“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling
When you work a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 (or 6, or 7, or later) kind of job, there is nothing quite like the joy of a three day weekend. August 28 was a bank holiday in the UK, so Troy had Monday off. We decided to stay in on Saturday and enjoy a quiet day at home to prepare ourselves for our weekend adventures. On Saturday, we took in the Notting Hill Carnival. This festival celebrating African and Jamaican culture has been a community staple since 1965 and has grown to a two-day event with more than a million people taking in the music, food, and parades. Here’s a glimpse of the carnival: Fifty years in pictures. We took exactly one photo, trying unsuccessfully to capture the enormity of the crowd, as we wanted to immerse ourselves in the experience. And our picture (let’s be honest) is terrible. You are really MUCH better off checking out the ITV News Best of Notting Hill Carnival or just googling it! Our decision to arrive early and head home in the late afternoon turned out to be a wise one, as we later learned that more than 450 arrests were made over the course of the weekend.
Delightful music and dance aside, the highlight of the weekend was Monday, when we took the hour-long train ride to the beautiful seaside community of Brighton. I was excited for this even before it was planned, as Brighton is referenced in Pride and Prejudice, my favourite novel, as well as in Austen’s Mansfield Park, George Gissing’s New Grub Street, and countless others. We could not have had a better day for it. With only one quick detour into a sports shop for a new daypack for me, and new sandals for both of us, we went straight to the beach and right into the ocean!
We stepped happily into the surf, and before long we were both soaked! We set our things down and took in the view for a bit. The sun glistening on the calm sea inspired a feeling of equal parts serenity and joy, made all the more lovely by the shades of turquoise, blue, and sea foam green. Happy to have brought my bathing suit, we took full advantage of the weather. The water felt cool on our feet, but once we were all the way in and had waded past the break of the surf, it really did feel almost tropical. I felt so buoyant in the water; it took almost nothing to float and enjoy the feeling of the large swells moving past us, lifting and lowering us gently as they passed. We returned to the beach, and spent time soaking up the sun, examining the beautiful rocks, and relaxing.
I’m not usually one for pictures of feet, but below on the left you can see how peaceful our part of the beach was. Which was actually amazing because the beach was incredibly busy. About 100 feet to both our left and right, it was absolutely packed.
When some ominous-looking clouds began lurking on the horizon, we decided to wander down the boardwalk a bit.
Not too far into our journey, the Lucky Beach Cafe drew us in with its busy beachside terrace, fragrant aromas of dishes as they passed, and an emphasis on local and sustainable food sources. Be warned: this is where my Home Ec roots and inner foodie dominate the conversation.
We tried a couple of drinks: the Beetroot Lemonade, with beetroot candy syrup, sparkling water, lemon and mint; and the Elderflower Fizz, with elderflower, lime, dill, cucumber, sparkling water, and a pinch of smoked salt. We enjoyed them both, but the Elderflower Fizz won the day. It was light, refreshing and had a unique yet enticing flavour. I decided that it would probably pair well with a bit of gin, and Troy said that if gin didn’t taste like drinking a Christmas tree it would be quite excellent.
The food was even better. Troy chose the LBB (Lucky Beach Burger); a dry-aged local organic sussex beef with kombu cheddar cheese fondue, ketchup leather (don’t ask me what that means), lardo fried onions, and housemade pickles on a truffle bun. The onions added a subtle sweetness, and the flavours came together beautifully. On the side, we enjoyed the garlic fries with a garlic aioli dip. I had the Truffle Mushroom Swiss burger, and let me just say that it was the BEST burger I have ever eaten. I even had to finish my drink first so that the last flavour in my mouth would be my delicious burger – it was that fantastic. It was the perfect marriage of taste and texture, with grass-fed organic beef, truffle cheese, thyme-roasted portobello mushroom slices, soy-baste, soft-fried organic egg, truffled aioli, and veg, on a seeded bun. The richness of the egg yolk complemented the mushrooms perfectly. I could have eaten three! I’m salivating just thinking about it. At this point I must apologise because you deserve to see pictures of this food, but we were far too busy enjoying it to bother picking up our camera. Besides, our fingers were covered in sauces and egg yolk. A summer feast is no place for decorum! Let’s just call the lack of photos my gift to you; the sight would make you far too jealous! If you want to torture yourself a bit, go back to the link and scroll down to their photo gallery. If you drool on your screen, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Happily stuffed, we decided to head back to the beach for a bit. The weather had cleared up again so we thought we’d make the most of the sunshine.
Resuming our wandering a little while later, we came upon Brighton Pier. I struggle with how to describe it, because it is: a- massive; b- a destination unto itself, boasting an amusement park and playing host to various events throughout the summer; and c- it was so packed that neither of us wanted to wade through the crowd to get a closer look. Instead, we carried on along the boardwalk. After much distraction with a most intriguing and eclectic collection of customised mopeds (read: dozens of headlights, name plates, funky colours, etc.) we checked the departure time for our train which resulted in a brisk walk (almost a jog, really) back to the station. Our long weekend ended perfectly, curled up on the couch with a quiet dinner (Tesco Indian take-away for the win) and some Netflix, sans chill…