Thursday, 30 June 2011

Game of Love – "I do" in white and blue!

The Seagulls’ new home is nearing completion! On the edge of the city, nestled snugly into the Downs, is the shiny 22,500 seat AMEX Community Stadium. Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club now has a modern, stylish and huge new ground – this is a football stadium for the Twenty First century. It’s also an impressive facility for concerts, conferences and events, such as weddings.

The stadium is the latest venue in the city to be licensed for weddings and civil partnerships. The first ceremony takes place in less than a fortnight. So this week the Brighton and Hove Register Office team was invited to take a tour and find out how the happy couples will be catered for Albion-style.

The city has a range of fabulous ceremony venues, including quite a few with eccentric character, like the Sea Life Centre and the Brighton Pier. The stadium adds to the list of quality quirky places to tie the knot.

Two of us on the VisitBrighton team are also registrars. Ruth and I joined with our ceremony colleagues for the trip to the stadium. On arrival we were led into the home stand, through spacious corridors, to make our way to the pitch. First impressions are “Wow!”
Looking good - the view from the stands

Everyone dashed to the edge of the lush green pitch to look around at the smart stands with seagull motif. For added comfort, all seats are cushioned with the same padding as the VIP seats at the Olympic stadium.
My friend Ruth testing one of Albion team seats - very comfy!

There is an emphasis on community and making the fans feel at home. Local artwork will be featured throughout the public spaces. A photo montage has been created using pictures sent in by Albion supporters and is on display in the public bar. From a distance the image is a player looking at the new stadium and close up you can clearly see the individual photos.

This picture captures the essence of the new stadium - attention to detail, pride in the football community and a sense of there being more to see than first meets the eye.

Indeed, the pitch may be the focus for the game but there is so much more going on at the stadium. Inside, we were first shown the eight rooms licensed for ceremonies, some overlooking the pitch and others looking out to the Downs. The latest furnishing and technology has been fitted throughout the building, it oozes style.

This room accommodates 500 guests - can you hear me at the back?

We also wandered through a labyrinth of corridors passing by a wide range of rooms for all occasions - massage rooms, laundry, media area (complete with computer banks and private bar), kit area, dope testing, ice baths and private viewing boxes to name but a few.

Brighton and Hove Registrars (not footballers)

And finally we stopped for a rest in the Albion players’ changing room. The registrar team couldn’t resist posing for a photo.

Rather overwhelmed, we exited the stadium into the evening sunshine. There’s no doubt the Seagulls have truly built a beautiful home for the beautiful game.



Friday, 24 June 2011

Aloha Aloka!

First of all I feel I must apologise for the title of this post as Aloka has nothing to do with Hawaii but I just couldn't resist it!

Anyway getting back to the point... For those who are not familiar with Aloka, or to give it it's full name Aloka Quality of Life Centre, I will try to describe it. As the name suggests the aim is to offer visitors a complete well being experience this includes treatments, yoga, a crystal shop plus a cafe and a vegan restaurant. Of course the best way to get a feel for the place is to pop in and see for yourself.

So why am I telling all you this? Well this week the centre launched their creative space with an inaugural exhibition entitled Mandalas by Barry Stevens. Obviously I am well aware what Mandalas are but I'll include a definition for those not in the know - Mandalas are patterns of energy and colour, conducive to meditation and creating a peaceful and healing atmosphere. Below is a photo of Barry Stevens with some of his work -

The exhibition will be on at Aloka until 22nd July so do pop along and have a look as the images fit perfectly with the venue. I can say this as I was at the launch event on Tuesday night with the other lovely ladies of the VisitBrighton Marketing team -

L - R: Ruth, Siobhan, Alix & Charlotte (me!)

So thank you to Aloka and JBPR for inviting us along and also thank you to Graham Franks for the photographs.


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Wheely good day out!

Thousands of tired happy people sped onto the seafront this Sunday as the annual London to Brighton BHF bike riders hurtled to their destination. Cheered by welcoming crowds, the city enjoyed a carnival atmosphere as the wheeled parade rolled in.

