17 SEP 2019: The seaside resort town of Eastbourne (East Sussex), often touted as the sunniest spot in Britain, is home to the five-star Grand Hotel. Built 145 years ago, the Grand is Victorian in spirit, but up-to-the-minute in facilities and amenities.

Perched directly on the promenade, and just a minute's walk from Eastbourne's expanse of tan-coloured pebble beach, and a five-minute stroll from the start of the South Downs Way, and a 100-mile long footpath between Eastbourne and Winchester.

It's also five minutes' walk from the Victorian Winter Gardens, and the Devonshire and Congress Theatres. Eastbourne Pier is a leisurely 13 minutes' constitutional along a pretty palm-lined front. Eastbourne station is 1.3 miles away, where trains to London take around two hours.

This chalk-white Victorian sprawl is fondly known as the 'white palace' and was a favourite of Victorian high society, who would come to imbibe lungsful of health-inducing sea air. Illustrious former guests include Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and composer, Claude Debussy, who composed the symphony, La Mer while in residence. Its huge marble columns, grand ancestral portraits and polished antique furnishings are tasteful, bordering ostentatious.

But the old Grande Dame holds secrets within her walls. There's an abandoned Moorish tiled Turkish hammam in the basement, and allegedly, a secret tunnel down to the beach.

Guests are welcomed by name in the car park, and staff are warm and courteous. There's a spa in the basement, with an indoor pool, treatment rooms, and a gym offering personal training and yoga classes.

There's an essence to the Grand that you can't quite put your finger on, an olde-worlde feel of family, of service.

While outside, a larger outdoor pool with a sun deck and sea views is blissful on a warm summer's day. The Grand has a children's program, which includes high tea in the restaurant, bike hire, a games room and a staffed children's playroom. But it's the extensive personal service which elevates the experience to five-star. Dressed in traditional uniforms the friendly staff greet guests as old friends. Upon arrival it is immediately apparent the hotel has a relaxed family atmosphere.

The hotel's large lounge is yet another big, beautiful room alongside the bar. It opens onto the terrace, with steps down to the warm outdoor pool, bedecked with sun-loungers and umbrellas.

The world's most indulgent hotels all have superb service, sublime comfort and the right whiff that makes one hotel stand out from another.

EAT: One of the biggest draws to Eastbourne is the Mirabelle, the Grand's formal two AA rosette restaurant. Head Chef Stephanie Malvoisin, ex Laura Ashley, The Manor Elstree and The Goring, brings with her international culinary expertise, having worked in hotel restaurants in France, Canada and the Caribbean.

The Mirabelle is arguably the prettiest dining room on the south coast, with its high ceilings, white linens, monogramed cutlery. The room’s blue studded chairs, muted colours and eye-catching wallcoverings are particularly pleasing.

It's run separately with its own staff, providing fine dining with a modern European menu. Chef brings something else to the plate besides food - her own formula is about the art, the music, the place, the ingredients - it's the whole concept behind the food that makes it interesting, evidenced by her gratin of prawns and snails with Espelette peppers.

The Garden restaurant is less formal with classic British dishes, while a pinkie-worthy afternoon tea is served in the Great Hall, a stately double-height formal lounge with a roaring log fire and a grand piano tinkling away amidst the potted palms.

Good cooking is physical, it demands a certain type of conditioning.

DRINK: Have a look at the cocktail menu. Mixologist, Ricardo, will conjure up a Patron Silver Margarita. Should you visit during the Eastbourne Air Show you'll be urged to sample one of their themed cocktails like the Hurricane - a heady blend of Old Jay Silver (a clear sweet rum), cranberry juice, a dash of passion fruit puree, grenadine and half a lime.

SLEEP: There are 152 rooms spread over four floors, including 53 suites and junior suites. Many have been updated and have a bright, spring-like decor, think muted olive and mauve tones, and rich floral hints. The unrefreshed rooms, although perfectly refined err on the chintzy side.

