A Brighton retreat…..

I recently made a much needed mid-week escape to Brighton. The popular seaside city isn’t somewhere I’m that familiar with, despite being a party loving Londoner and working in journalism across the South East for several years. So when I was invited to a travel bloggers meet at the Thistle Hotel, right on the sea front, I jumped at the chance.

At first appearance the exterior of the four star hotel screamed of the 80’s; a concrete concoction, reminiscent of London’s National Theatre or the Barbican. But stepping inside I was delighted to be met with airy, modern atrium, swathed in Greek columns of white linen and lit by sparkling fairy lights.

The hotel, which exits right onto the twisted alleyways of the Lanes shopping area, has gradually been undergoing a refurbishment inside. Testament to its increasing sophistication, recent visitors include the likes of David Cameron, who held a Conservative party meeting there. In fact, you can even get married in the hotel, with a wedding breakfast on the balcony overlooking the atrium. The balcony is a calm space where you can also leave your kids to play, while you have some privacy in the elegant Promenade Restaurant below.

“We have the best views in Brighton,” claimed hotel manager Craig, an émigré from Wellington in New Zealand. And it’s views  are the real selling point of The Thistle. Something, I’m told, that distracts those in conferences in one of their meeting rooms, named after the great British poets, Coleridge, Byron and Tennyson

Once you get to your bedroom, you really won’t want to leave. Each room comes with its own pair of binoculars, so you can spy on runners jogging along the promenade, or watch the distant surfer who’s braving the March seas. Since January they have been softly refurbished and toned down from their 80’s decor. Shaking off  their ‘ hen and stag’ do reputation, there are also family suites with two double beds, which welcome kids with a ‘Thistle pack’ of games and a deal for under 16’s to eat for free.

The minute I walked through the door of my room and saw endless sea, I could feel all the stress of city life falling away. Alone, its size swamped me and it was a treat enough in itself with its chocolate and cream décor, its huge bathtub and white terrycloth bathrobe and the gloriously oversized king-size bed. But the view surpassed all these treats, and I sat there for a few minutes gazing out at the rolling waves.

For the evening, we were invited to a champagne and canapé reception in the Thistles’ Water Bar. Styled like a modern sophisticated London venue, it was dimly lit and not at all ‘hotel like.’ This was followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel, seeing the inner workings of the kitchen and the Otium Health & Leisure Club. Good news for me, as I used it the next morning to make room for my cooked buffet breakfast.

As I sat overlooking the seafront, this little attempt at wellbeing made me feel better for tucking in as joggers pounded the promenade before me.

Before I made the train home I had time to spoil myself buying nick-knacks in the Lanes and soaked up a bit of culture in the fabulously opulent Royal Pavilion. Brighton seems a world away from London life and it’s hard to believe that in a 35 minute train journey I’m back  in ‘ the thick of it’ in East Croydon.

Thistle is also running an exclusive competition for readers of the bloggers who came down last week. Their “Night of Luxury” contest gives you the chance to win a break-for-two in thepenthouse suite (with its hot tub on the private balcony.) You’ll also be given free entry to the Otium Health & Leisure Club (including a free pass to the sauna and beauty rooms) and a complimentary a la carte dinner for two in the Promenade Restaurant.

Entering the competition couldn’t be simpler. You have until 5pm on the 31st of March to enter on the contest’s website. All you have to do is answer a single question: why should you win a night in a luxury Thistle hotel suite?

Other things to see in Brighton:

Duke of York’s cinema: The oldest continuously operating cinema in Britain. This grade II listed building shows a mixture of classic, contemporary, independent and foreign language films. http://www.picturehouses.co.uk

Theatre Royal Brighton: This 200 year old theatre still hosts the biggest star before they hit the west end. www.ambassadortickets.com/theatre-royal-brighton

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery: Dynamic and innovative galleries-including fashion and style, 20th century art abd design and world art. www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk

Latest Musicbar. Upstairs café bar serves good food and hosts a wide variety of great music. Downstairs the caberet bars intimate and late night atmosphere and late night feel makes it the place to be. www.thelatest.co.uk/musicbar

The Lanes and North Lanes: The idea place for some shopping with designer boutiques to bohemian quirkiness.

The Brighton Festival: Englands largest art’s festival with 700+ events over 3 weeks in May

Brighton Pier: With a huge range of bars and rides as well as fish and chips. www.brightonpier.co.uk

Brighton Marina: One of Europe’s largest marinas with shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema. www.brightonmarina.co.uk

Komedia: A stylish entertainment centre in the North Laine with weekly stand-up comedy nights. www.komedia.co.uk

The sea life centre: With over 150 species, 57 displays and an underwater tunnel www.sealifeeurope.com

And of course, the beachfront with its quirky mix of traditional seaside shops and artists’ studios.

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