My mom just had one weekend left before she headed back home from Gatwick airport. One of the last things on the list to do was to go visit some friends of hers who live in Brighton, England. So for the last weekend we got on a plane over to Gatwick airport Friday evening and took a train from there to Brighton which is on the south coast of England. Our kind hosts, Margaret and Ron, met us at the Brighton train station and took us to the bed and breakfast which we would stay for the next two nights. It was pretty late when we got in so basically we went straight to bed. The next morning, Margaret and Ron were going to meet up with us around noon, so we had the morning to ourselves to wander around. Our B&B was really close to the coast, and it was a beautiful sunny day so we wandered up and down the beach for awhile enjoying the weather and basically taking it easy.
After a little while we returned to our B&B and were picked up by our hosts who took us to see the Sissinghurst gardens. These magnificent gardens were an hour and a half's drive outside of Brighton, and it was well worth the trip. When we got there, we had some lunch in the restaurant before spending a few hours wandering around in the gardens.
The gardens surround a large tower which you can climb up several floors of spiral stairs to get to the top of. From the top you can see not just the gardens itself, but quite far into the English countryside. On that beautiful day it was a wonderful view! I don't even really know what else to say about the garden except that we spent quite a lot of time there walking around and taking photos.
After taking our time there we got back in the car and headed back towards Brighton. It was quickly approaching time to eat, so our hosts took us to a place called Shelley's. When we arrived, the place was an impressive building, also with an impressive number of cars in the parking lot. The garden behind the house was filled with some fancily dressed up people -- it certainly looked like a wedding! But Margaret decided to go in and ask if there was space for us anyway and the restaurant staff said they could squeeze us in! So we sat out on the patio for a bit before being shown our table. We were just one of two tables in use in what basically was a private dining room for us! We had a very lovely fancy dinner, which took us well into the evening.
The next day, we had the morning to ourselves so we walked down the coast a ways once again enjoying the beautiful weather. We split off the coast farther on and eventually found ourselves in the Lanes -- a narrow pedestrian street shopping area with a bunch of quaint little shops all over the place. It was pretty cool to wander in and around there. While we were there we stopped in at a courtyard area and got some frozen yoghurt, which was rather interesting actually. Instead of tasting more like ice cream, it actually tasted like ... well ... yoghurt. It didn't taste bad, just kind of ... odd. It was, however, pretty refreshing on a day where the sun was out and no clouds to speak of.
Next, we wandered towards the museum and Royal Pavilion which are colocated in a large city park. We were due to meet our hosts in a couple hours at the museum for lunch, so we decided to see the Pavilion. It was an *incredible* place to see. The pavilion was built by King George IV, and was an extremely lavish vacation palace.
While the start of the tour is impressive enough, when you walk into the dining hall you can't help but pick your jaw off the floor. The dining hall is a huge domed room, and the focal point of your attention immediately shifts up to the chandelier hanging from the top of the very high dome to a little above the dining table in the center. The top of the chandelier is a large dragon clutching the rest of the chandelier in its claws -- and there are more dragons at the edges of the chandelier with their mouths turned upwards with lights inside burning to make them look like they are breathing fire. If I remember right, the whole chandelier weighs at least 1 tonne, and is certainly the most spectactular sight in that room.
The tour continues on through the extensive and for its time modern kitchen, through the various bedrooms as well as the music hall -- a room that matches the dining room in size and dimension, but instead has plush carpets and row upon row of gold covered shell shapes lining the domed ceiling. It really was an incredible tour and well worth it.
After that we wandered over to the museum where we walked around for awhile before joining Margaret and Ron for some high tea lunch: sandwiches, tea, and scones which made a lovely lunch!
It was starting to get towards time for us to catch the train back to Gatwick, but one last thing Margaret wanted us to see was a view near the village of Ditchling; a hill overlooking some rather pretty English countryside. We had enough time to do this, so we went and it really was quite a wonderful view.
Our train trip back to Gatwick was uneventful, as was our plane trip back to Dublin. So that was a nice way to wrap up the parental visit. My mom headed back to Edmonton on the following Tuesday after spending some more time with Margaret and Ron. I think both my parents enjoyed the trip -- I certainly hope they did!