Being a tourist at home

The beach at Great Yarmouth
The beach at Great Yarmouth

The week has passed very quickly and, in between reading sessions, I have practised being a tourist at home. Being a solo traveller in England is a new and unexpected experience for me as, when I have been here previously, it has always been to visit family and friends. Now, I am in an area that I don’t know and alone, apart from meeting up with Maddie a couple of times.

One of these times was at Biddy’s Tea room in Norwich, which displayed an array of cakes, as well as a variety of teas to choose from, including one of their own mix. The room featured very comfortable, elderly leather arm chairs, old fashioned tea sets and a number of old hard back books. The walls were decorated with plates and pictures and took me back rather more years than I would like to consider. I can recommend the Bakewell Tart.

I also had a couple of forays to the coast. The first was to Great Yarmouth, on a particularly grey day, when I decided that I needed to go for a walk by the sea. The beach was mostly shingle with some sand and there was yet another wind farm just out at sea. There seems to be a prolific number of these along the Norfolk coast, which rather indicates that it might be quite windy here, usually!

Great Yarmouth itself is a typical English seaside town with a pier, many amusement arcades, mini putt, donkey and horse and carriage rides, casinos and fish and chips. Some of the buildings along the sea front have definitely seen better days but there are some lovely Georgian houses leading away from the beach. Inevitably, there is, also, a prolific number of terraced Victorian Bed and Breakfasts. I wonder if they still lock people out after breakfast and deter them from returning before tea time?

I parked some way out of town and walked along the beach towards the pier and then all the way along the promenade, so had ample time to admire both the infrastructure and the people. The latter hadn’t been deterred by the gloomy weather and were out in force along the main street, in which there were a number of cheap clothing shops intermingled with the cafes, souvenir and sweet shops. (I have to confess to buying a packet of Cinder Toffee, of which I consumed far too much and, consequently, felt a little sick.) I feel that I have now seen enough of Great Yarmouth and have no need to return!

Sheringham beach
Sheringham beach
View from the coastal path
View from the coastal path

My other coastal trip was to Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast. I had a very pretty drive to get there, through obscure country lanes, guided by the lady on my phone, on a beautiful sunny day. Having done no research or planning as to what to do when I arrived, and, having parked at the start of the Coastal Walk, it seemed to be a good place to start.

The tide going out at Sheringham
The tide going out at Sheringham

I therefore spent a couple of very enjoyable hours walking along the cliff overlooking the beach and out to sea. For the first part, it traversed the golf course and then continued on past fairly flat farmland. The sound of the water receding over the shingle was very relaxing and there weren’t too many other people. If only I had been well prepared and brought my sandwiches!

Afterwards, I had a wander around Sheringham, which is an attractive small town that, at this time of year, also has a lot of visitors. There were a number of people on the beach, sheltered by wind breaks, as well as sitting along the promenade wall, eating ice cream. I had coffee and bought a cake from the bakery. (Cake eating is becoming an obsession and is not helping the waistline!)

Boat disappearing under a very low bridge
Boat disappearing under a very low bridge
Norfolk Broad
Norfolk Broad

My intention was to stop in Cromer on the way back but there was a tailback of cars through the town and no obvious parking, so I continued along the coast for some way before turning inland towards Norwich. At one point, I realised I was passing through a town on the Broads (a lot of boats on a wide river being the clue), so stopped for a walk there. However, it was very crowded and the waterside pubs were filled with people from the boats that had moored alongside, so I didn’t stay long but continued ‘home’. (Am I becoming that averse to people?!)

I would have to say that I preferred the north Norfolk coast to that of the east and it must be lovely out of season. It has also been a novelty and quite a strange feeling being a solo tourist in England!

City to sea

I have had two or three forays into Norwich this week and have now, thankfully, worked out the route to and from. It is not difficult at all once you know where to go! Car parking is expensive and they all tend to be full by late morning. Consequently, I have timed my visits so that I go in after the rush hour but before the car parks are full. I am then able to return in time to watch Wimbledon. One has to get one’s priorities right!

Some very wonky Mediaeval buildings
Some very wonky Mediaeval buildings

Apart from shopping and getting a much needed haircut in a backroom, upstairs, out of the way salon where I was the only evident customer for a very talkative hairdresser of Moroccan origin, I also had dinner with Nick and Maddie, whom I met in Colombia last year. Maddie and I took an early evening walk first and then they cooked dinner for me at their house. It was lovely to catch up with them again.

The mornings have been spent wandering aimlessly, trying to familiarise myself with this historic city. Whilst relatively compact and easily walkable, it is a labyrinth of small streets (one area of which is appropriately called The Lanes), pedestrian areas and road works.

Along the riverside walk
Along the riverside walk

There is a lovely riverside walk, not one, but two, Cathedrals, a Castle and an infinite number of Tudor and Victorian buildings. These are all jumbled up with the modern, the most dominant of these being The Forum, which houses a very smart library.


