Posted by: Nick Ward | 30 July, 2010

Five Melbourne things I love about Brighton England

Can I just say, I love traveling.

OK, so those who know me know that this is not news. Having spent the last 15 years working in the travel industry you’d kind of hope that was the case.

The thing I love the most is seeing other places and people and enjoying the differences to Australia and Australians, viewed with a clarity that only comes from being a traveller rather than a local seeing things for the millionth time.

Sometimes, however, what you notice is surprising similarities instead.

Our first stop on this trip, for fellow swimmer Mark and I, was Brighton England, visiting my good friends Ralph & David. Brighton turned on it’s now-customary grey and bleary weather for me, and we knew that things were as they should be.

While our jet lagged bodies slid along the city streets I noticed something quite interesting: this town has a lot of similarities to Melbourne.

Firstly, there is street art. Lots of it. And like Melbourne, it’s really good. One back street had a series of buildings painted pretty much from footpath to chimney, really quite awesome.

Second, the food. Lots of cafes, coffee that was almost up to Melbourne standard (which goes down really well after a 24 hour flight, let me tell you) and some pretty funky cutting edge restaurants and food streets.

Next, a big gay & lesbian community. Currently running at about 30% of the population, Ralph tells me. Brighton Gay Pride is evidently one of the biggest in the country (after London, of course). And it’s a really friendly community, unlike some others which will remain un-named.

Brighton of course came to be as the seaside retreat from the big city. As did St Kilda. And the similarities are obvious. St Kilda’s Luna Park may not be the size of Brighton Pier, but it certainly has the same spirit. And just as fire took out the St Moritz in St Kilda, the West Pier in Brighton went the same way. Right down to the palm trees, seaside escapes are they both.

Finally, who can not see the parallels in the laneways which trace their way through both cities. Cousins they well might be, even if one is a fair bit bigger than the other.

So, that’s Brighton and Melbourne. Would I be stretching it to also draw a comparison between London and Sydney?

Two cities which are seen by outsiders as the signature cities of their countries. Lots of history, landmarks immediately identifiable by anyone with a passport, very much travel hubs of their region.

Lifestyles are oh so similar, both Fast Lane, professionals working hard and partying harder, with massive dormitory/nursery suburbs extending out for miles.

The gay or trendy can’t wait to live there, and, quite often, before long can’t wait to leave.

London outdoes Sydney by a county mile on the art and culture front, it goes without saying. The Tate Modern and Tate Britain are stunning, much better than anything I’ve seen in Sydney, although I will admit to not having been to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Circular Quay in years. And the theatre in the West End is closer to Melbourne than Sydney, but of course ten times bigger than either. And a comparison of public transport? Don’t make me compare The Tube to Sydney’s embarrassing buses.

We stayed with my wonderful friend Mel in Streatham, an example of how funky most of the neighborhoods of London are, even if it isn’t Clapham or Camden. Sydney has a bit of that too. And in heading out to St Albans to visit other friends Clare & Neil the village thing works in both cases as well, but I’d suggest one doesn’t draw parallels too closely.

And both have a Hyde Park. Let’s not forget that.

Are you convinced? Well, really you should be. It’s not exactly a secret that the early European colonisers of our fine land tried to understand a continent with weird looking animals and lots of sunny beaches by trying to draw parallels with the world they knew. New South Wales… Victoria… and try overlaying the names on a map of the north coast of Tasmania with that of the south coast of Devon some time. Not exactly coincidence.

The key message here really is just about the quality of the experiences in these cities. And perhaps about digging a bit deeper for the hidden secrets, no pun intended.

Well, England behind us and the Gay Games just around the corner, time to sign off for now as we head on our ICE train to Cologne. Wiedersehn.

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