It may have been raining when I got to Norwich but it didn't dampen my spirits. How I discovered a super weekend break destination that had me dancing in the puddles with happiness
As I stepped from the train and it started to rain I knew that I come to the right destination. Norwich, East Anglia’s capital city, is hailed as one of the finest heritage cities in the UK and is an ideal city break destination – even in the rain.
Recommended Guest House.
I had pre-booked at the Wensum Guest House, 225 Dereham Road, Norwich. NR2 3TF and took the recommended bus (19 or 20) from Prince of Wales Street costing £2.40 for a single fare.
I received a nice friendly welcome and found that I had been upgraded to a double en suite! Plenty of tea and coffee was available to make a drink along with some yummy stem ginger biscuits. The room itself was modern and clean and the bed was very comfortable with crisp white linen. I took advantage of an offer for two nights at £60 B& B and got one free. Wensum Guest House is a four star venue awarded by both Enjoy England and the AA.
The owners recommended the Reindeer pub on Dereham Road for some nice pub grub and a ‘welcome to Norwich’ pint or two .I paid £6.75 for a very tasty steak and kidney pie with buttery mash and gravy. The second pint went down well too as I watched the rain trickle down the pub window.
Shopping in Norwich.
Over the weekend I took every opportunity to discover the city by foot despite the fine rainfall. The city centre was a labyrinth of quirky cobbled lanes and intriguing old passages all opening out on to the colourful permanent market stalls in the market place. This was my first visit to Norwich and if you like your shopping this is definitely a place to go. All the major stores are here plus some beautiful arcades and an eclectic mix of independent shops in the Norwich Lanes area as well as delicatessens, traditional pubs, trendy wine bars and restaurants.
One of the first places I visited was the famous Jarrolds store, 1 -11 London Street, Norwich NR2 1JF www.jarrold.co.uk. The Pantry restaurant on the third floor was packed. You’ll find it tucked away in the corner after the fabulous toys and games section. They offer traditional home cooked meals and a tasty salad bar. For à la carte menus, wines, speciality teas, coffees, pastries and traditional afternoon teas try the Café Benjamin on floor 1 and if you are still hungry you can sample freshly made snacks in the basement in Café Metro.
When I asked for directions I found the people of Norwich a very friendly lot and nothing was too much trouble. Equally, the service was great at the Café du Commerce, 42 King Street, Norwich. NR1 1PD www.cduc.co.uk, where I popped in for lunch. The crab and squid salad was spicy and the young woman serving me took time out to mark places of interest on my map.
If, like me, you are looking for tourist help then go to the stunningly modern Forum centre on Millennium Plain. It’s mostly glass and you really can’t miss it. The building also houses a Pizza restaurant, a coffee shop, BBC Radio Norwich and a superb library. The tourist information folk were very helpful and they recommended things within my limited budget including lots of free events. For events and all things Norwich you can’t do better than check out www.visitnorwich.co.uk before your trip.
On my perambulations around Norwich I found a curious amount of very old churches, often with flint facades and some of them had been turned over for uses other than worship, including the Norwich Arts Centre, and the Norwich Puppet Theatre. The cityscape offered a great variety in architectural styles and if heritage is your thing try www.heritagecity.org.
Incidentally, do go to one of the oldest medieval streets in Norwich if you like unspoilt Old English charm. Elm Hill is a short cobbled street with half timbered buildings, antique shops and a teddy bear shop simply bursting with bears and dolls of every colour, shape and size.
Amongst the highlights of my visit was an area called Tombland. The word comes from Anglo-Saxon times and meant – empty place. As I had an empty stomach I felt obliged to check out one of the many restaurants in the area and returned later in the evening for a beer in La Tasca.
La Tasca 24 Tombland NR3 1RF
The background music was salsa music and the staff were friendly although I only went for a refreshing pint of San Miguel beer. The interior was a very pleasant Spanish bar style with original leaded and stained glass windows from the building’s former history. I’ve eaten at the tapas chain before and always found the standards very high. I would have no hesitation in returning to eat here on my next visit.
Caffé Uno. 2-3 Tombland NR3 1HE
Caffé Uno is a tremendously popular Italian style café bar and I enjoyed a very flavoursome chicken risotto here and a ‘to die for’ tiramisu along with a bottled beer. The bill came to about £15 and the service was top notch. The waitress even said a cheerful ‘goodbye’ to me and wished me a ‘good stay’ as she left the café having finished her shift. Such unexpected touches really make me want to go back.
Of course you can’t go to Norwich without visiting the famous and outstandingly beautiful Cathedral. See www.cathedral.org.uk. I went twice and was blown away by the craftsmanship and the spiritual beauty of the building. Do take time to peruse the 'closes' at the rear and sides of the Cathedral. The properties are enchanting and like going back in time. I’d also recommend following the clearly marked riverside walk and pop into the Adam and Eve pub for a pint or lunch. I had the suet based steak and kidney pudding and crisp vegetables. It was so nice I even took a photo!
Another pub I would definitely endorse in the city centre is The Belgian Monk. 7 Pottergate. Norwich. NR21DS. See www.thebelgianmonk.com. They offer over 40 different Belgian beers, including fruit beers and serve some luscious moules frites. It gets quite packed but it’s worth every second and I forced myself to try three of their beers, or was it four?
Theatre and Cinema.
There are several theatres in and around Norwich. I attended a show at the Norwich Theatre Royal on Theatre Street. NR2 1RL www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk and had a great time. Also try the Norwich Playhouse on St Georges Street close to the Quayside www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk and a very good amateur venue with visiting shows: Maddermarket Theatre, St John’s Alley, Norwich. NR2 1DR www.maddermarket.co.uk. If puppets are your thing try a visit to the world renowned Norwich puppet theatre www.puppettheatre.co.uk. For independent cinema head off to CinemaCity. St Andrew’s Street, www.picturehouses.co.uk.
What a great weekend. I never got to see half of what Norwich has to offer, including the castle, so I shall definitely be back. Rain? What rain? Now when’s the Norwich Food and Drink Festival on?
For further details on The Belgian Monk pub in Norwich see link to blog post by author Phil Lowe. http://mugofstrongtea.blogspot.com/2012/01/and-rain-it-raineth-every-day-time-for.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MugOfStrongTeaAChipButty+%28Mug+of+Strong+Tea+%26amp%3B+a+Chip+Butty%29