Ok, so I've decided this blog and photo simultaneously thing is taking too long, especially now that I'm on a French keyboard, which has all the keys in the most bizzare places. And I'm about 3 weeks behind. Sigh. Ah well, its because internet is expensive, and I'm out and about too much, which is a good thing, I think. So, I'm going to type lots, and then you'll have to check back for the photos later in the gallery pages... my next hostel in Nice has free internet, so I can do a mass photo upload then :-)
Meanwhile, back in England...
Emily and I also visited Windsor Castle, which was very pretty, and the royal standard was flying which meant the queen was home! We didn't get to say hi to Liz though, as she helicoptered off near the end of our visit while we were looking around the state apartments. There are some beautiful huge rooms, the one that they have big state dinner events in was truly impressive. (Couldn't take photos inside though, sorry) It takes them days to set up the tables ready for the guests, as all the place settings are measured with a ruler to get everything perfectly equidistant. The funniest part was, after having a posh eloquent English woman narrating our audioguides the entire way around, we reached a section where they were discussing the gardens, and had a short interview with the gardener. Emily and I both cracked up when we heard it... suddenly this broad South Island accent came on, saying how "rully groat it wus to be working here, yeah", talking so fast we could barely understand him... the gardener was from Dunedin.
My last day in Oxford, and Nivi and Matt, friends from NZ (Nivi has moved to London, Matt was there on a business trip) came up to Oxford for the day! So Emily and I took them on a revised walking tour, trying to relate all the facts we'd learnt only a few days earlier, which I think resulted in a most confusing dialogue for Matt and Nivi. Later on that afternoon, we went for a picnic, which was so lovely... sitting in a park in the late afternoon sun, eating yummy food Emily had concocted and watching the molehills for signs of life (no such luck). A really pleasant evening.
I arrived in Brighton to a blustery sea breeze, Capital!!
My hostel, The Grapevine, though looking very respectable and new on the website, turned out to be a bit of a dive, one of those places where the bathroom looked like it had all sorts of undesirable things growing in it, and they had a lot of long term stayers; there was already a girl, Eva, from Poland, in my room, who was using it as her home while she worked, a situation I would hate, as it meant she had different random people turning up to share her room every night. That was the other problem... it felt like her room, so her stuff was everywhere, and I didn,t feel like I could open my pack up too much. Also, she had a rather sad old 45ish yr old boyfriend, who seemed harmless, just a bit odd, and I awoke at 5am to the realisation that our room had no locks, and said boyfriend had sneaked into the room to climb into bed with Eva. I felt very uncomfortable, so I was glad to be staying only one night.
Brighton itself had a great personality though... like a faded old drag queen at the seaside. I went for a walk through North Laine, a cool bohemian area, with lots of crazy shops and punks and bohos with slashed haircuts in pink and green. I walked on down to the water, passing an old lady sunbathing outside on the street in a flannel boob-tube jumpsuit, to Brighton Pier, which had closed for the day, but it was great to wander around unimpeded by the crowds and get some photos of the faded seaside tackiness, like the Easter show on a wharf. Lots of "olde worlde" stuff mixed with neon signs... Despite being stony, in the late afternoon sun, the beachside promenade looked great.
The next day I went to see Brighton Pavilion, a symphony of over-the-top opulence by a bored Prince Regent. The entire palace is bedecked in Indian style turrets, and each room inside is themed oriental; huge gold chandeliers shaped like dragons, wallpanelling stuck on to look like bamboo, rich fabrics and carpets and furniture... it was fantastic. After a quick look at the Brighton Museum nearby, I caught the marvellously cheap Megabus (only 4 pounds booked online!) to... London!
Me at Stonehenge.
Emily outside Windsor Castle with the royal ensign flag up in the background...
Just for you, David, the St George Gate at Windsor Castle... with said knight slaying dragon in the plaque up the top...
Emily, Nivi and Matt in Oxford.
Punters on the Thames.
A great piece of art on the Brighton promenade.
Great street murals, Brighton.
Cute old couple on the pier.
Helter Skelter! A real one!
Brighton Pier deckchairs.
Rollercoaster, Brighton Pier (please excuse the youths making rude gestures at me in the background).
Arcade ride, Brighton Pier.
Brighton Promenade, late afternoon.
The Royal Brighton Pavilion, from the outside.
Palace opulence... oriental style.