Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Days1-2 - England - Sydney to Norwich

We have safely arrived in Norwich after travelling for something like 30 hrs from Sydney after a late afternoon departure. We did get some sleep on the plan but not much so we both were fairly tired to say the least.  We touched down just after 06:30 at Heathrow and had navigated border control and customs arrangements; found the central bus station and were happily settled in the lounge area watching the indicator boards for our coach service by 7:46 am. Beautifully timed for the 8:15 bus to Norwich.
There is a prohibition on entering the UK with a range of meat/dairy/plant materials. I kept looking for the xrays etc for quarantine/customs but apparently they rely on people remembering and being honest about what they are carrying. Bit of a contrast to the routine bag searches and sniffer dogs we have on our quarantine screening at home!   It's a looong walk to the metro or coach departure point. Our bags are heavy and I envied the people who had the sense to buy bags with four wheels rather than two.
Although taking the coach and coming on all the way out to Norwich was additional travel on an already long flight, it was a nice alternative to the plane and we enjoyed watching the scenery along the way. Daffodils are flowering everywhere at the moment and small shrubby plants on the roadside are a mass of white blossoms..There are also other massed displays in rich dark yellow which I think may have been gorse and consequently reminded me of New Zealand.  Hubby's first comment was that the quality of the light and the overall look of the landscape reminds him of Tasmania. This resemblance is a big part of why Tassie is very popular as a holiday destination at home.
We have arrived on a mild clear day with blue skies. In the morning as we leave Heathrow there is that lovely bite in the air. Not a lot of wind. It looks like it will be a glorious day.
Most branches are still bare with only occasional green emerging.  This had a couple of consequences. 1. Birds are easier to see :o) and 2. So is the plentiful litter! :o(
On the bird front I saw at least 6 magpies in  dapper black and white. My internet searching says that magpies aren't a very popular bird due to their life habits. Well, they're a very pretty bird at least.  The most common bird were the rooks which were in large numbers. In one spot there was a great collection of nests and rooks were gathering nesting material, striding across the ground as though participating in a great ceremonial ritual.
There were also quite a lot of woodpigeons about, both flying and foraging.  I was quite surprised to actually manage to spot what I believe was a robin sitting large as life on the bare branches of a small tree as we passed. It would have remained as an unidentified LBB (little brown bird) except I turned to look back to it and there was it's pretty red breast clear to see.
At one point near some dense undergrowth there were two very plump (and edible looking) birds on the ground) but we passed too quickly to really get a good look. Happily, this was not the case when we were passing what looked like some sort of irrigation or draining ditch where a bittern was stalking about not far from the road. On the mammal front, I believe I saw a fox not too far from the two anonymous edible birds. So all in all the wildlife viewing was not too shabby at all!
Along our journey we have stopped by Stansted airport. The traffic moved freely and was a mix of trucks and lorries generously complemented by a range of high end cars. Porche, Jaguar. Audi. and so on. mostly European makes and models driven by suit bedecked men.
As we get out of town there is a sign announcing the National Stud and horse racing museum. I enjoyed seeing a number of groups of riders exercising their horses in large spaces generously equipped with white fencing and white metal rails. Then a large race track with a large modern stand.  Finally the mystery is solved when a sign says "Newmarket".
The sun is up and the warmth of the day is evident by the time we are passing through Thetford. People of all ages are out and about enjoying the sun. A group of young mum's with their babies sit by the Little Ouse River which meanders between neat banks through the town.  An older couple wander slowly along by the canal and across the way an adult helps a child feed the ducks which are paddling. Looking further afield the river passes under a pretty little bridge and overhanging branches. Construction hoardings nearby to the coach stop illustrate plans for a revamp of this historic/cultural precinct. The potential of the area is plain to see. The coach slowly turns and navigates through the narrow streets giving us a close up view of some flint fences and buildings along the way. A short while later we see some prominent very well weathered ruins over behind an area of modern housing. This would appear to b Thetford Priory.
