Sunday, 27 January 2013

Café Crawling

A snowy view from House

I have quite a few passions/addictions, and another that’s pretty high up there is tea! I currently have 15 varieties in my cupboard, each of which is had on particular occasions and has a very special purpose, but every day has to start with a rather large mug of Earl Grey (I’m not only in love but a bit of a snob).

This week and weekend, I’ve finally made it back to a few of my favourite Norwich haunts. Forget bar crawling, this city is best for a good old café crawl (although many of my favourite places for tea do also serve as bars in the evenings and late into the night)!

My return began with a visit to the Bicycle Shop. Usually visits to the Bicycle Shop involve masses of tapas, the perfect accompaniment to any drinking. I particularly love the ambience in the Bicycle Shop, emphasised by the beautiful decor and the way that the whole place is candle-lit of an evening. The candles have often resulted in being sat in pitch black by the end of the night as they go out and no one seems to notice (either because too much alcohol has been consumed or, I like to think, because company is just so stimulating and we’re all having such a nice time). The Bicycle Shop serves the nicest Moroccan Green tea. A bag all the way from Morocco when I visited at Easter sits in my cupboard, but I’m ashamed to admit that it’s not quite the same as a tea bag. Perhaps one of the most important things for me when drinking tea however, is what it comes in. The Bicycle Shop definitely has the best selection of China which is always mix-and-match and provides me with far too much entertainment (and the person I’m with far too much embarrassment as I spill tea in an attempt to see the bottom of the cup)!

The following day I visited House, another of my favourites on St Benedict’s Street and another with a very pretty selection of China. House is a vintage café and yet another place to get a great fish finger sandwich or a CRUMPET, and anywhere that serves a crumpet is fine by me! I had a slice of rose baklava to accompany my tea this time which was very, very tasty! They even used to have an Etch-a-Sketch to play with which is probably what used to get me back quite so often although sadly it seems to have disappeared. Nevertheless, the ridiculously comfy sofa positioned right in the window is ideal for people-watching – and for being people-watched back – instead and because they serve loose tea they’re happy to create blends which is always exciting. Lovely spot for a proper catch up!

Yesterday I headed to Strangers Coffee House in Pottergate. When I was working in Norwich this used to be my regular sandwich stop (not that I should admit that what with working in food somewhere else) because they do some really unusual but very tasty fillings. Even though it’s quite a small café and an empty table is rare, I love the location of Strangers because it’s right next to St Gregory’s Green and a rather handy wall to perch on at any time of year (I got a very wet bottom inadvertently sitting on a patch of melted snow yesterday). In the summer their iced tea is particularly yummy!

Today I experienced breakfast at Frank’s Bar on Bedford Street for the first time. Frank’s is somewhere frequented by me just as often for a celebratory beverage (or several) as for a cup of tea. The menu has always been an endless list of wines, beers, and spirits, making for some very experimental drinking. However today we were greeted by an actual cocktail menu; return visit is obligatory! Frank’s is table service which always feels rather decadent, and they serve London Tea Company tea, whose packaging always gives you the full run-down of what the tea is best for (it’s the little things). My favourite is chamomile and lavender which is always perfect after a long day of shopping, its soporific effect leaving a snoozy Laura in the corner. Again the accompanying bread and oils make for good absorption of any drink and while there may not be an Etch-a-Sketch, there is Shut The Box and Rummikub, and apparently their Full English breakfast is also extremely satisfactory (can’t believe I’ve gone this long without trying it)!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A rather wintry week

It’s been a rather wintry week consisting of a whole lot of cosy nothingness. But you’ll be pleased to know that nothing holds me back from a good ramble!

My favourite thing about this time of year (as irritating as it is) is the way the sun makes no appearance all day, then as soon as it sets, the clouds clear and the most stunning sunsets appear. I’ve been at home for the week on yet another school placement, and the view of sunsets from my bedroom window takes some beating. Of course upon my return home, we headed straight to the beach where we were greeted by yet more beautiful skies. I really can never believe how much the landscape has changed since I was a little whipper snapper racing around the rock pools and not playing ‘too close to the cliffs’. We thought we’d walk along from New to Old Hunstanton for a change, but there was literally no sand left so we ended up clambering across endless rocks in the most undignified manner (mother with her large mustard handbag, quite a sight)!

The evening before I was met straight from the bus and whisked off in the back of the car to a family friend’s house. The family friend in question has always been like another grandparent to my brother and me and she lives in the Fens in the middle of the sticks. I have many happy childhood memories there; having picnics in the motor home and driving a tractor around the garden with my brother in a handmade trailer on the back are a couple of favourites! She’s a little eccentric so nowadays visits are like going back in time as nothing has changed. I love the fact that we still have exactly the same tea every time we visit; the savoury course with bread and butter, salmon, a handful of crisps, salad (loosely) and the same M&S tomato pasta salad, then the sweet course with the lemon meringue pie, the torte and a fruit cake, followed by the other sweet course with the Battenberg, caramel chocolate bars, and French Fancies. Tea followed by a game of Scrabble Cards or Rummikub and forever keeping a close guard on feet in case the cat decides to play with them, what a treat!

