Kate Simon: They tell me Eastbourne's young at heart these days

Travel View

I popped down to Eastbourne last weekend to watch the tennis at the Aegon International. Devonshire Park is the place to go the week before Wimbledon if you want to watch the world's top players without the queues and crowds.

It wasn't my first visit to the south-coast seaside town, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time there over the years – if more by accident than intention.

Back in the 1980s, it was about as far as my beat-up old Mini would get me from my south London home for a spot of sea air. In the 1990s, it was where we gathered for the annual conference of the National Union of Journalists (till someone pointed out that we were meeting in a venue that didn't recognise the trade union of its own staff). And now it's my family's choice for some sporting action.

Thirty years of inadvertent trips to Eastbourne, yet judging by the average age of the promenaders that I spied on the seafront during a break in play last Saturday, little has changed since my first visit. Eastbourne still appears to hold No 1 ranking as God's Waiting Room.

Not so, says my friend who moved to the town a few years ago. Eastbourne is the south-coast destination of choice for young middle-class families fleeing London for the bucolic life and a bigger house at a more affordable price. He might be right, but I notice he claims Brighton as home on his Facebook profile.

More compelling evidence that Eastbourne is embracing the future comes in the shape of the new Sovereign Harbour Marina, bringing the cosmopolitan pleasures of drinking and dining to the waterside. Then there's a rash of new hotels, including the Big Sleep, which counts the actor John Malkovich, no less, among its investors; the Da Vinci, the town's first art hotel; and the Waterside Boutique Hotel with its bath butlers. And, of course, Eastbourne has put itself on the cool films location map having provided the setting for the recent remake of Brighton Rock.

Could Eastbourne be shaking off its senior image at last? I'll wait to see if my friend changes his Facebook status, then I'll truly know.

***

A large package of manuscripts is due to land on my desk this week – the best entries in the Independent on Sunday/Bradt Guides Travel Writing Competition.

Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Guides, kindly reads through the stories of hundreds of hopefuls to find the cream of the crop. Then she, me and the other judges select our top favourites before passing on our recommendations to the final judge, the author and broadcaster Matthew Parris.

This year's winner will see their piece published in The IoS, and get a two-week holiday to Eastern Turkey, which I'll commission them to write about, too. The results will be announced in these pages on 24 July. Watch this space.

***

The lovely pueblos blancos (white towns) of Andalucia are one of Spain's iconic sights. Except at Juzcar, a village of just 300 souls near Malaga. Its brilliant white buildings have been painted a sickly hue of blue. Why? It's the set of the new Smurfs movie.

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