Back on the road we pass a couple of large free range piggeries with some fairly happy looking pigs nosing about in feed dispensers or lolling about on the dirt.  The signs following include warnings about a live firing range and in time announce St George's Distillery English whisky.
In the route the coach takes, Attleborough presents well. Again it is clear that the locals are enjoying the lovely mild sunny day. A couple of girls exit the bakery. An elderly man walks purposefully by the post office. A mother pushes a pram.
As we head on to Norwich fields of bright yellow rapeseed (canola?) are beginning to flower. Already beautiful they will be quite spectacular in a week or so. It's not long until we come to the outskirts of Norwich and drive past some large houses on large blocks. The area looks affluent and the houses quite well kept. Finally we pull up in Norwich at a central transport hub. We find a map and photograph it for future reference.  There is a handy taxi rank out on St Stephens road, but hubby is recommending we just walk to 38 St Giles. Good exercise after such a long period of sitting doing nothing. I agree and we set off. It's not long before I retrieve my broad brimmed hat. I hate the sun glaring in my eyes.  We plod along and get a bit nervous so again, on hubby's suggestion we decide to consult the tom tom. We trudge on and on. Hmm. Show me that tom tom.  It thinks we're a car and I suggest we probably don't need to go this long and circuitous route. Still, we have seen the old city walls along the way. We think for ourselves and cross the busy road via the underpass. We emerge  into a large garden/park, once again full of people taking the sun. Trudge trudge trudge.Swap arms with the luggage dragging. I'm getting increasingly hot and bothered. (send sympathies to my long suffereing hubby!). I'm in light jeans and a t-shirt but I'm plenty warm enough.  As we cut across to St Giles Street we pause momentarily to enjoy the performance of a small but wonderfully melodious song bird in the bare branches of a fairly large tree.  Superb. Eventually we find 38 St Giles and retreat thankfully into the cool interior. I have to admit it: despite the bitching and moaning hubby has been subjected to along the way; aching knee and now elbows too, I do feel better for the walk! It's about 12:30 and our room is ready if we'd like to freshen up.
Our host offers to bring our bags up in a minute and meanwhile he'll show us up.  Why waste the stair climbing, so hubby and I each grab our "carry on" luggage. Hmm I might christen my bag Sid..Hubby's bag can be Charles Hawtrey . haha.  Anyway with Sid and Charles taken care of, our host then decides he may as well bring a bag now as well.  In the room our hospitable host has a question Tea? Coffee? Coffee for hubby.. and a couple of delectable little morsels which we share light flaking pastry with custard and apple slices arrayed on top. Mmm. That hits the spot...but something more substantial is also in order.  My knee has been sore since the flight. It apparently did not enjoy just sitting, so I'm not keen on wandering over to Elm Hill for lunch which was one option I noted when planning.  We ask for lunch recommendations.  We've passed a place just down the street a little which looked nice, but is it any good?. Having tried the place numerous times unfortunately the most recent experience was again a problem and our host finds himself unable to recommend it. However, just up the street is Roger Hickman's which our host says is the best restaurant in Norwich and has an excellent lunch option which is great value. Does it what!  Our host phones ahead to be sure there's a table available, but it's not expected to be a problem. I change my top and shoes  and off we trot up passed a couple of galleries and a book shop.. a nice medieval church with grounds displaying modern young adults shirts off or skimpily clad soaking up the sun. Reminds me a bit of the opportunism of galahs. The lightest fall of rain and they start hanging upside down presenting themselves for a natural shower! I think too of a former boss who lived a year or so in London and did once mention that this is what happens over here when the sun comes out. Lunch hours present a spectacle of office workers out soaking up the rays... but I digress.
