A final inspection of Norwich before continuing on our way. St. Andrew’s and Blackfriar’s Hall date from the 1200’s and were used by the Dominican Blackfriars. After 1565 they were used by the Flemish refugees who came to Norwich to work in the textile industry and they held their last service there in 1929. Then in 1712 they became the City Workhouse until 1859, so they have a broad, and at times, chequered history. I loved the flint walls, which seems to be the material of choice in this area because so many of the houses, walls and buildings we’ve passed have been made of flint. I can only imagine the fountain of sparks that must have flown during the chipping and shaping of the stones as each structure was built.
I’m rather partial to a spot of mustard…essential in Sloppy Joes, great on rice cakes, takes a run of the mill sandwich to the next level…and Colman’s mustard is certainly known to me, so it was essential that I pop into the Colman’s Mustard shop and museum. Colman’s have been making mustard in Norfolk for 200 years and the little shop, as well as selling all manner of mustard and mustard infused items, had information about the history of the company. It was interesting just to wander through and look at the cases of memorabilia and items that told the story of mustard and the Colman’s brand. Oh, the museums we’ve been to! Fancy a mustard museum! It was interesting though.
We also called into a store that featured another love…books. The Book Hive is the only independent book shop in Norwich and it was a quirky, poky little place. It had books on shelves, but it also had heaps of books displayed on tables, which took up so much of the already small floor space, that it was a bit of an obstacle course to get around. It was a really nice change, to browse books sitting flat on tables, where I could see their covers, rather than just looking on shelves, with head cocked to the side, reading the spines. It was a nice little book store with a very independent personality. It seems I wasn’t alone in liking this unique little store…
Before hitting the highway, we called into the supermarket to gather some supplies to see us through for the next few days. After our brush with posh at Waitrose, it was time to drop down a peg or two and head to ASDA. The supermarkets have been pretty quiet lately, but Christmas Eve Eve, as today was, brought out the hoards and the madness! It was dodgem alley with the trolleys in Aisle 4, the crowds around the potatoes looked like they were mining for gold nuggets rather your average spud and don’t get me started on the sprouts! I wasn’t in the market for sprouts, but the sprout shoppers were creating a trolley obstruction in the produce aisle! Thankfully we could dodge the fridges, not being in the market for anything of the animal or dairy persuasion, so we got to dodge the cheddar congestion, but man-o-man, it was more stressful to navigate a few aisles of ASDA, than it’s been following Dodgy Dave’s maniac manoeuvres! We high-tailed it outa there as quickly as we could.
On the road we zoomed and hurtled along the highway, heading towards Suffolk. We passed through part of The Fens (which stretches across counties for about a million acres), and saw a number of windmills and there was a definite Dutch feel about the landscape. The Fens were originally marshland and the drainage system was designed by a Dutch engineer in the 1650’s. Now it’s fertile farmland, but the windmills are still there, some still intact and some, sadly, standing forlornly, disused and without their heads and sails. It seems they’ve been replaced by more modern turbines.
“We have to stop!” I said to Steve, as I squinted and kept putting my arm over my face, “I need to get my sunglasses!” Did you hear that…SUNGLASSES! I haven’t worn sunglasses since Italy because I really haven’t needed them, but today that great solar, glowing ball in the sky, was so bright, I had to pull over, dive into the back of the van and rummage through my handlebar bag to find my buried sunnies! Amazing! It’s winter! Why was the sun so shy all of summer! It was a beautiful day, the sky was blue as blue and completely cloudless and just stretched out before us for miles, without a hint of grey, just clear and bright and gorgeous!
We passed through Great Yarmouth, a popular seaside destination, lined with amusement arcades.
“It’s a bit Weston,” I commented.
“It is,” agreed Steve.
We really must stop doing that. Whenever we pass through a place that’s a bit garish and tacky, we always compare it to Weston-super-Mare, and more than once, we have made the comment, “It’s a bit Weston” which is very unkind to poor ol’ Weston, which wasn’t a bad place to visit at all. I hereby resolve to be kinder to dear Weston-super-Mare!
On through Lowestoft and then onto Southwold. Southwold was a nice little town, another seaside town, but quite unspoiled. We walked along the pier and actually heard a couple of people say, “Should we get some ice cream?” Ice-cream! It’s winter! That’s how balmy the 15C weather is! The only real difference we’ve noticed here between summer and winter, is in summer every person seemed to be eating ice cream and we haven’t seen any ice cream connoisseurs these last few weeks. It seems though, it only takes a milder day like today, to light the ice-cream lover’s spark once again!
We left the seaside and headed into the Suffolk countryside and found our destination. We are staying in a tiny cottage in the middle of the countryside for a few days, to have our English Christmas. The cottage is beside the house belonging to the owners, who we met and they are lovely. Abbie is a fellow vegan and the cottage has been filled with lovely little touches and supplies for us, all of which are vegan friendly. She even left a plate of homemade vegan fruit mince tarts for us and a bottle of mulled wine. It’s small, but cosy and quiet and it will be our Christmas cottage.
Another breeyant day. That sun was spectacular! The sky was gorgeous! We won’t get a white Christmas, that’s for sure, but being given the gift of solar sparkle every now and again, will do just fine! I feel a song coming on…I’m going to have to steal a ditty from John Denver…sorry John…
Sunshiiiiiiinnne, on my shoulderrrrrrr, makes me happyyyyyyyyy….