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When my children were young, this was the time of year we would always spend a week at the beach. My In-laws then owned a condo at North Myrtle Beach, SC, and every year we would vacation there. It was a great condo, right on the beach, on the third floor and facing the ocean. It had three bedrooms and two full baths, plus a screened in balcony. We went there so many years that it felt like home and North Myrtle Beach was nearly as familiar as our neighborhood.

During the Regency, the Prince Regent also owned a “beach house.” His house was at the beach resort town of Brighton and he, too, “vacationed” there.

The Prince first visited Brighton in 1783 at aged twenty-one, in the company of his fast-living uncle, The Duke of Cumberland, partly to escape the constraints of his father’s court and partly for health reasons. His physicians thought sea-bathing would ease the swelling of glands of his neck. By 1786 he purchased a modest Brighton residence and shortly thereafter he hired Henry Hollard to build him a grander residence, a neo-classical structure with a central domed rotunda surrounded by Ionic columns. His residence was nearby the villa where he’d installed Mrs. Fitzherbert, his secret wife.

The Prince’s presence in Brighton was a boon to the town’s economy. Soon the fashionable world followed him to Brighton, and more elegant residences were built for them. Brighton remained the fashionable place for the elite to spend their summers. During these years the Prince hired architect P. F. Robinson to expand the beach house. He also purchased the land around what was named the Marine Pavilion. The stable he had built between 1803 and 1808, in the Indian style, soon dwarfed the pavilion. There was nothing to do but make his beach house even grander.

By this time (1815) the Prince had became Prince Regent, and he hired John Nash as the architect to redesign the exterior. The Prince Regent wanted the house built in an Indian style, like the stables. Nash had never traveled to India, but he was inspired by drawings in William and Thomas Daniell’s four volume Oriental Scenery and the result is the building as it appears today.

The interiors of the Pavilion were designed by Frederick Crace and Robert Jones and their rooms are a remarkable sight to see. I was lucky enough to visit the Royal Pavilion in 2003 and walked through those rooms. These images can’t quite do them justice. The house was completed in 1823. By that time the Prince had become King George IV.

The Royal Pavilion, in my opinion, is the perfect beach house, because it is decorated in a style you’d never live with at home. It just skirts the boundary between beautiful and tacky (but lands mostly on the beautiful side).

Amanda, remember that the Royal Pavilion does weddings! You could be married in the Grand Saloon and have your wedding sit-down in the dining room!! I’d so totally come for it!

Where is your favorite beach vacation? And do you think Amanda should be married in Brighton at the Royal Pavilion?

I like food. I like to read about food and cooking although I rarely follow recipes. So I very much enjoyed this entertaining book by Ian Kelly (Diane blogged about his biography of Beau Brummell a few months ago) about the great chef Antonin Careme, who cooked not only for Napoleon but also for the Prince Regent (who was delighted to hire his rival’s chef), Talleyrand, the Rothschilds, and the Tsar of Russia.

It’s hard to believe it now, when reading Careme’s lavish recipes–for instance, Les Petits Vol-Au-Vents a la Nesle–that his techniques and innovations formed our modern dining experience. He introduced dining a la russe–that is, with food individually plated and served, which, by the end of the nineteenth century, replaced dining a la francaise (where the food was placed on the table and diners fended for themselves). He believed vegetables should be served slightly crisp and that cooks should wash their hands. He invented the chef’s toque. He cooked for kings but he came from very humble beginnings–like a Dickensian hero, he was abandoned when very young to fend for himself on the streets of Paris.

Early on he developed an interest in architecture, taught himself to draw, and later became famous for his extraordinaires–elaborate architectural centerpieces made of spun sugar. These huge, fragile masterpieces were recycled and in some cases outlived their creator, who succumbed, like many in his profession, to charcoal poisoning at a relatively young age.

This is the entire picture from which the cover art was created–the kitchen of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, pretty much as it was during Careme’s time there (1816-1817)–the palm tree leaves were added later. The center table is a huge steam table to keep food warm.

You can visit the kitchen as it looks now–scroll down the page to look at a 360 panoramic view.

And if you’d like to buy the book, it’s on sale at a massive discount (along with many other goodies) at Daedalus Books.

I don’t think I’m going to attempt any of the recipes, even the simpler ones–and Kelly warns that the modern palate may find them a little bland. But I do like reading about food and life below stairs, so I really enjoyed this book. How about you? Are you a cookbook junkie? Have you ever attempted a historic recipe?

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