The first cyclists to leave London at 6am could be seen whizzing to the finish line little more than two hours later. Lycra-clad with muscles of steel and oozing confidence, they raced along atop bikes with wheels as thin as wire. These early birds simply flew the course and made the whole 56 miles look easy.

The end is nigh!

Soon a steady stream of bicycles was flowing into Brighton. Riders of all ages and abilities arrived looking jubilant. I made the journey in a ride time of 5 hours and 7 minutes. Quick enough to be proud of and the right pace to cycle along with both fun-riders and those on the fast track.

I saw a wide range of whacky costumes, some a major hindrance to cycling. At one of the refreshment stops, I was chatting to a giant cockroach who explained he’d promised his work colleagues that the more they sponsored him, the weirder his outfit would be. They were very generous and the poor chap ended up as a riding roach.

It's a bug's life

The fox and huntsmen were well kitted out, complete with picnic hamper!

Sly fox and his speedy team

The clown on a unicycle was very swift paced and unperturbed by many of the hills forcing a high number of two wheelers to get off and push.

Clowning around!

My favourite bike of the day was the push-me-pull-you cycle. A madcap contraption that at first glance seemed to be one of the tandems on the road – but no! This pair laughed themselves all the way to Brighton and brought a smile to the faces of all who saw them.

Push me, pull you!

I can’t help wondering how those on unusual cycles managed when they hit the dreaded Beacon. I descended the base of the menacing incline with a sense of trepidation and determination. I’m proud to say I made it all the way to the top without stopping. It wasn’t an elegant stage of the ride on my part, dodging out of the way of faster fitter cyclists and trying not to wobble into the walkers. I was gasping for air and desperate for water when I reached the summit almost sobbing from the effort. Worth every turn of the pedals though! I couldn’t wait to tell my family and sponsors that I’d really done it!

On top of the world!

Finally, I was back in my home city and the end was in sight. With one final burst of speed, I pedalled furiously towards the finish line, camera ready and waving happily to the crowds. What a really fun way to spend a Sunday morning!

And there's time to enjoy plenty more fabulous cycling activities happening right now in the city for Bike Week 2011.

Keep pedalling!


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Pedal power!

The annual London to Brighton bike ride takes place in June. It’s this weekend actually, Sunday June 19th, at the start of National Bike Week. I am sure of the date because I will be hopping on my bike to join the masses pedalling 54 miles from capital to coast.

I’m quite a keen cyclist (with more enthusiasm than ability). I cycle a ten mile round trip to work from the edge of the city to Brighton Town Hall, over the steep slope of Ovingdean Hill then along the comfort of the city’s excellent cycle lanes on the coast road - passing by Roedean, the marina, Brighton Pier and on into the Lanes.

My daily commute can be hard going in rough weather but it is nothing compared to the highs and lows of the London to Brighton bike ride. I know because I took part in the event for the first time last year and I can’t believe I’m going to try to do it again, gulp, in a few days time. It’s hard work, tiring and yet ultimately exhilarating.

And it’s all for a good cause. The London to Brighton Bike Ride is the UK's largest charity bike ride with 27,000 riders cycling to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. It’s a sight to behold when so many cyclists take to the roads at the same time.

The ride start time is staggered with the earliest participants leaving Clapham Common, London, at 6.30am. I’ll be among this dawn parade in a bid to make it back to Brighton before nightfall.

At the outset, after escaping the London suburbs, the route meanders through picturesque English countryside before the Sussex border rolls into sight. And then, just a few miles north of the seafront finish line, is the highest point in East Sussex - Ditchling Beacon.

There is just one mile in distance from the bottom of this mighty monster to the summit 248 metres above sea level. It’s an almost impossible incline, made more difficult by the fatigue of having already cycled 50 miles.

Last year an accident closed the road so, by the time I reached the Beacon, I was among a backlog of cyclists forced to dismount and squish up the narrow path at a snail’s pace. I wonder if I’ll have the chance and the stamina to make it over the top this year!
And finally it’s all downhill. Swooping at speed along the roads to the seafront where officials wait to hand out medals and bottles of water. Then all that’s left to do is cycle home…

PS anyone wanting to sponsor me can make a donation at:
Thank you!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Brighton Wedding Fair Nerves

Today we are handing you over to one of our guest bloggers - Sam Harrington-Lowe one of the Directors of Marry Me! takes us behind the scenes of thier next event - Pamper Me...

