Blackpool. The biggest, the baddest, the tackiest and the most popular of all English sea-side resorts, Blackpool goes from strength to strength despite epitomising what for many is an idea of Holiday Hell. Cheap, cheerful, unashamedly down market and happy with that, Blackpool is a must-see even if you don't like your holidays drunken fairgroundy.
It started as a relatively genteel watering place but boomed when the railways started to bring the mill workers on their annual holiday: now there is not only a regular and frequent train service to Blackpool but even a motorway link - with the town bucking the trend of decreasing popularity of English holidays and a Mecca for a certain style of holiday making. But not just the young, drunken and libidinous. Blackpool is a traditional Labour Party conference venue and uses its massive stock of cheap accommodation in all kinds of unexpected ways: it's for example one of the most popular locations for residential, fast and more or less guaranteed driving licence courses.
We visited one December and it was fairly empty, the rides of the massive fairground called the Pleasure Beach quiet with only a few teenagers screeching about, the pavements clean.
The tide was out, showing a huge expanse of muddy sand - seemed like miles to the sea. We walked on the pier in blowing wind, bought some inedible traditional sweets and had our fortunes told. The tower loomed in the distance and the air was filled with squeals of seagulls.
It was a bit ugly, a bit sad, and yet quite compelling. I am glad I have been but I doubt I will ever be back.
Picture via flickr, by Metaltax with a Creative Commons licence. Thanks.