Other highlights of my week include a trip to Norwich Arts Centre in torrential snow to see Daughter supported by Lay Low. The bus journey was like being on a 3D ride at a funfair as the snow pummelled the windscreen – scary! Of course they didn’t disappoint, I’m now even more excited for the album. Was very surreal though, had to wear my wellies due to my lack of appropriate footwear for the weather conditions, and the audience was the most attentive audience I have ever experienced at a gig – apparently I’m not the only person whose love for Elena stuns me into silence (she did in fact promise her hand in marriage to the entire audience). Tuesday I met up with old friends, which is always so much fun. I say old friends but we do see each other periodically, just very rarely as a three so it was quite special. There was lots of food, laughing, inappropriateness and drinking soft drinks... showing our age we wonder? Then it was Little Bro’s birthday this week, so we had Chinese and watched Fawlty Towers with his friend who raids our fruit bowl like he’s part of the family... Present from me this year was a rather large supply of Percy Pigs. Best sister award? 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Courgetti Bolognaise

Was expecting to be sat in Biddy’s Tearoom today, surrounded by cake and thinking about how much more I love cake than healthy eating and exercise but then a strange thing happened... I found myself instead buying a ‘Berry Good’ at Finnie’s Juice Bar next door. Juice! Juice? Me, the person who would frequently claim that I don’t even like the stuff! Have to admit though, it was good – raspberries, apple and pineapple (instead of the white grape which they didn’t have, resulting in reduced price juice, even better!), yum. Anyway, stop being so lazy seems to have inspired me to be more adventurous with food, which in the grand scheme of things (or rather in the three days since the wave of inspiration occurred) seems to be along the lines of eating more healthy food too!

I’m not aiming in the direction of anything resembling a diet or any massively intense exercise regime; I’m just trying to release lots of endorphins to keep stress at bay. So following my ‘Courgetti Bolognaise’ inspired by Hemsley and Hemsley - it’s all so pretty!

yesterday evening, which was actually equally as tasty if not more so than the traditional Spag Bol, I headed to the gym for the first time this year.

The gym is a scary place for me. There are all these keen people in actual gym clothes – instead of Matalan leggings, a H&M strap top and an actual bra – who actually know what to do with all the different sized balls – which I think just look like a LOT of fun – doing their exercises on the mats and watching themselves lift tiny weights in the mirrors to ‘perfect technique’. Then I roll up, hair all sticking about in strange directions (I hadn’t considered that it would no longer go into a neat little ponytail) and just pray that I don’t bump into anyone I know so that I won’t be seen struggling with the machines – not the working out you understand, just making them work in the first place! I just always find adjusting things so tricky. I’m quite small so when I’m on a bike I sliiiide the seat all the way down to as low as it can possibly be, and it’s only when I’m already 5 minutes into my cycling that I realise my knees are actually slightly bent and I’m probably doing myself more harm than good but I don’t want to stop to adjust the seat again because anyone that spots me will think I’m taking a break from exercise. So instead, I have to attempt to raise myself slightly, still pedalling and adjust the seat mid cycle. It just doesn’t work. Scary as it is, I find myself going back for entertainment purposes more than anything, although I must admit I do actually quite enjoy pretending I can row and apparently I also enjoy juice and other forms of healthy eating? But ‘shh’, don’t tell anyone!

Sunday, 6 January 2013


Oddly enough, when I visited UEA before I started applying to universities, I was convinced I wouldn’t be attending because it was just too grey and dull. Four years later I’m still here and still loving the campus, even if it is dull and grey. I dread to think how many people I have forced into going ‘for a wander’ with me in the past come rain or shine, snow or thick fog, and yet the novelty still hasn’t worn off. Of course home has the beach which will always triumph, but the wonderful thing about Norwich is how the lake, the river, things in fields and so, so many rabbits are within walking distance. The hill, the back of the Village, Eaton Park, the walled garden at the law school in Earlham park, the bluebell woods, the horse and donkey sanctuary, just a few favourite haunts. I always feel a little silly wearing my wellies en route to walking destinations because of course I do live in a city (admittedly a city in Norfolk). However I can always be secure in the knowledge that where I’m going, there will be mud!

Today the winter caught me out. I still don’t think I’ve quite grasped just how early it gets dark, so at half 3 (bearing in mind sunset was due to be at 5 to 4), iPod at the ready, I decided to venture out! – The Burgh Island EP was the soundtrack today, it really is too lovely.

Thick fog meant it was already feeling pretty dark by the time I left (although in true British style I must comment on how mild it was for the time of year!) and I admit I got a bit wimpish and chickened out of venturing too far (plus I wasn’t actually equipped with wellies for any muddy encounters). Instead, a circular wander in the direction of campus – destination: cash-machine-with-the-ability-to-produce-a-statement-in-the-hope-that-it-would-tell-me-I-had-money (how very exciting). It did not.  The problem with making New Year’s resolutions before the New Year is that you think you’ve got a neat little achievable list, and then you add to it. Because I’ve decided that I definitely need to get back into my wandering – somewhere along the road that was third year I lost any form of energy that would get me further than downstairs to the kettle and back up again with cup of tea in hand – but then I suppose this one can come under ‘Stop being so lazy!’? I must confess that wandering alone is not quite as satisfying as wandering with poor, unsuspecting friends. Nevertheless I would hate to waste the opportunity, especially when Ben Howard is playing in my ears, and the ‘countryside’ really is, right on my doorstep.