It’s always a slightly nerve-wracking thing – going ‘off piste’ with a tried and tested formula, and it was no different when we revamped and re-launched our wedding fairs. It was a risk, doing it differently... what if nobody came? What if nobody wanted to exhibit?

Wedding fairs have always been during spring and autumn and have traditionally been held on Sunday afternoons. It’s written in stone it seems. But we found that this meant the competition was just ridiculously fierce – not just from other wedding fair companies, but also from venues holding their own wedding fairs. Exhibitors were stretched to ridiculous lengths over the two seasons – not only that, but visitors were finding they couldn’t get round to see all the events they wanted as there were often up to ten in a five or ten mile radius. Exhibitors complained about seeing the same faces at the fairs all the time and we found it hard to generate any real support. So we bucked the trend and went for something completely different. We like different.

It seems to have been a good idea. Our ‘Pamper Me!’ bridal evenings have really taken off. By making it a very girly event and having it in the evenings during summer and winter, we’ve clearly hit the market with the right note. Our visitors have a richer experience – our goody bags are to DIE for! – but our exhibitors have a much better time of it too. With fewer events going on during these months, they find the quality of the visitors is high... at our last event one exhibitor stated it was the best wedding fair they’d ever exhibited at! We always have a really good time too – as organisers it’s important it all goes well. But each time we see everyone, from our burlesque models to our exhibitors, visitors and advertisers, having a real laugh whilst doing great business.

The next one is on 30th June at the Old Ship hotel in their elegant Paganini Ballroom. Anyone interested in exhibiting, be quick – we have a few places left but not many – and if you’re interested in attending, we’d love to see you. Just rock up at 7pm or thereabouts with £2, bring your friends and remember the fashion show is at 8pm. We’ve got a glass of bubbly waiting for you...

More info here

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Say cheese!

I stumbled across La Cave a Fromage quite by accident last autumn. A French friend and I were out in Hove enjoying a day of relaxation (no work, no kids). We stopped for a bite to eat at what I soon realised was a cheese palace.

At first glance, La Cave could be mistaken for an upmarket cheese shop. Peering in the window, the view is dominated by a large cheese counter with a charcuterie chiller behind. But further back wooden seating is arranged with space for plenty of diners and it’s clear this is more than a smart sales operation.

My friend has very good taste and is familiar with many of the French cheese source locations – she was impressed. Until this point in time, my cheese mostly came (in abundance) from a supermarket.

I quickly realised my simple love of all things cheesy had found a quality haven. The choice was bewildering and, while everything I sampled was fantastic, I vowed to return better prepared for the overwhelming cheesiness of the experience.

Despite the fantastic first impressions, it was not until last week I finally made my trek back to La Cave. I took a different friend with me for this visit, Sarah, another fan of fromage who was more than willing to spend a couple of early evening hours sampling savoury goodness.

The menu is simple – a platter of cheese, with additional charcuterie if desired, and wine to suit. Sarah and I opted for a selection of six cheeses (no meat) and a glass of white wine (cost £14). The cheese was served on a slate (to help maintain the correct temperature) with a thinly sliced bread (plain white so as not to distract from the flavours) and delicious fruit chutney on the side.

The slates are about the size of a paperback book and so the portions look rather small. But the cheese is so wonderfully filling that by half way round the board Sarah and I were wondering if we would make it to the end. And it is important to go round the board in the correct direction! The cheese portions are placed in order from mildest to most flavoursome as a finale.

The serving staff were very knowledgeable, providing plenty of information on the cheeses in front of us so I’d like to say I carefully noted all the different types and can instantly recall the fancy names of the top cheeses I devoured. Alas, no matter how hard I try, I simply don’t remember the detail. All I do know is everything was delicious and the wine selected was a perfect match to the diverse cheesy tastes. And of course it is possible to buy more of any favourites to take home for later.

La Cave a Fromage is a total delight and, like good cheese, only seems to improve as time goes by.

À bientôt