This is the day we return to London but as our train does not depart until this evening, we still have time to spend here and some idea of how to spend it. A quick look around the curtains shows that is it not raining at the moment, at least. Let’s hope it stays dry today but, if not, we have indoor activities to keep us occupied.
I am packed and ready. As my old wheelie bag was showing signs of wear and even had a few holes, it was safer to buy a new one, which I did yesterday evening in King’s Lynn. Seeing bags and cases of various sizes side by side in the shop, it is hard to gauge which of them is the same size as the one back at the hotel. As a result, I have bought one that is larger than I need. My possessions will be rattling about inside it like the pea in a whistle. On the other hand, there will be room for any late purchases of Tigger’s that she cannot accommodate in her own luggage 🙂
We will evacuate our hotel room and have our bags kept for us to collect this evening prior to boarding the train. This is where it pays to have a hotel near the station.
We had breakfast in Costa and then took a bus to Magdalen Road. We were intending to visit Strangers’ Hall but were earlier than the advertised opening time and need to find a way to wait. Tigger was seemingly impressed with Magdalen Road and some of the buildings but to me it seemed just another dull suburban street with the usual selection of grubby shops.
Strangers’ Hall is one of a succession of buildings put up on this site since the 13th century or even earlier. The heart of the present structure is the Great Hall built in the 15th century by a wealthy merchant.
Rather than being conceived as a whole and designed by an architect as such, the Hall grew by accumulation as successive owners extended it and added rooms.
Because it was owned and cherished by wealthy and powerful citizens (who often served as mayors of Norwich) the Hall survived and was adapted internally, and to a lesser extent externally, to reflect new fashions in decor and furnishing instead of simply being demolished and replaced.
Today there are rooms decorated and furnished to give an impression of how they might have appeared at different historical periods such as the Tudor, the Georgian and the Victorian.
The name Strangers’ Hall derives from the arrival in the later 1500s of cloth weavers from the Low Countries, invited to support the weaving trade that already existed in the region. These were the "strangers" (the word perhaps meant "foreigners" then) who first lodged in the Hall before finding their own accommodations in the town.
Normally, you have to pay a small fee to enter the house that is now run as a museum and supported by volunteers who explain features of the building and its history and conduct guided tours, but because today is Heritage Open Day when a lot of building are open to the public, entry was free.
The house is certainly worth a visit if you are interested in history and historic buildings.
After visiting Strangers’ Hall, we returned to the centre of town and had lunch in Pulse, a cafe bar with a big selection of vegetarian food and drink.
The question now was how to spend the rest of the afternoon. The early greyness had turned into showery weather, despite a brief sunny interval after lunch. Following our experience of bus delays and failures to appear, I wasn’t keen on the idea of going for a ride out of town in case we became stranded and missed the train.
So we returned to the hotel and settled in the lounge which is beside the river, where we could relax, chat and read (or blog!).
After some time, the sun came out so we went for a walk, first in the hotel garden then along the riverside until we found the way blocked and had to divert around the buildings.
We crossed the small pedestrian bridge and made our way to a bus stop. As we are taking the 6 pm train and will therefore be getting home fairly late, we thought it would be a good idea to have a light meal before departure and went to the town centre to find a restaurant or cafe.
Unfortunately, it was now the Silly Hour for restaurants, when they have closed after lunch and not yet opened for the evening. We took the bus once more and returned to the hotel where we collected our bags. Then we crossed to the station and had a snack in the Pumpkin cafe there, not quite what we had had in mind, but it would have to do.
We had reserved seats on the train but the reservation cards had not been put out. According to our seat numbers, we would have been placed diagonally at a table where someone was already sitting. Fortunately, the train was only lightly occupied so we were able to find seats that suited us better. As the train carried us to London, the sun sank slowly towards the horizon and we enjoyed a very pretty sunset.
At Liverpool Street station we managed to storm the 214 bus and stack our bags in the front luggage rack. At the Angel, we left by the front door instead of trying to wrestle our bags along the aisle to the back door.
And here we are, home once more!