I spent the second half of my spring break in England visiting my friend Elizabeth in Brighton. She had come up to visit London with me Friday morning, and we headed back that night. We hadn’t really had time to eat dinner, so when we got back to her flat (similar to suites in American dorms but with single rooms and shared kitchen/living area) she offered me a meat pasty, or meat wrapped in thick, flaky pastry. I loved it. Unfortunately, we didn’t sleep all too well as some friends of Elizabeth’s got into a fight, resulting in a prolonged confrontation with security officers and a melodramatic arrest. While it didn’t make for a peaceful night, it was a dramatic introduction to Britain’s number one spot for nightlife.
The next day dawned gray and dreary, greeted by a chorus of gulls who sounded less than thrilled (though I don’t know what a happy seagull sounds like). We took a double-decker bus away from the university and back downtown, although I’m a little sad to say it wasn’t red. Brighton is a seaside town and one of the most popular vacation spots in England, although it wasn’t quite warm enough to attract tourists. We went to the pier, which white and wiry and somehow able to withstand the violent pounding of the gray waves. It had the feel of a low-season carnival, with the familiar smells of fried dough and burnt sugar and the convulsive blinking of red, green and yellow lights. It has a series of arcades centers filled wall-to-wall with different games, and I’m embarrassed to say Elizabeth thumped me in both Guitar Hero and one-on-one DDR. Afterwards we walked along the beach for a bit, and even walked out on a jetty to get a good view and try to avoid the freezing sea spray. We had the very classic and very delicious fish and chips for lunch, of course. On our way back to the main street to shop a bit, we caught a street performance by two drummers who were playing a frenzied beat on three buckets, a pot, a full drum set, and whatever happened to be closest to them. They’d attracted a big crowd and even the frantic snapping of cameras and cheering didn’t throw them from the beat.
As it got to be nighttime, I got to see a little bit of what someone referred to as the “Jersey Shore” of England. Brighton’s a gorgeous town, but it’s also one as the spot with the best nightlife in England. Paris, which is great after dark, has a very specific feel to it; what you wear out a night is a slightly nicer version of what you wore in the day, save more formal occasions. Always sophisticated and not too much skin. Brighton, on the other hand, was a colorful mix of high heels, big hair, short skirts and painted eyes. Not that I object, if you can stand the cold and the wind (I couldn’t), wear whatever you want to, but I’ll admit these past two months have made their mark on me and I was a little shocked. And this is precisely why I like to travel: I love being able to call Paris my home, but I can’t let myself get too comfortable. I want to find all of the new things that I can.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Helena Archer is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina studying public health, international studies, and creative writing. She loves all three, and is thrilled to be able to develop her interests abroad. During her semester in Paris, she hopes to engage and immerse herself in French and Parisian culture, and also to examine immigrant and francophone presence and relations. Helena loves hearing and telling stories, and can't wait to discover more of them in Paris.</span></p>