Brighton has a reputation for chocolate. I'd read about Choccywoccydoodah years ago, but had forgotten about it entirely until I ended up inside, staring in wonder at enormous cakes and blocks of tiffin and brownie. It was only 2 hours since I'd eaten an enormous breakfast of scrambled eggs, halloumi, beans, hummus and salad, but I don't do things by halves; I had to try the White Chocolate and Coconut Tiffin, which was essentially a dense brick of chocolate made even heavier by layers of shortbread running through it. After making it through around 1/3, I started to spin out. Confused and full to bursting, I tried to navigate back out onto the street and into the fresh air. The shop assistant pointed the way with an expression of concern. After staggering into daylight, I was able barely to muster the strength to explain to my hosts that I was feeling a little unusual - I had, in the words of "I" (from Withnail and I), drifted into the arena of the unwell - and it was imperative that I spent some time alone. I wandered in the direction of the shopping centre. The lights were bright and gaudy. A couple of hours later, I determined that the walk to my friend's house would be the only way to escape this obscure feeling of choccy wastedness.
After all, everyone else is. Campbell Road Studio is a cool place to jam for a few hours if you've a talented friend wanting to make a record. And when you're done doing it yourself, let Brighton's music community show you how it's done at one of the many open mic nights, like Dead Good at Redwood (£5 entry includes hearty homemade soup & bread and oodles of live music).
Brighton's not just littered with musicians, it's home to talented artists and designers too. Sebastian Bolivar is a custom jewellery designer specialising in copper work. Dario, the designer, taught himself to make jewellery out of materials found at telephone exchanges whilst living out in Brazil. Clearly an artistic talent, his girlfriend (who, incidentally, looks strikingly like Penelope Cruz and models the Sebastian Bolivar collections) brings an innate Italian 'this works this doesn't' sensibility to the table. Visit them both at the market by the Pavilion to order your own unique piece, or contact them via the website. Feel free to come armed with your own ideas and designs to make sure it feels 100% yours.
If you fancy something a bit more permanent, get a tattoo! There are plenty of inking establishments here in Brighton, and some are award winning. But, sporting various machine-made tattoos already, I wanted something a little bit different this time. Of course, Brighton being Brighton, I knew a guy here who had taught himself how to do hand poked tattoos, which are - as you might imagine - hand poked, without the machine, so they take quite a bit longer but can be just as delicate, if not more so. So, I dreamed up an idea and sketched it out on paper before paying him a visit.
(I'm not going to go into it here, but if you're curious about the hand poked tattooing process or would like to know more about who did mine, just let me know in the comments or send me a message.)
Vintage shopping in The Lanes is part and parcel; difficult to avoid something grabbing your eye as you walk from brunch place to cafe to pub. Do include a good rummage in Snoopers Attic. If, like me, you're more 'pre-loved' dungarees than vintage lace, get yourself to Dirty Harry - tartan shirts, patterned trousers and boyish sweatshirts from only a fiver.
Something you might not know is that Brighton is home to the only genuine antique armour and weaponry shop of its kind left in the country: The Lanes Armoury. You must check it out! A mere 20k can net you an extraordinary European suit of armour, complete with frightening helmet. Sod saving to buy a house. Or if Samurai's more your thing, there are swords a plenty as well as a genuine Samurai fighting hat, which looks a bit like something you might wear toiling in the rice paddies. There are WWII shells, functioning muskets, chainmail, medals... plus, the old boys are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly; they'll answer any questions you have. Find this gem on the corner by Choccywoccydoodah and when you do, tell them the unusually interested girl, asking questions about limitations to purchase and where they source their wares, sent you.
Paul Zenon, remember him? 1990s magician and - apparently - some sort of childhood dream of mine because, however much I tried, I couldn't resist introducing myself to the guy, content as he was having a solitary pint in a pub that I won't name just in case you decide to mob him. Like some sort of unstoppable moron, I treated him to such classics as "so, do you still do it?" "Yes, magic is my living." Of course it is. Still, nice guy as he evidently is, he entertained my curiosity generously and the advice I got from a Brightonian of 30 years to a potential Brightonian was pretty positive. Hating to be an imposition, I wrapped it up: "Well, seeing as this is your local maybe I'll see you soon... " (Outrageous flirt.) He agreed. And as I waltzed out of the door... "Bye Paul!" Yep, we're full on friends.
Where to stay: Airbnb has some great places, like this stunning place in Seven Dials, which is a spacious, high ceilinged flat filled with eclectic decor and trinkets from the owner's travels around the world.
Where to eat: Frankly, you could stick a pin in a map of Brighton with your eyes shut and you'd land on a cracking eatery. But make sure you check out the speciality hash browns at Billie's Cafe on the corner of Hampton Place and Upper North Street. Make sure you ask for a doggy bag - you'll never eat it all (not if you want a slice of cake later).
Where to get coffee and WiFi: As above, basically anywhere. But Sixteen on Sydney Street serves a great double shot (as standard) Americano from beans that are actually roasted in Brighton, with tasty cake, plentiful WiFi and plug sockets if you're running out of juice.
Where to go for a pint: Brighton's full of great watering holes, but a particular shout out goes to The Prince Albert down by the station; decent boozer.