Monday, 24 October 2011

Adventures in Norfolk

The Guildhall in Norwich Market Square
Well, we had a few small adventures, which is unusual for us. My adventures usually happen with Lola II, not Mr A. We did a fair bit of sitting and reading in nice places too.

It is a surprisingly long journey to the Norfolk coast, but we arrived at the campsite in good time, put the tent up, got in a few extra provisions (milk for both of us, beer for Mr A, chocolate for me, and crisps for Mr A but we were on holiday so I had some too). The tent pole repair stood up beautifully and Mr A found a useful rug for the porch to protect the built-in groundsheet. It was unseasonably warm in the late afternoon as we sat in the tent porch and read, but the light fades early at this time of year, and the temperature dropped like a stone. So we went to the pub.

Lola II and I had walked to this pub so I knew how far it was, but we had done it in July while there was still daylight, and Mr A and I were walking there as night fell, and it was pitch black on the way back, with minimal verges at the side of the road and a surprising number of fast-moving vehicles. Never mind, we didn't get knocked over, it was a fine pub, but there was something strange going on. The dining area was set with white cloths and glassware; there seemed to be an awful lot of people crammed into the bar area, and then small snacks on cocktail sticks started appearing on platters from the kitchen.

When almost everyone was ushered into the dining rooms, we were left with three local drinkers in the bar.  Despite our natural British reserve we struck up a conversation, and this is how we found out the details of what was going on. A special gourmet night was being hosted by a local chef, Richard Bainbridge (from Michelin-starred Morston Hall down the road). They told us he's been on the telly and normally wears a flat cap, which obviously we didn't know. More importantly, the locals managed to intercept the next dish from the kitchen, so we even tasted the spelt bread and the 'Juniper foam' starter/amuse-bouche, courtesy of our new-found friends. We left before the main courses, but the trip was a great success, and was classed as our first adventure.

Rather than using proper camping sleeping bags, what we usually do is manufacture a replacement double bed with pillows and duvet. This time, Mr A was in charge of planning and assembling all the gear, and he had brought two old-style rectangular sleeping bags, three proper mummy-style sleeping bags, but no duvet. He'd brought his skiing thermals, but I hadn't. That first night was colder than either of us expected, and our cobbled-together sleeping arrangements were wholly inadequate. The second night I had three nested sleeping bags and Mr A had two; neither of us could move any of our limbs but we were both warm as toast.

Seals lying in the water and on the sand of Blakeney Point

Breakfast on Saturday was going to be tomato sandwiches, since that's what we'd brought at random from home. After such a cold night, Mr A was keen to abandon this plan, and we had a very satisfactory hot breakfast in the local town. The next adventure was seal-watching: common seals and grey seals are to be found on Blakeney Point, and various local enterprises will take you out by boat to see them. We got a good view of a decent number of seals, but it did feel very voyeuristic with three boats full of camera-wielding tourists plying back and forth in front of the basking seals. Slightly underwhelming as an experience, but enjoyable enough. A small marine adventure.

Because of the early nightfall, and also because there were some fairly noisy family parties at the campsite, we decided to spend Saturday evening at the cinema, and went to see 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' at the Cromer Mulitplex. A good night out and a good night's sleep thanks to our amended sleeping arrangements, then the postponed tomato sandwiches for breakfast and a trip to Norwich before heading home.

Norwich on Sunday morning was disappointing. It seemed to have nothing but the usual mainstream shops; the market was deserted and the only activity was in the big malls - even the 'cultural' attractions like the castle and museums were only open in the afternoon. Looking for a suitable spot for lunch was also a challenge, as there didn't even seem to be any suitable cafes or pubs other than the standard fast food emporia. We managed to find a newly-opened noodle bar in the end, but I'm not sure if it will survive - Norwich doesn't seem ready for a noodle bar.

The advertised attraction of the Colman's Mustard Museum did not live up to its billing either, as it turned out to be a mustard shop with a few artifacts and informational posters on the wall. The arcade where it was located was lovely - actually, the architecture of Norwich is rather wonderful, even if its contents had little to offer these two fussy tourists. The journey home was uneventful, and I've spent an enjoyable morning looking through the photos and writing this. Now I need to get on.

The columns and lion sculpture of Norwich City Hall

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