Happily seated in Roger Hickmans we order water for the table and hubby opts for a St Peters Best bitter which is rich and dark and has a delicious light aroma. Hubby pronounces it "lovely". Rare praise.  This is delivered chilled and comes in an awesome oval green bottle which is a replica of a bottle from 1770 information about which is provided on the label.  I decide this bottle will be my first souvenir. Food selections duly made we proceed to tuck into:
Chef's appetiser which is a deliciously light and refreshing soup of peas with mint in a sweet little white straight sided jug. This is accompanied by two delicious warm rolls and a pat of butter at precisely the right temperature. In the interests of brevity I'll just say everything was fabulous and a fixed price of 22 pounds! Talk about value!
Me: Roast smoked salmon with Cauliflower puree and caper sauce (it also had little tempura cauliflower florets) followed by Fillet and Belly of Pork with confit cabbage and a port  jus;
Hubby: Chicken liver parfait with smoked venison and pickled mushrooms followed by Roast cod with red onion marmalade, chickpea and chorizo casserole and deep fried squid.
Dessert was, if possible, even better than the starters and mains: both were presented as a de-constructed assemblage of elements. Both were simply outstanding:
Me: Baked apple with burnt honey creme brulee. This also included wafers of delectable tender pastry. Kicking myself in hindsight because though I wondered when eating, I forgot to ask what variety the apples were.
Hubby: Lime cheesecake with Lime Jelly and Chocolate sorbet. The cheesecake "crust' was a rich chocolatey biscuit crumble.
Roger Hickman's is definitely highly recommended for lunch!!
We're done with lunch by 3:05 and take our time heading back to our room half heartedly snapping a couple of photos and wondering if we should walk over to the cathedral. In the end I decide I had best rest or tomorrow could be ugly.  We are asleep in no time! What a comfy bed. What snuggly comfy pillows. .No book required. zzzzzz

I wake ahead of hubby and note that it's 7:30 pm. So much for evensong at the Cathedral! I'd be happy to just go back to sleep but I'm a tad hungry and don't want to wake at 3 am ravenous.
I muck about on the computer and hubby wakes. We decide we'll walk across the road to the Waffle House. It's quite busy and has a buzzy sort of atmosphere. One of the reviewers on TA describe the Waffle House as a Norwich institution. Which of course makes it tempting to tourists such as myself.  Our waitress is bright and friendly and serves us promptly after a brief wait while they clear a nearby table for us. This time hubby decides to sample Fuller's (organic) Honey Dew Golden Beer. Best served chilled. The beer fulfils the promise of the name and is a beautiful golden amber in colour. Very little head at all. Hubby makes another pronouncement of "lovely".
Onto the food:
Share: small garlic butter waffle. Interesting. Qute nice. Very light and crispy waffle.
Hubby: Ham, cheese and mushroom waffle. Lovely ham. I don't do mushrooms, but hubby says they are lovely too.
Me: Hummous and Avocado waffle hold the sweet chilli drizzle. Balsamic instead? Ok. The balsamic is very sweet and strong. Hommous is very light and delicately flavoured.  Hmm. not sure about the flavour combinations on this waffle. Olives, semi-dried tomato, rocket in the mix as well.  Different. Not sure I'd choose that again.
Dessert menu?  You bet.
Hubby: Banoffee, with ice cream, cream and nuts. Delicious. The small portion option is ample.
Me: Dutch spiced (bramley) apples with plump Australian sultanas, add ice cream.  Mmmm delicous. Bramley apple has the right acid/sweetness mix. wonderful. We are out of there for food only 33.80. Good value.
I should go straight back to bed, but decide to do my reviews promptly. Then I decide I'll just do a quiet bit of journalling.. haha. Yeah right. Off to bed just past local time 1 am.  Body clock time more like 11 am. sigh. Brekky is requested at 7:30 am local time.  Oh well. I seldom sleep more than 6 hrs anyhow. Hubby's been snoring for a couple of hours already which is good. He's driving tomorrow.
On the face of it we haven't done that much on our first day here.. but on the other hand we have done plenty.  A great start for our trip.  Always best to begin with a superb meal :o)

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