A lot of people have asked me since we've returned what the highlight of the trip was and I'd have to say Day 5 and our trip to Brighton. Why Brighton, you ask?
With the internet and social networking such that it is today, the world has truly gotten so much smaller. Jamie has made friends all over the world through her artwork postings on Tumblr and through SnapChat and Instagram. One friend in particular is a girl from Brighton, England named Maja. They found each other on Tumblr and became friends over the course of the past year. They wrote real letters through the mail like true pen pals, as well as SnapChatting and messaging one another. (I even got involved too, as Jamie is constantly videoing me when I don't know it and sending it off to Maja to share what a dorky American mom is like). They found that they had much in common and they seemed to be forming a close bond, so when we decided upon London for our family vacation, you can imagine how thrilled Jamie was. Brighton, after all, is only a 30-minute train ride from London.
The train ride was a little shy of 30 minutes and Jamie's nerves were ramping up the closer we got. She was SO excited, but so very nervous at the same time. Once we got off the train, I had the iPhone ready to video their first meeting. Jamie was looking all over, waiting for Maja to see her and call out her name. And as soon as we got through the turnstile, there she was with her dad. (He was taping the whole thing too.) Such an amazing, touching moment... well, I wish I could show you here but Blogger isn't cooperating with my video. If you really want to see it, you can check out my Facebook post at this link. (pssst, we have to Facebook friends for you to view it.)
I tear up every time I watch it.
When we all calmed down enough to speak, we chatted with her father for a while and eventually sent the girls off to enjoy themselves on their own. Brighton is big but we felt it was safe and that we would be within a 5 mile radius of Jamie is she needed us for anything. So Paul and I set off toward the town which led straight to the seashore.
It was a bit of a gray day and therefore a bit cool, which was nice. Off in the distance is the Brighton Pier which offers kids rides, games, restaurants and more. We didn't take the time to actually walk onto it, but rather took a stroll hand-in-hand taking in all the sites along the shore. Currently Brighton has many streets with upscale shops and eateries, many businesses in charming old buildings, and the city is big and busy enough to warrant public buses and taxis. All along the shore there are eateries, coffee shops, hotels and lots of places to walk.
This was a surprise to this Florida girl. Not a grain of sand in sight on the beach. All stones!
Paul and I spend much of our time walking the tight little streets where the upscale shops were. This place had such a funny name, I had to take a photo of it. Then I found out later that it's home to famous bakers and chocolatiers. They feature unique, amazing chocolate and cake creations, and they have a show on the Good Food Channel in Britain. They recently opened another Choccywoccydoodah in London.
Soon it was time for Paul and I to have some lunch. I wasn't very hungry, so when I saw crab salad on the menu I thought it would be perfect. A little crabmeat on some greens, right? But HELL, I got a ginormous creature perched atop a big salad. This was a spider crab and although he was the size of my head, he was scrumptious.
Incidentally, the restaurant was called Riddle & Finn's and it was a rather small, quaint place with old dark wood and actual lit candelabras on each table. White wax dripping right on to the marble-top tables. I loved it. The waiter explained that we would likely be seated with other diners when the restaurant got busy so to please sit side by side, rather than across from one another. I had been hoping to chat it up with some locals during our trip, so this idea was fun to me. Sure enough halfway through my wrestling match with the crab, two very nice ladies were seated with us. Sarah and her mom Sheila from Sussex having a day out together. At first we were all very polite, but soon we started chatting and found each other's stories so very interesting. We must have spent over two hours there. I kept thanking them for letting us interrupt their lunch together. They seemed very happy to mingle and weren't put out in the least. It was wonderful!
These appeared to be residences, but once we looked closer we realized they were all businesses. Mostly doctors and dentists and lawyers.
After purchasing a postcard in Brighton, it was soon approaching the time we told Jamie to meet us back at the train station. We looked around...
...then found this group of girls laughing it up on a bench together. We let them have a few more minutes together as we walked around the station and had some gelato.
And then I saw this cutie and had to go over and say hello. I've never seen a blonde Sheltie before. He was so friendly and sweet, and a little smaller than our Suki.
Jamie met a few of Maja's friends during the visit too. (Maja is seated to Jamie's right.) They had such an amazing time together. It was like a dream. But now it was time to say goodbye and head back to London.
Unfortunately on the way back our train had to stop and we had to change lines due to a gas leak near the tracks at Victoria Station. This caused quite a long delay getting back to our hotel.
So it was a rather late dinner at our favorite noodle place, Tonkotsu, where we all ordered Hiyahsi Ramen. It was quite busy at this late hour, so we killed time taking stupid photos of ourselves.
We headed back to the hotel to have some chocolate and wine and catch up on our social networking. Stay tuned for Day 6 as we tour Kensington Gardens, Holland Park, and the Museum of London.