I am starting this on the train to Norwich, where we are going for fun and recreation, not for business. Normally, you would take a train straight to Norwich from London Liverpool Street station but this weekend there are rail works and no trains are leaving from that station. Instead we are taking the Cambridge Express from King’s Cross and changing at that famous university city to a Norwich train.
So what is there to attract us to Norwich (which, by the way, is pronounced “norritch”)? I went there once, many moons ago, and remember it as a charming city inhabited by relaxed and charming people. Will my pleasant memory be re-enacted or will I find a different sort of town?
From early-morning gloom, the day has cleared to beautiful sunshine and a blue, prettily mottled sky. The train speeds us through the green loveliness of the countryside. Norwich awaits: as yet a mystery…
The Norwich train is short and quite crowded but we find seats at a table facing another couple. People are still hunting for seats as the train departs.
As the train proceeded, it became even more crowded and people were left standing. Knowing that there would more travellers than usual because of closure of the Liverpool Street route, why did the company (National Express) not add extra capacity? Was this a lack of foresight, an inability to plan or that usual reason, that they don’t give a toss about the comfort and convenience of the paying customer? They may reduce the amenity but they still charge you the same fare.
We arrive at Norwich and fight our way off the train against a wave of people trying to get on it. At last we are free to wander.
Norwich is crowded but first impressions are positive. There are beautiful buildings and views at every turn. There are sights (and sites) to photograph every few yards. We wander hither and thither, attracted to whatever seems the prettiest or most promising area. Though I am a tiger of words, my photos will have to speak for me.
At last we hole up in Starbuck’s for rest and refreshment, where I write these words and Tigger studies her maps and leaflets to decide where to go next.
After further exploration, during which we checked the menus of various restaurants and cafes, we chanced upon Pulse in Labour in Vain Yard (site of the old firestation), a purely vegetarian restaurant. There we had a very good lunch and noted the place for future visits.
We spent the afternoon exploring the town and must have clocked up a few miles. So busy were we that we didn’t even stop for tea! That will give you some idea…
As darkness began to fall, a different city was revealed, one limned and decorated by lights. We started photgraphing Norwich all over again.
We also toured the market where Tigger bought a basket, one of those tall thin ones you stand umbrellas in. This was the fulfillment of a long-standing ambition. And she got it for a knock-down price.
As night had fallen, we decided to make tracks and caught a bus with “Rail Station” displayed prominently on the front. Where would you imagine that such a bus would go? To the rail station maybe?
At a certain moment, I noticed a bus coming in the opposite direction. It too had “Rail Station” written on front. Odd, surely. I asked the driver whether we had missed the station. She confirmed that we had and that the station was back the other way. So we disembarked and walked back…
At the station we saw that a Cambridge train was expected to leave at 17:35. “Expected” is rather too optimistic a word. “On time” was still showing when the train arrived at 17:37. It seems that in addition to providing trains too small for the purpose, National Express adopts a somewhat casual attitude towards timetables.
Quite a crowd was waiting for the train and after so much walking and after standing waiting for half an hour, I was keen to get a seat. So we devised our strategy: this was head for the rear door of the second carriage from the front. In this case, that was the middle one. The strategy worked perfectly and we dived into facing table seats amid the pushing and shoving.
As this is a two-stage journey, we have to change trains at Cambridge. It is to be hoped that the King’s Cross train is not so crowded though I somehow think it may be.
At Cambridge we had time to take refreshments at an AMT cafe. The train was well subsribed but not overfull. We again managed to get facing window seats by placing ourselves at the end of the train furthest from the station entrance.
I recognized nothing of the Norwich I had encountered previously but that is unsurprising as I was there only briefly on that occasion. Though we explored the town actively, we left feeling there was much more to see and that it would be worth other visits in the future.
There are also places to visit in the general area of the town and one possibility would be to stay in the town for several days and go on various excursions. It would be better to do this at another time of year when the days are longer.
Today’s visit ended with light rain but for the rest of the day it had stayed fine and sunny. All in all, then, it was a good day out with the promise of more to see and do in the future.