At present, there is also a Dragon Trail around the city, which means that 120 of these brightly decorated creatures pop up in all sorts of unexpected places. They have been sponsored by various local businesses and the concept is “designed to showcase the heritage, architecture and creativity in Norwich.” It certainly adds a lot of colour!

On Thursday, I decided that as I needed a break from the city, I could miss one afternoon of Wimbledon, and took myself off to Wells-next-the-sea, which is about an hour’s drive. The enlightened lady in my phone, who occasionally deigns to work, issued directions along the way and took me along some interesting country lanes that I may not have found on my own.

On the way, I stopped at Fakenham, which, I had read, had a Thursday market that was worth visiting. I didn’t think it was particularly but maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, having driven round for a while trying to find somewhere to park. This seems to be a perennial problem in England as I took even longer in Wells-next-the-sea to find a place. It is not something I could tolerate on a long term basis. It did, however, give my phone lady something to work on as this was not on her agenda so, in addition, to country lanes, I was also treated to one or two housing estates that I certainly wouldn’t have visited otherwise!

Waterfront at Wells-next-the-sea
Waterfront at Wells-next-the-sea
Walk along the stop bank
Walk along the stop bank

Wells-next-the-sea was beautiful. It has been a while since I have been to the beach (Peru not having too many nice ones, particularly in the south and especially not in the mountains!), and I had forgotten how much I love being by the sea. The small town itself was very busy and, as mentioned, the car parks were full but once parked, I enjoyed a long walk along the stop bank out to the sea. Or, should I say, the sand for, in true British seaside fashion, the sea itself was some distance away and that was with the tide in!

There appeared to be a number of school groups visiting as well as families with pre school children, obviously taking their holidays before the main rush. I walked all the way along the bathing area, passed all the beach huts, until I reached the actual sea. Here, I sat on the dunes for a while watching the many, many dogs being walked and listening to the waves. Very restful!

The drive back took about an hour through some fairly flat farmland. The sky was still blue and the sun warm. It was a most enjoyable day.

Next stop England!

Country lane near Little Melton
Country lane near Little Melton

The last week or more has seen me travel from Cusco to Norwich, via Lima, Madrid, Gatwick, Lydney and Sherborne. I left Cusco on 26 June and flew to Madrid, where I spent half a night, before flying onto London and catching a coach to Chepstow, where I was picked up by Min. After a couple of days rest and recuperation and catching up on the lack of two nights sleep and the time difference, it was off to Bristol airport on the train/bus, so that I could hire a car to drive to Dorset and my parents. A few days there and I was off again. This time to Norwich, via Watford to visit friends, for a housesit for 13 days. Hopefully, things will be a little calmer and more relaxed now!

Unusual road sign near Little Melton
Unusual road sign near Little Melton

Norfolk is an area that I do not know at all as it is many, many years since I have visited. I am in a small village called Little Melton and I have some pot plants and one cat, Saffy, to attend to. So far, she is ignoring me and, as I write, is asleep on top of the boiler. It is obviously a comfy spot! She will soon realise, I am sure, that I am the source of the food supply and become less aloof.

The weather last week was beautiful and I could see England at its best as I travelled around. The hedgerows are full of elderflower and cow parsley and the lanes full of tractors! It was also the start of Wimbledon, so there was some excellent television viewing to be had and it was a good time to be a couch potato, television in itself being a bit of a novelty after all this time.

I can also flush the toilet paper down the toilet once again and use the tap water to brush my teeth. Surprisingly, it took me several days to stop looking for the little bin beside the toilet. Not only that but the locals understand me and I understand them! Hooray! No more struggling with a foreign language.

It does, however, seem a little tame after all that noise and colour in Peru but I have some beautiful old buildings and a vast array of goods to choose from in the supermarkets by way of compensation.

A varied roof line!
A varied roof line!

Yesterday, I attempted to visit Norwich myself, having been given a quick tour on Sunday by Amanda, Saffy’s owner. However, as soon as I parked, I realised I had left my glasses and phone in the house. I decided to return and get them but then got totally lost as Norwich has a one way system and I couldn’t find the right road out of the city. Needless to say, I rely on my phone for maps so ended up spending quite some time on some very unfamiliar roads. I had visions of desperately driving around all day in ever increasing circles. It took a while and the reassurance of a tank full of petrol (as opposed to a nearly empty one) to relax and find the way back.

After that, I thought a trip to Wymondham (pronounced in typical British fashion, Wind-um) would be easier. And it was! I had a wander around the small market town, visited the Abbey, which had major building works in progress, and then went to the supermarket where I marvelled at the choice and bought more than I really needed, just because I could!

The afternoon was spent in front of Wimbledon, once again, with occasional forays to the fridge. I may have to get myself into a routine and do some exercise soon!

My latest 'charge' sitting on the boiler
My latest ‘charge’ sitting on the boiler