Norwich: The Accidental Tourist Edition

08/21/2009

Yesterday, while the Krugers took the kids to learn forms of Medieval torture (seriously:  http://krugersincambridge.blogspot.com/2009/08/mountfitchet-castle.html)  I set off on a different mission:  Take the train north, bike in hand, from Cambridge to Norwich then northeast from Norwich to Hoveton, where the broads begin to lead you to the coast.  The area is filled with fantastic cycling through small towns, marshes, salt water creeks all the way to the sea.  The forecast was 82 and sunny, so I packed a lunch and hit the road.

Yet again, I almost missed my train.  Train travel may just break me of my procrastination.  I pedaled to the station as fast as I could, bought my ticket and ran down the platform, making eye contact with the conductor who smiled back as the doors were closing.  I knew I was safe.  Brits are friendly like that, he wouldn’t pull off after seeing me.  I tapped the door button and it opened to let me on.

The train was packed.  82 degrees and sunny and last two weeks of summer holiday:  everyone was headed to the shore.  I was forced to face standing with my bike for the hour and a half ride, as we would only pick up more passengers as we neared the coast.  Thinking soon on, I realised I bought the wrong train ticket- forgetting my portion to Hoveton.  I calculated the mistake was going to cost me about 5 pounds (or $8).  Dang it.

About an hour into the trip, the train was completely, completely full.  My bike and I were crammed against the doors of one of the entryways of the train when suddenly I felt a little queasy.  I was facing backwards, so I turned around.  Going through my mind:  “What could possibly be worse than throwing up on a completely packed train?”.  The question was answered quickly when all sounds muted in the way it feels when you go under water…then the spots came and the train started spinning…

Thoughts in my head:  “Passing out on a completely packed train is worse than throwing up.  Dang it, I must have locked my knees.  I need to put my head between my legs but I can’t even begin to sit down.  Why couldn’t I have learned this lesson when Julie was riding the train with me?  UGH, of course I’m alone, I wonder what the NHS will do with me?  What if I pass out and they pull the emergency alarm I’ve been staring at for the past hour and they stop this completely packed train- how embarrassing.    Dear Lord, please, please, please, no…”

I bent my knees slightly and put my head down on my bike seat, hoping it was below my heart.  I prayed and prayed and then slowly sound returned as well as a cold sweat.  I just had to make it to my stop- about ten minutes away.  I wondered if my travel neighbor could tell I was close to collapse.  I kept my head down until the train stopped and exited my clammy self quickly.  I sat down in the tea shop and reconsidered my plan.  I wanted to see Norwich anyway and cycling in remote marsh areas after almost passing out didn’t seem like the best idea, so I saved my five pounds and settled for an urban adventure.

I am so content wandering around new cities- it’s an even more exhilarating and comforting feeling than putting on my favourite scarf or hiking boots.  I rode my bike for a while then parked and headed into the pedestrian zone towards the city center.  The market failed to impress except, of course, for the used book stall.  I am a sucker for a used book stall.  This biography got to come home with me:  Christine:  SOE Agent and Churchill’s Favourite Spy.

I stepped into a quirky gift shop/art gallery and saw a print ad for Norwich Contemporary Art Festival.  Turns out it was running through this week at venues all around town and several of the exhibitions were free.  This gave a skeleton to my day to my day of wandering the medieval city.

I went from venue to venue and discovered some amazing artists.  Norwich is the gritty/artsy city to Cambridge’s pristine intellectualism.  Lots of used music shops, tattoo parlors, old churches that are now art centers.  The grass is not as green or manicured as Cambridge, but you can see Neko Case in a 200 seat, 1000 year old stone church….oh la la.  I had an amazing lunch: brie, avocado and red pepper chutney on a 9 seed baguette. I taught a barista-man (and a few other customers at the counter)  how to make an iced coffee.

The art was quite good and gets its own post next.

I rode the train home with the setting sun, past fields of cows, sheep, hogs and wheat.  Thankful for room on the bike rack for my bike which meant a seated ride for me.

Watch out Norfolk broads, I’m coming back for you very soon….

(…and for the record, we thought the Medieval torture trip was a child-centered castle/village recreation.  If I knew it was going to be so edgy and educational, I might just have gone on the journey!)

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One Response to “Norwich: The Accidental Tourist Edition”

  1. […] Pictures from my accidental day in Norwich (click or scroll down to a few days ago to read the […]

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