We had a three-day weekend over Memorial Day, and our apartment flooded from a blocked pipe in the laundry room (gotta love 1930’s plumbing). So we figured it’d be a great time to go to Brighton! Besides, their fabulous Victorian aquarium was on my bucket list, which is supposedly the oldest aquarium in the world. But I’d been a bit hesitant to go before as all the reviews made Brighton sound really tacky touristy in a Coney Island kind of way.

A national railway strike was planned for the holiday Monday (how rude!) and then cancelled, but we figured Sunday would still be the easier day to travel. Someone apparently didn’t get the memo, and there was much craziness at the train station when we picked up our ticket.

They happily sold us our ticket for the 9:10am from St. Pancras, but when we looked at the board for the platform info, the 9:10 had been cancelled, and there were no other trips to Brighton posted up past 12:00. Thankfully, we arrived at 8:30am, and the last train still scheduled to actually depart was at 8:40. So we jumped on it and even found a nice group of seats around a table for our comfy 1.5-hour journey (it was only £10 each roundtrip compared to the 1-hour express from Victoria, which was £25).

The lovely Victorian railway station in Brighton built in 1840.

The lovely Victorian railway station in Brighton built in 1840.

And I am pleased to report that the Sea Life Centre was a hit with everyone. It’s not huge, like SeaWorld or anything. But it’s 10 times better than the National Aquarium in DC. (That place is a joke.) The Victorian architecture was fantastic; it had a fun Jules Verne twist to it, a petting pond, and an underwater tunnel, which is always awesome. And I thought they did a great job with the variety and layout of the tanks for being a smaller venue.

The cost is a bit high if you show up at the door…about £22.50 per person, and they only discount for children under three. BUT if you purchase online, it’s practically half the cost. We got ours for £10.95 each, and it was well worth it for the two hours we spent wandering around inside.

Brighton Sea Life Centre.

Brighton Sea Life Centre.

Cool Jules Verne-style submarine.

Cool Jules Verne-style submarine.

Beautiful Victorian interior with dramatic lighting.

Beautiful Victorian interior with dramatic lighting.

More interior.

Main hall with sand pit.

Victorian detail.

Victorian detail.

Nemo.

Nemo.

Seahorses.

Seahorses.

Nautilus.

Nautilus.

More Jules Verne themes.

More Jules Verne themes.

And my favorite part of any aquarium...the underwater tunnel.

And my favorite part of any aquarium…the underwater tunnel.

After that we headed across the street to the the food stands on the pier for lunch. I picked up a savory crepe with ham, cheese and mushrooms, and the boys grabbed fish and chips. And I would like to add that it was probably THE BEST fish and chips I have had in the UK. Even the pubs in London tend to serve a bit of a flavorless fish, but this was a beautiful chunky white fish fresh from the sea. Sooooo good.

We then spent a good hour sitting on the rocky beach eating our food, feeding the seagulls and throwing rocks in the sea. The latter is our son’s single favorite thing to do. And sand in the cracks and the shoes can be a pain. So it was great to be on a beach made entirely of shiny stones.

Once fortified, we ventured up to the pier and spent the remainder of our time walking around and watching A enjoy the kiddy rides and snacking on chocolate crepes with the occasional stop into the pier pub for a beverage. And we even had decent weather.

The rocky beach in front of the pier.

The rocky beach in front of the pier (built in 1891).

Pub on the pier.

Pub on the pier.

Pretty carousel.

Pretty carousel.

The one thing I’ve learned during our time in the UK is that nothing contributes more to the success of an outing than the general attitude of the people involved. We’ve had a couple trips that seemed lovely during planning go sour because of stress or fussiness. So I am happy to report that this was probably one of the most pleasant and relaxed outings that we’ve had. I hope it’s the beginning of a trend. 🙂

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