THE smell of fresh brewed coffee snakes through narrow streets flanked by wonky stone houses and zigzags of bunting.
As we weave our way up and down the uneven cobbles, each twist and turn through the labyrinth reveals a new row of colourful shops with misshapen signs swinging from old doorways.
This obstacle course of boutiques, aptly known as The Lanes, is one of many attractions that gives Brighton its quirky reputation.
Most of the houses here date from the 16th century, so no surprise some are a bit askew, with slanted walls and roofs weathered by years of salty sea winds.
Much of the stuff inside is old too – antique clocks, classic furniture and odd bits of jewellery – although some shops have now been taken over by trendy vegan bakeries and cool lifestyle stores that have thrust the area into the modern day.
This sits just a five-minute walk from the beach and less than a ten-minute walk from the train station.
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In fact, it doesn’t matter which direction you turn as The Lanes are central to all the Brighton fun, with bars, shops and hotels at every angle.
Our home for the weekend is The Southern Belle, a characterful boutique hotel further west along the seafront.
Everything here is in fitting with the quirky theme from crazy-coloured furniture and wonky windows that overlook the sea, to the old-fashioned pub downstairs, its wooden beams decorated with fairy lights.
Even the mix of people in here makes the place seem like something from a charming seaside novel — there’s an old man with a wiry beard sipping on a pint of ale at the corner table and a group of young girls dressed in vintage floral dresses sinking cocktails before a night out.
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Then there’s us, my cousin, Danielle, and I – two sodden holidaymakers, curled up by the ornamental fireplace after being caught in a blustery rain storm.
That’s the other brilliant thing about Brighton — it may be a seaside town, but it doesn’t matter if the weather takes a turn as there’s so much else to keep you busy.
Plus, you can shelter in any of the hundreds of bars or restaurants.
If you are after the best grub though, it pays to do a bit of planning.
The Rockwater Hove, a few kilometres out of Brighton’s busy centre, is the place to go for unbeatable views of the ocean and delicious fresh seafood.
Ask for a table on the roof terrace and you’ll get to tuck into plates of oysters, crab and Asian-style tuna as you watch paddleboarders glide across the sea.
Try the cocktails too, like watermelon spritz with honey tequila, watermelon and soda.
Closer to the centre is The Salt Room, another seafront restaurant which has meat, fish and veggie options aplenty and an equally impressive wine list.
STAYING THERE: One night’s B&B at The Southern Belle costs from £140, based on two sharing. See thesouthernbelle.co.uk.
OUT & ABOUT: Entry to The Upside Down House costs from £5pp and kids under three go for free. See upsidedownhouse.co.uk/brighton.
Bellies loaded with fish, a wander along the seafront takes us to the Upside Down House, a sort of fairground fun house that has both kids and grown-ups in fits of giggles.
Like its name would suggest, the house has been tipped on its head with furniture stuck to the ceiling so you’ll be able to pose for photos in every room.
Walk further along the promenade and you’ll spot the pier that’s got all the classic arcade games, a helter skelter and some mini roller coasters.
But if you’re up for some real thrills, head to the Brighton Zip, a long zip wire that stretches over the pebble beach with a bar and kitchen on site.
You might prefer a trip to Sea Life, just a few minutes’ walk from the zip wire, where you can spot sharks, turtles and jellyfish.
For an extra £20, book a glass-bottomed boat experience where you’ll glide over the water and get an even better look at the marine life below your feet.
For us though, it wasn’t about watching the fish, it was all about eating it — and trust me, you won’t be short of choice.
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