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Getting to and onto the 10.30 train to Norwich at Liverpool Street was problem-free, but after we'd chosen our seats a woman started a loud and tedious conversation on her mobile (involving ironing!), a woman with two small children sat nearby and then three blokes with bags of MacDonald's came and sat across the aisle. The complete set! We moved. The train was very full, which was not something I'd experienced in a while. How full I realised fully when I made my way to the buffet car, jiggling around people standing in the corridors between carriages and such. My coffee and cake purchase involved another convo about the discontinuing of the fruit cake slice. I resorted to the Victoria Sponge, which is a cake I last consumed even further in the past than my last crowded train. The buffet man thought that the train was crowded with people who had been in London for the football - the Euro 2020 final that England lost on penalties.
We got to our hotel around 12.30 but due to the need for extra Covid cleaning check-in is now after 4.00, but the woman on the desk said maybe 3.00. We left our cases and went for lunch, in the rain. We ended up in a place by St Andrews church called The Bread Source. (Pause for pun to sink in.) After a seedy brie bap with some Dalston's rhubarb soda I just had to try one of their impressive-looking big cinnamon buns, and it did not disappoint. We did a bit of shop wandering and then briefly visited the east end of the cathedral, the west end being closed for the installation of a dinosaur called Dippy. Heading south from the east end of the cathedral precinct we discovered a short street full of nice old houses which was a short cut from said precinct to the main road right by our hotel. And so much nicer a route than the main road itself, which we usually use, with its grimy clubs, kebab shops and dubious types. To add insult there's even a sweet-looking, if unkempt, walled public garden half way along said shortcut. It called the The James Stuart Garden (see photo right) and was built as a memorial by his widow, he having been the managing director of Colman's Mustard as well as a privy councillor and an MP in the late-19th century. Getting back to the hotel after 3.00 no rooms were ready yet, so we had a short walk and a long sit by the river and, returning comfortably after 4.00, we were then soon comfortably accommodated.
I'd booked us into the hotel restaurant this evening. We had leek and potato soup, I then had the veggie burger and chips and apple pie and custard. With it I had a pint of Doom Bar ale, which I'd never heard of, and when I asked the waitress if it was local she said 'local-ish'. It turned out to be a beer from North Cornwall. And to be creamy and hoppy and very palatable.
Having had my disappointing experience with the ibis hotel in Edinburgh so recently it's hard to resist the temptation to compare. Premier Inn is hardly a premium brand but my room here is so much better. Bigger, with so much more in the way of shelves and places to put stuff, in the bathroom too. Hooks by the door, a surfeit of plugholes, ceramic mugs and real glasses, the sun in the morning...it has everything. And the breakfast - not spectacular but fresh. The problem of social distancing here solved by table service rather than frozen bread and pre-packed pastry blandness.
Our castle booking this morning not being until 11.15 gave us time to visit the Norwich Historic Churches Trust's Visitor Centre at St Martin-at-Palace church which is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays. Volunteers were chatted to, leaflets collected and the church explored. It had previously been converted into many floors of offices by the probation service. Blue office chairs were pushed aside the take the photo (right) of the Lady Elizabeth Calpthorpe table memorial of 1578, and flip-charts later cropped out. Norwich Castle Keep being closed for rebuilding work, with a big tall yellow crane to prove it, we were focused on art this morning. An exhibition devoted to John Crome, another Norfolk landscape painter of the 18th/19th century, who was lumped in with Turner and Constable in his time, wasn't that good, but was not bad. Confusion at the presence of a wedding party in the gallery threw our concentration, already wilting, so we grabbed an M&S sandwich lunch and headed back to the hotel. In the market we passed a guitar/bass/drums busking trio making excellent Chic music without vocals.
Lunch and a siesta was followed by a stroll along the river and - a little later - dinner in the Pizza Express in the Forum, last visited by us during those mad Eat-Out-to-Help-Out days between the lock downs in 2020. It was a lot less busy tonight.
Jane had booked a ticket for Sainsbury Centre this morning to look at modern art, and I'd discovered that Norwich has another big(ger) cemetery, aside from my old fave The Rosary, called Earlham Cemetery and a way out west beyond the RC cathedral I'd visited previously. It took a bit longer to get to than I thought, and I couldn't have a sit down halfway in the Catholic Cathedral as a service was about to start, with quite a healthy congregation of about twenty waiting.
The cemetery is a standard garden type, but big and still in use. No famous burials and no big tombs or mausoleums, but tastefully overgrown, without being wild, and quiet. And I saw a deer! Not something you see everyday, but there are a few in the cemetery, I was told. I did a clockwise loop, expecting to get back to where I came in, but I didn't. There was a cafe by the exit I did find, and the helpful woman on the counter even came out into the street with me and gave directions on how to go back through the cemetery to where I came in. I revisited the Catholic cathedral on the way back, and discovered that the shop nearby where I'd bought a cinnamon bun last year was, in fact, a branch of Bread Source, where I'd had one on Monday. But today this one had too long a socially-distanced lunchtime queue. I picked up a Pret baguette in the centre of town, and a pistachio and raspberry bun (see right) from a Bread Source stall I found in the market, with no queue at all.
The classic river walk in the early evening and later a return to Gem, the Turkish place opposite the hotel which we liked a lot last year, and liked even more this time. The mezze, especially the lentil soup and the stuffed vine leaves flavoured with blackcurrant and cinnamon, were all fresh and better than you (well, we) get in London, and the baklava too. I also discovered, and recommend, a Turkish beer called Efes Draft, which comes in a barrel-shaped bottle, and so not on draft at all. Confusing.
Today a trip to Great Yarmouth was planned for some art and seaside, but then we were 'pinged' home. The NHS Covid app told Jane that she had been close to someone with the virus and that she should now self-isolate for eight days. The app's privacy level means that following its instructions is basically voluntary, and it's about to be changed so that it says as much, due to the easing of restrictions. This was a time of widespread pinging, later wittily dubbed the pingdemic. Oh well, at least it was warmer back in Tooting.
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