NY is one of the people I was closest with when I spent a summer at the Weizmann Insitute in 1999. She's been incredibly good at keeping in touch, a much better correspondent than I am. Anyway, her most recent email a few weeks ago let me know that she's moved to Norwich to do a postdoc. So I made some plans to go and visit her while we're in the same country. And this lead to a really lovely weekend!
I took the train to Cambridge on Thursday evening; the journey was long and boring but otherwise slightly less uncomfortable than some of the other means of transport to SE England I've tried. We missed the far too early train on Friday morning but happily my lovely mother gave us a lift to Cambridge station so we could make our connection.
Norwich castle swallowed up the whole of Friday morning, as it contains several large and interesting museums. We also had a 'guided tour' consisting of the guide pointing out the town landmarks visible from the castle battlements. The castle is extremely well presented, lively and interesting without being tacky. Anyway we were having such fun that we were reluctant to drag ourselves away in time to get lunch and join the boat trip we'd planned for the afternoon.
Said boat trip was enjoyably relaxing. We went out into Norfolk and soaked up the uniquely Broads landscape. I can't get very excited about a landscape that is entirely flat, I think the main interest of the Broads as an area is not so much visual as the rare plant and animal species found there. We did see some birds, lots of grebes and a few herons, [Addendum 24.8.04] and a kingfisher and learned a bit about the history of the area. I was disappointed that we weren't able to go ashore at all but of course it's all nature reserves.
Got soaked by a sudden thunderstorm on our way back to the B&B where we were staying, but hey. And then we met up with NY as planned and yay, so cool to see her again and introduce her to lethargic_man. We ended up eating in a slightly random restaurant where they have the gimmick of serving waffles instead of normal carbohydrate accompaniments. But waffles are nice and the place had a pleasant enough atmosphere. Very, very, very good conversation though.
We'd tried to investigate in advance whether there was any Jewish community in Norwich, and had come up with a street address and a vague rumour that the community was pretty dormant. On the off-chance, we went to the address at what seemed like a reasonable time for a service. And I'm very glad we did because the Jewish community there is in fact active (though small), and were very welcoming. Was a lovely service in lots of ways.
And then an afternoon of mammoth walking round Norwich being extremely ineffective tourists. Ineffective because all the interesting buildings either required us to pay for entry, or were churches which contained dead people that lethargic_man has to avoid for religious purity reasons. So we basically didn't go inside anything. However, we did appreciate that Norwich is an exceptionally pretty town, with an unusually high concentration of surviving Mediaeval buildings, plus some rather unusual and attractive architecture from the late 19th to early 20th century, a period I'm particularly fond of. And there's a lot of flint, since this is the locally available building material, and one I find very attractive.
I'm glad we made it to Norwich, but the company was definitely the best aspect of the weekend. doseybat as well as NY joined us for the afternoon. doseybat brought her friend fatdog along, though he didn't seem to be in a very sociable mood. Anyway, I don't see nearly enough of doseybat, and one afternoon wasn't really enough to make up for this entirely, but it was still very very good to see her. And NY is ever such fun company. She kept making incisive observations about how my speech habits have changed in the five years since she last saw me, and speculating how much of it was due to living in Scotland and how much due to lethargic_man. And she joined in enthusiastically with the two of us babbling about random topics the way we do.
We rounded the day off with dinner in a very standard commercial Italian restaurant, the sort of place that loreid would no doubt despise, but they served us tasty food even if it wasn't very authentic. lethargic_man and I, even combined, were defeated by the scale of the dessert, which contained lots of yummy things like icecream and whipped cream and chocolate brownies, but just in too large quantities to be manageable after a fairly big main course. (NY didn't help us, cos she doesn't like icecream; someone as generally lovely as she is is entitled to the occasional slight lapse of taste.)
Sunday we had lunch chez my parents back in Cambridge. It was a bit rushed since we got in at half past 12 and I had to catch a train at quarter to 3. But at least I spent a bit of time with my parents while I was in the area, rather than just using their house as a place to sleep on Thursday night! Maman is a bit stressed about various things just now, so she wasn't at her best. But at least Granny seems to have overcome (or, sadly, forgotten entirely) her former irrational prejudice against lethargic_man and in fact was delightfully sociable.
There weren't any siblings around; Screwy is obviously working, and P'tite Soeur was in France for the wedding of some friends of hers. Thuggish Poet, however, texted me on Thursday evening when I was halfway to Cambridge saying he was in Edinburgh and did I fancy meeting up. *sigh* Anyway, we cleared this up and I managed to spend an hour or so with him (and his girlfriend and K 'Nellie' W whom I know from school) on the way back, since I had a long change in Edinburgh.
I'm finding it harder than usual to resist the temptation to be soppy about lethargic_man; he was being very lovely to me this weekend, and generally we're growing together to quite an amazing extent.
Anyway, if you want a properly detailed account with pictures and discussions of the town history, go and read lethargic_man's version.