North Laine like a movie set

Photo:Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens

My first impressions

By Jenny Nguyen, student at University of Sussex Summer School 2008

From vegetarian shoes to an entire store selling used items, the North Laine in Brighton is definitely one of a kind.  When I first encountered this neighbourhood, I felt as though I was in a movie set - the small shops so close to each other and the small streets that lead from one shop to the next do not seem real, but rather more like a movie set somewhere in the Hollywood back lots trying to portray a quaint neighbourhood.  However, the reality of this neighbourhood makes me feel good and happy that areas like this really exist in real life, not just in movies.

Each store decorated differently

One of the things that stands out most for me is how each store is decorated so differently from the others.  Most shops have beautiful artwork displaying the store names, which also serves as decoration for the building.  Passing by stores like the Shabby Cottage I can't help but take a picture of the shop front.  The deep green colour and the flower vines caught my eyes.

Travel at the speed of a stroll

The size of the stores is also interesting.  The shops are all small and tightly packed next to each other, making it easy for pedestrians to walk from one place to another without having to really travel much distance.  This area is definitely pedestrian-minded. If one were to drive through this neighbourhood the experience would be entirely different and we wouldn't be able to experience the charm this area offers.  The window displays and objects that are sold within each store also offer good entertainment for pedestrians.  The North Laine is definitely a place where one can travel around at the speed of a stroll.

Restaurants with outside seating

As I wandered around this area (getting myself lost in the streets as I decided not to use a map), I noticed how many restaurants have seating outside on a patio or just in the middle of the street.  I saw large groups of people enjoying a meal together, a couple sharing a cup of ice cream, and single old men sipping coffee and watching the people go by.  I was enticed by the food and the desire to experience eating at one of these places, so I decided to grab a sandwich and a cup of 'frappe mocha' and take in all that was around me.  The café I ended up going to does not have an outdoor seating area. However, its upstairs eating area includes couches around a coffee table, a few dining tables, bookshelves with books stacked on them, and decorations that make me feel like I am at home.

A good place to eat

I asked the waiter there what he felt about tourists coming by this area and he commented that he enjoys seeing different people come by the little café where he works, especially when they ask him for advice on where to go and what to do, saying that it makes him feel good to be able to influence what visitors see when they come to Brighton.  I asked him if he ever comes to this neighbourhood on days when he does not have work and he instantly said yes!  He loves coming here with his friends to eat and spend time together.

A good place to find 'stuff'

I left this little café and headed out for some more exploring.  I was window shopping when I noticed some kind of antique store, so I went in.  There is an eclectic array of what can only be described as 'stuff'.  From miniature furniture that sells for around £50 to cheap used clothes, old black and white photographs, jewelry, mannequins, and so much more stuff.  I rummaged through the jewellery shelves and found a pretty necklace made in Italy for £4, coming out to be a little over $8 - a great find.  I instantly liked the place.

Bakeries and chocolate

Not only does the North Laine entice the eyes, the area entices the nose with the sweet aroma of bakeries and chocolate as well.  I passed by a chocolate store and was instantly drawn in by the smell.  I did not have to eat a single piece of chocolate but I can still taste its sweetness through the intense aroma.  I was impressed that the cashier was patient and not rude as I went in, smelled the place and left without buying anything.  She was perfectly friendly.  I also passed by a couple of bakeries selling freshly made pastries, which had a comforting aroma, making me feel like I could eat a couple of cookies and drink a glass of milk and be ready for bed.

Somewhere to go to satisfy a craving

In thinking back about the North Laine, I really enjoyed my time circling the area.  My overall perception of this place is that it is somewhere to go to satisfy a craving.  If one craves for food, the North Laine offers many possibilities, from English food to American burgers, Indian curry, Chinese, Japanese, pastries, chocolates, ice cream, etc.  These choices can satisfy any palate.  If one craves for clothing and shoes, there is a large amount of stores selling such goods made by the locals and by British designers, with prices that will satisfy those who are on a budget as well as the big spenders.  For the thrill seekers, there are multiple tattoo parlours that will put ink on any part of your body.  I walked pass a tattoo parlour while I was exploring the North Laine and recognized it as a tattoo parlour not by sight, but by sound - the buzzing noise of the tattoo needle was audible on the side walk.

A different perspective

Overall, to me the North Laine offers a different view for a shopping and eating neighbourhood - the small, quaint streets and stores are enjoyable to walk by.  This different perspective is not familiar to me, but I like it.

[Every year undergraduate students from the United States come to the University of Sussex for an International Summer School. This year their first essay in a four-week course had to be written when they had only been in Brighton for three days. As part of their 'Walking into History' course they were asked to visit the North Laine and to record their first impressions. The above is Jenny Nguyen's essay. It was previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 194, Sept/Oct 2008.]

This page was added on 12/10/2008.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.