First Visit – November 2013
The first time we went to Norwich, it was to visit my Dad, step mum and brother in their new house. It wasn’t recent, as they had move at least 10 months before, so we were fairly late with checking it out and visiting, but we finally had some time for a long weekend in a cold November.
We didn’t want to fly this time, and seeing as we still had access to a car we booked the Stena Lines boat from Hoek van Holland to Harwich. On the day of the sailing it was all a bit hectic! We left our house rather late and it was a lot busier than expected on route. The boat was set to depart at 13:15 and we were not yet on it!! Racing around the last roads and silly roundabouts, Lennart put his foot down to race for the boat. My phone started ringing and it was Stena Lines asking if we were going to make it or not as they willing to wait for us. I told them we were about 5 minutes away but it was more like 15! Thinking back we know it was rather dangerous, but if we weren’t speeding then we wouldn’t have made it! We got to the border security to check our passports and tickets but they waved us to go straight onto the back of the boat as there was no time, they were seriously waiting on us. There was some dodgy looks from the staff on the boat, as they were instantly raising the drive on part of the ship, but we were so grateful that they waited for us in our little car. What an exciting start we had to our long weekend away. Plus they never did check our passports or tickets.
Reaching England we were very excited! Firstly because we would be driving our little Dutch car on the left of the road, secondly because it felt like I was already home in the country I know so much about, but thirdly because within a few hours of driving from Harwich we would be parked on the driveway of my family’s new home. Seeing as we were the very last car on the ship in Holland, we ended up as the first off in England.
Arriving at my parent’s driveway and tooting the car horn, the front door was opened and I saw my dad and their new dog Murphy greet us, followed by my step mum and brother. Bringing our suitcase inside from the rain and also a box of delicious Dutch treats we brought with us, we all went through to the front room. The plan for the weekend was to catch up and enjoy each other’s company, and of course we got to check out the area they now lived in.
During the weekend we had a tour of the city centre, checking out some of the shops and grabbed some warm lunch in the main shopping centre. It wasn’t snowing but it sure was cold outside! Just like all cities, shopping on a Saturday is crazy. So many people were already shopping for their Christmas gifts and checking out the deals. It’s a very pretty city with lots of unique shops as well as the big chains.
For a walk we went to the grounds of the Blickling Hall, a beautiful stately home built in the 15th century. We didn’t visit the inside of the hall but we have since read up the history of Anne Bolyen living here and how she apparently haunts the estate since her beheading from King Henry VIII. The grounds were massive, and also welcoming for walking dogs there. The rain was only just holding off for us so we decided not to take the longest route, but a route that would end up with us back where we parked the car.
On Sunday we headed out for a walk to the beach. My dad drove us to Wells-on-Sea, in the north of Norfolk. It was cold, it was windy, but it was dry and great conditions for a winter walk along the beach. Murphy had a blast running over the sand and hiding in the small dunes. Afterwards we got back in the car and stopped by a local fish and chip shop. So delicious to dig into the warm chips covered in salt and vinegar that I hadn’t eaten in what felt like years. Mmm makes my mouth water just thinking about it! In the Netherlands it’s strange to put vinegar on your chips, and I have come accustomed to their chips with mayonnaise. It was a nice beach and little town to walk in and the sea air definitely helped us sleep well that night!
It was really lovely to spend time with them all again after such a long time. Before we left we gave the gift that we bought for my brother, a Norwich football team scarf. Since moving there he has become a local fan and has been to a few games too. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but we were looking forward to the journey home, and planned our timing better to not miss the boat back to Hoek van Holland.
“Missing someone gets easier every day because even though you are one day further from the last time you saw them, you are one day closer to the next time you will”
Second Visit – December 2014
The second time was for the Christmas period. It was a bit of a squeeze getting everyone into the front room. Both my Dad’s parents and my step mum’s parents had moved to Norwich by this time, so they were there, my step sister, her boyfriend and their dog Alfie were also visiting for Christmas from the Isle of Wight, and lastly my step mum’s brother and his fiancé were there. The house was full for Christmas & dinner.
It was such a great time to spend Christmas with all the family, sharing out gifts with each other, eating (too many!) sweets out from the typical sweet tins and drinking a new type of alcoholic beverage!
One of the best things I love is that my step mum makes the most delicious roast potatoes there can be, and I literally stuffed my face full with them when she presented them for the christmas dinner. She did amazing with cooking for 14 people!! We did it buffet style as we definitely wouldn’t of fit around the table. This really was one of those moments of gezelligheid.
During this visit we stayed at my dad’s parents house. They are renting a lovely little house with a garden since moving back from France. My grandparents haven’t given up their travelling yet though, as they are taking their camper back to France and Spain yearly.
We did some more shopping in the city centre and a few more walks around the area. My grandparents took us to Sheringham and Cromer, in the northern part of Norfolk. The sun was shining but we had our winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves ready! As soon as we opened the car doors we were hit by the cold winds coming from the sea. Our plan was to walk down the cliff hill path, towards the Cromer pier that was being battered by the waves, and back round to the car via a café for a warm drink. Many people seemed to have the same idea, as we were lucky to find a place for 4 to sit down in the warm. With hot chocolates all round we were blessed to be spending time with my grandparents.
Both places had lovely little shops full of books or antiques, locals selling jewellery and a few little cafés for a drink and a slice of cake. Check out the photo below of the height of the door from the book shop we found, my granddad just fitted but Lennart preferred to stay outside to not get knocked out or get a stiff neck. We also managed to see one of the steam trains leaving the station from Sheringham. Definitely not something you see in the Netherlands!
The couple of days flew past and we were already heading back to the airport, with thanks to my Dad and granddad for driving us. It was lovely to catch up with all the family. We are not sure when we will be back in Norwich, but we can’t wait to see all the family again at my sisters wedding on the Isle of Wight in August 2016!