The English seaside resorts have been in a steady decline ever since the introduction of cheap foreign travel. You can’t really blame people for wanting a bit of sun, a sandy beach and water temperatures above freezing point. The resorts try their utmost to cater for all weather conditions by providing endless indoor amusements (slot machines, fairground rides and, well, more slot machines) and offer a wide array of fish and chips stalls.
At the end of the day they are only an hour away from greater London and therefore ideal for a short trip during the half term holidays. Half term holidays are to Britain what the hurricane season is to the Caribbean: a predictable period of tropical downpours at sub-arctic temperatures, that starts on the first day of the holidays and ends on the final Sunday. Thus the moment it started raining we packed the wellies and the waterproof coats and headed off to the seaside.
Brighton is perhaps the most famous of the seaside resorts close to London: famous for its vibrant gay community, Regency and Victorian architecture and a busy nightlife. Needless to say, none of these are of any relevance when you travel with a 2- and a 12-year-old.
We were lucky enough to get a lovely sunny afternoon and had a great walk along the seaside from Hove, where we were staying, to the pier and its promise of a few fairground rides.
The giant Victorian apartment blocks along the seaside are reminiscent of Stalin’s worst historicist excesses: somewhat carelessly lined up along the promenade, their sparse decorative nods towards the fashion of their time foreshadow the mass-produced uniformity of modern British housing estates.
Along the seafront you stumble across another monument to the heyday of this resort: the ruins of the burnt-out West Pier. It had been closed down in the 1970s and has since become a popular tourist attraction in its own right. It has been suffering greatly in recent storms so I quickly took a last picture of it while is is still standing!
Hastings fits the bill of a seaside resort in decline quite well, thanks to yet another burnt-out pier: Hasting Pier has been undergoing work, though, despite fires and storm damage, and the Hasting Pier Society are planning to reopen it eventually in its former glory.
You can watch the progress on their website – meanwhile it is still looking like it needs some work.
The seafront buildings again remind us of the fact that these once fashionable holiday destinations have suffered in recent years. The old town, however, is as quaint and eclectic as you would expect, and always worth a visit. We came here a couple of years ago on an organised fossil hunt with discoveringfossils.co.uk: a great idea when you are trying to entertain kids!
My favourite seaside destination, however, is Bexhill-on-Sea. To the untrained eye is seems to be a showcase of cheap interwar architecture, but amidst the bungalows and 1950s terraces you can find a true gem in Bexhill’s very own take on the seaside pavilion: the De La Warr Pavilion.
Built in the 1935 in the ‘international’ style, it provides a nice break from the Victoriana of the rest of the coastline.The uncompromising nature of this building meant that it did not meet universal approval, and in fact went quite to ruins following the Second World War.
Modernism, unlike mock Tudor and faux Victorian, is an acquired taste, and it took its supporters quite a bit of determination to restore it to its former (if short-lived) glory.
Today the De la Warr Pavillion runs shows and exhibitions, and it boasts one of the most beautifully located restaurants: the view of the horizon is even more stunning on a rainy day, watching the black clouds battling it out over a leaden sea while you tuck into a lovely plate of home-made sausages on mash.
But no German would ever finish a review without finding something to complain about, a little niggle that leaves a bad aftertaste and reminds you that nothing, ever, is perfect. In this case it concerns my very own pet hate, the abuse of apostrophes. Yes, you will have to read the entire menu and the small print at the bottom of it, but any English teacher worth their salt will immediately spot these these crimes against humanity.
I hope you enjoyed this short trip along the coast, but please be not fooled by the bright skies in the pictures that it is always as sunny here – they are the result of a ruthless selection process, with a few darker photographs to follow when I get down to write up our visit to Romney Marsh!