Volcano Erupts, London Students Go to Brighton

From SU London student Alyssa Elias’ blog.

Photo credit: Alyssa Elias

Mother Nature is shaking her fist at all of us polluters, litterers and non-energy conservationists once again.The eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland left many SU students stranded in London for the weekend, when many had planned trips to Istanbul and other European destinations.

Although I hadn’t planned to leave, the stress of the  dust (or ash cloud) resulting in Thursday’s airline cancellations hadn’t settled. My parents were able to fly to Barcelona Thursday, but by Friday morning, they were reconsidering their European adventure. With a family vacation at stake, my temper was about to erupt almost as much as the volcano.

Despite beautiful weather, the overall mood was cloudy among all of us students. That’s why a trip to the beach in Brighton was ideal.
THE PAVILION

Brighton’s biggest attraction, and possibly the most unusual, is the Royal Pavilion. Once a farmhouse, this spot was revamped by King George IV while he served as the regent. His father, George III suffered bouts of madness and was determined to be unfit to rule. This escape is more than just a beach house: it’s the most imaginative and exotic of all of the royal family’s homes.

It is a mix of Indian and Chinese architecture. At first glance, it looks like a miniature Taj Mahal.  Pictures are forbidden inside the Pavlion, but I was dying to click the shutter button on my camera.

The dragon holding up the dining room chandelier and the Chinese wallpaper and lanterns was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The lavish carpets and rooms of various optical illusions, using statues and mirrors were magnificent. The music room’s domed ceiling involves a scallop-type design, where the shells get smaller as they get toward the top of the dome. This gives the dome a higher appearance than it actually is.

The royal bedrooms with hidden doors to the toilet and bathroom and large beds were inviting. However, Queen Victoria remarked that it was disappointing that no one could see the beach from the Pavilion. I have to agree.

THE PIER

Photo Credit: Alyssa Elias

Brighton’s pier is like Coney Island or I was told, the Jersey Shore, with an English twist. Fish and chips stands dominate the pier. Before you reach any amusement park rides, you’ve already hit about five fish and chips stands. While I’m not a fan of fish, I did eat a vegetable roll and chips. The perfect blend of Chinese and English, almost like the Pavilion.

Although there’s no funnel cake or fried dough, you can find candy floss (cotton candy) and doughnuts. Our tour guide told us to try the doughnuts. To our great pleasure, they were made right in front of our eyes, with no shortage of cinnamon and sugar. At least half a dozen of them later, I was on a sugar high.

The amusement park rides were quite expensive, even during the off season, so we decided to find a rock shop. Brighton rock is a candy that reminds me of peppermint sticks and candy canes. The many flavors include strawberry, daughter and sex maniac.

ALONG THE BEACH

It was relatively cold out, despite the sun. My friends and I decided to walk along the beach. We found an old-fashioned penny arcade, keeping up with the board walk’s nostalgia-inducing amusements. The machines housed creepy puppets and fortune tellers, so we didn’t last more than 30 seconds inside.

Merry-g0-rounds and old ships dot the beach. There were art dealers and jewelry stands, as well. We also saw a degree of X-rated material. There’s a large gay community in Brighton, which doesn’t hide it’s pride. We saw machines dispensing “sexy undies” for a pound.

After picking through postcards, we sat on the beach. There’s no sand in Brighton, only rocks. The pebbles and stones got in our shoes. We wondered how children felt when they were deprived of building sand castles.

With the sun shining and the waves crashing, it was hard to imagine there was volcanic ash thousands of feet high in the atmosphere above us. Even for just a few hours, everyone forgot their troubles and let happy memories of childhood days at the beach carry them away.

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