Gain brownie points by booking a suite on the first floor, which has a spacious veranda and bracing sea views, looking down onto a sweeping drive and garden that sits at the front of the hotel with public gardens across the road, giving the appearance of a garden all the way down to the sea.

The bathrooms are not modern or particularly spacious, but all have power showers, deep baths and covetable Molton Brown toiletries. Rooms lack minibars, the house-style preferring a more personal 24-hour room service, but Nespresso machines are in situ.

I bedded down for the night in Room 7, a two bedroomed ground floor suite which is dressed in period furnishing and chintz fabrics on swaged curtains; the separate sitting room is on a large Victorian scale.

Breakfast is a traditional affair, with Scottish kippers, a full English with kidneys and black pudding, and whisky-laced porridge on the menu.

WEDDINGS: Dream wedding venues don't come better than a white palace by the sea, so where better to seal your vows than in a hotel that resembles a giant wedding cake? Big or small, there are a host of celebration spaces, perfect for weddings, civil partnerships and blessings.

"Were I a dreamer of dreams, I would say... marry me and I will conquer the world and lay it at your feet." Winston Churchill

The Grand Hotel's wedding co-ordinators have just one role - to make your day perfect. There's a choice of wedding and civil partnership packages or, if you prefer, the Grande could plan a bespoke wedding to your budget.

The Grand Hotel is an Elite Hotel and a member of 'Small Luxury Hotels' consortium.

Out & About:

• To the west of the hotel is the South Downs National Park including Beachy Head which you can see from the Hotel, and the beautiful Seven Sisters cliffs are just beyond.


• To the east lies Eastbourne, a fun seaside town with Art Deco style apartments and Victorian villas. The town is not only famous for its tennis tournament (the last on the women's tour before Wimbledon), but also for its long stretch of golden sand with a restored traditional British pier, complete with nostalgic amusement arcades. Other highlights include a bandstand concert hall on the promenade, theatres with West-end shows, cafés, ice cream parlours, and the international Towner Art Gallery.


• Two of the competing 'loveliest villages' on the South Downs way (the hundred-mile country walk from Winchester to Eastbourne) are very near by-Jevington and Alfriston. The former is the home of the Banoffee pie, where it was invented by chef Nigel Mackenzie. And the latter has the first ever National Trust property to be purchased - Alfriston Clergy House. Both villages are as perfect as any English county village could be. Alfriston has no streetlights and at night the three local inns have candles burning in their sixteenth century windows, making the village look quite magical.


• If you feel energetic, it is possible to walk the 13 miles between Alfriston down to the sea at Cuckmere and along the Seven Sisters cliffs to Eastbourne. There is an equally lovely route inland that is shorter - about ten miles. You will be rewarded with some of the most stunning views in the south of Britain and there is always the outdoor pool waiting for you at the Grand Hotel with an afternoon tea on the terrace when you return.

History:

• The Victorian public loved the seaside of England's south coast, which led to The Grand first opened her opulent doors in 1875. Now, stepping through these same doors into the high ceiling hallway with its glittering chandeliers that cast soft intimate light over priceless paintings; and if you listen closely you can hear the evening gowns shushing across marble floors and see the stories told by gilt mirrors of sumptuous parties and important visitors.

• In fact the beautiful hallway was used to broadcast live concerts during the interwar years - every Sunday night was "Grand Hotel" night on the BBC - and nowadays, to keep some of this wonderful tradition alive, a tea dance is held on the last Sunday of each month in this same space with up to 100 tables. Music plays a big part in the history of the hotel - Debussey composed his symphony 'La Mer' in suite 200 back in 1905.

• The palatial Grand Hotel, overlooking Eastbourne's promenade, is the long-standing matriarch of English seaside hotels and the only five-star hotel on the British coastline. It's unashamedly posh, offers impeccable personal service and boasts magnificent views of the briny English Channel.

GRAND HOTEL
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Cindy-Lou Dale

Cindy-Lou Dale is a professional editor, writer and photographer, specializing in high-end travel, luxury motoring and affluent lifestyles. She also writes compellingly of current affairs, African politics and introduces her readers to new-age philanthropy.

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