We did not need an excuse to return. Yet we searched for one. Perhaps what we needed was a direction, something a little more specific, rather than an ‘excuse’. Excuses sound bad. And we definitely did not need an excuse to go back to one of our favourite places on earth. It was my birthday a while back. And then Amber Run playing at the Concorde 2, early October. Planets aligned. Off we went.
We were slightly upset that we missed out on a flat in the North Laines, our favourite place in Brighton (ours and probably everyone else’s, for that matter). Since we packed light in preparation for a ‘heavy return’, it’s easy to navigate our way to our AirBnB, a room above a cafe/bar called ‘Village’. We had no idea what to expect, really, but the location was perfect. Upon arriving, we gaze around the ‘retro mum’s sitting room’ styled cafe, chairs a mix ‘n match, old and worn tables, the greatest, cutest lamps, picture frames and wallpaper, and it does what it’s supposed to do – to make you feel right at home. However amazing the place, we leave, somewhat hurried, but there’s a date we’re late to.
Effortlessly, our steps are guided to the North Laines, finding our way like locals. Breathing in deeply, as if one could actually breathe in the brilliant atmosphere and tender energy of Brighton, I stand still for a moment. It’s still early. Shops have barely opened their doors, if already open in the first place. Even quiet, even still half asleep, in a morning slumber, Brighton greets us welcoming.
Unlike here in the Netherlands, there’s a variety of places to choose from for a coffee and something sweet, suiting mum and I’s dietary restrictions, if not too much to choose from. We settle for Little Bird, because they’ve already opened and it’s been on my list for a while, and indulge in some of the best cake I’ve had. We leave with a promise to return and we meant it, but it would have to wait till next time because we were far too busy going to all the other places over the following four days, for us to keep our promise.
There is a perpetual smile on my lips. My morning run is faster than usual. My legs seem to have lost their ability to tire out. I just want to keep on walking. We go on a shopping spree. We hop into every store we like, realising fully that not having the dogs with us this time is something we should and can use to our advantage. We shop at Whole Foods, barely able to contain ourselves and not take everything with us. There is time for coffee and lunch. There is time to truly enjoy Brighton and not rush through it, even though we cover 12k a day easily.
I love Brighton. I don’t care if it’s possible or not possible to love a town. And call me crazy, but Brighton loves us too. We have been drenched in sunlight since arriving and each morning comes with the promise of more, of new, of old, of Brighton. This town is almost like a drug that gives you a good, a right kind of high. The kind that leaves you wanting more, but never desperate or starved. And as we wander and roam the streets, there is so much old, and new, and familiar, and unknown, explored and unexplored.
Day three and we take the train to Newhaven. Neither of us can remember why exactly we picked Newhaven, because – tired and sore from a late night before (thanks, Amber Run!) – we just fail to see it. There’s a lovely hike up the cliffs, but we never even make it to the foot of the cliffs. Newhaven looked promising when seeing it on Google, but it was proof that anything can look attractive. It wasn’t that Newhaven was still asleep, with little to no people on the streets, barely any shops open; it was almost as if this town had never really been awake. So when reaching the harbour and not feeling it, we ditch our plans and set course for Lewes instead.
And Lewes, unlike Newhaven, fits us like a glove with it’s warm, goofy and energetic air that really breathes some life back into us.
Lewes turns out to be very artsy, very cultural and in that sense, very retro. The streets are buzzing and plenty of people out and about, friendly and chatty, cute cafes and occasionally, looking down through the alleys, there are some of the most stunning sceneries I’ve seen while walking in a town. There’s also a plethora of shops that we enjoy, there’s even a cafe that serves all our wishes food-wise and serves it right in a stunning beer garden. Lewes kept us so entertained that we hadn’t even realised how tired we were and making us forget all about our self-promised late afternoon nap. Instead, we allow our feet to rest and our minds to come to a standstill for a moment. We enjoy a great late afternoon lunch and a place in the sun where we can relax.
Back in Brighton, we settle ourselves in comfy chairs with coffee and, later on for mum, a pint, writing and reading in the Village. There is live music too – it’s been a long time since we got to experience something truly, so typically British as we’ve seen so much already. Brighton, despite the familiarity, despite it feeling like home, still gives us something new.
I wake up on our last morning with a startling thought. It is our last day. The realisation comes as a surprise, not because I had forgotten, but because it feels like we’ve been here forever. There is no concept of time here in Brighton, it escapes the hands of the clock.
Lovely Brighton throws us one more good and brilliant day. It’s gotten windier, for sure, but the sun is still out and the temperature, despite a little chillier, is still perfect for a long, last day of wandering.
This is yet another heartbreak. I feel like a fool for putting myself through this time & time again, always with a smile on my face. I wish I could return to this cold place with stories and adventures, tall tales and grand happenings, like souvenirs in our suitcase.
But this is not the case. This was not a vacation, or a holiday, not even a quick trip. This was a brief visit home, one too brief, one too short. We slipped into the glove of daily life so easily. We had no trouble finding our way, knowing the roads, wandering like locals.
It was no different from ‘home’ because this was ‘home’.
We took time to sit & relax, drink coffee and tea, to watch and to ground ourselves, to breathe and to listen and to look, observe and feel. On the other hand, we shopped, diving headfirst & greedily into shops, perhaps because in a way it is all materialistic pieces that we want to take home with us, with something that is near despair, almost, as if we could fill our bags with Brighton in a desire to put the whole place in our suitcase.
If we could, I swear we would have packed the whole continent and took it home with us.