Texan in Norwich


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Christmas, part III

By the time this is posted, James and I will be getting ready to head off to Texas! We’re very much looking forward to some warm weather and sunshine, seeing my family, and playing with out dog and cat! I’ll be posting some blogs about Christmas in Texas later, but for now, here’s the last of our Norwich Christmas.

Even though it’s been very cold and grey here, walking around town feels a bit special with all the lights and Christmasy storefronts. We’ve been doing a bit of Christmas shopping, in addition to all the Christmas knitting I’ve been doing. We’ve also been to a few Christmas markets, and have been drinking lots of hot drinks around town.

The Iron House

The Iron House, home of the best soy hot chocolate

The Royal Arcade

The Royal Arcade

Jarrolds

Jarrolds

The weekend before last, James and I made our way across town to the Dragon Hall Medieval Christmas Market. We’d never been to Dragon Hall before, so it was a good opportunity to see it and do some Christmas shopping at the same time! It was a very impressive building, built around 1430 as a trading hub. The market was a fun mix of slightly sinister medieval gifts (daggers for Christmas, anyone?) and sweet homemade decorations and gifts. Many of the sellers were dressed up in medieval costumes, so that was also fun.

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The unassuming outside of Dragon Hall

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Part of the market from the courtyard

Dragon Hall

Upstairs

Gingerbread Man

The only thing we ended up buying…

James and I also went to the Christmas Clutter City Market, and this nice one at the Forum, complete with school band.

Forum

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Well, that’s it from England! See you in Texas!


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Christmas in Norwich, part I

It’s Christmas time! And I love Christmas time. James and I put our mini tree up and flat decorations about a month ago because tomorrow we’re leaving for Texas! We wanted to be sure to eek out as much Christmas from Norwich as we could before we left for the entirely different Christmas experience that awaits us. I think we did a pretty good job.

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Here’s some of our flat decorations!

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And my favorites, the snowmen:

Snowmen!

More Christmas posts are on their way!


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Sunny Sheringham

Early September, before the weather got too cold, James and I took a trip to Sheringham on the Norfolk coast. In my time at UEA, I didn’t make it to the coast and this was one of my many regrets. So we woke up early one sunny Friday morning and hopped on the train to wipe away this regret!

I had been to Bournemouth during a high school band exchange, but this was my only previous experience of British seaside. It’s quite a unique thing. It was so kitschy and so colorful. For a coastline that probably never has waters warm enough to enjoy swimming, Sheringham really manages to make the most out of the fact that it is on the sea. It was full of kitschy little shops filled with painted wooden lighthouses and “Gone fishing” signs. Unlike the Texas coastal towns, however, it all seemed so clean and quaint. It was a busy town, but relaxed. People seemed to come to Sheringham to look at the ocean, go on walks, and mostly eat ice cream rather than get drunk and wear tiny bikinis, as is usually the case on the Texas coastline. It’s also home to a heritage steam railway line and a museum that celebrates its lifeboating, fishing, and coastal history.

I was blown away by these little huts below. James informs me that people own/rent them and keep all their seaside equipment in them. From the ones we saw that were open, ‘seaside equipment’ can range from kayaks and surf boards to kettles and kitchenettes. They are adorable in any case.

James and I walked all through the tiny town and had an absolutely delicious lunch at a pub called The Windham Arms. As you can see, I cheated on my food allergies, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I mean, look at how delicious that looks!

We spent the rest of the day walking along the coast. Sheringham has a really lovely coastline that seems to go on forever. The summer was starting to end so there weren’t many people at the beach, and we had a nice long stretch all to ourselves. We also discovered that if you toss the small rocks on the beach against the other rocks, they’ll endlessly bounce around off each other, and make a very pleasing clinking sound. We did this (I should say I did this) for at least an hour.

Channeling his childhood vacations, James did not want to come out of the freezing water.

But in the end, he had to and we had to return to Norwich. It was a really nice little day trip. We don’t have a car, so we are limited in the places we can visit around Norfolk, but Sheringham did the job splendidly.


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Cold Night at Carrow Road

Last night marked the first time I had to wear gloves this fall. Major winter 2012 milestone. James and I went to watch the England Under-21s play Serbia at Norwich City’s ground, Carrow Road, and it was almost unbearably cold for an expat Texan. It doesn’t get this cold at home until December! Waaaaaah!

We’d been to watch Norwich City once last March before I moved in and had a great time, so we thought for 10 pounds a ticket, why not?! We put off buying tickets in the belief that it wouldn’t be that popular of a match, but we were wrong. It was nearly sold out, except for the balconies which they didn’t sell tickets for anyways. We ended up behind the goal, but in a stadium as compact as Carrow Road, there really isn’t a bad seat.

Now let me take a minute here to explain something. I’m quite into football. I have a fantasy team (#3 in our league at the moment and in the top 13% overall, thank you very much), and when I was at home sick the last two years, I would generally watch 4 or 5 Premier League games a weekend, then probably 2 or 3 Champions League games during the week. Sometimes even a Europa League match would sneak in. This does not mean, however, that I claim to know much about the game. I’m from the United States, remember. I can’t go around pretending to know about soccer. I pay attention to what is going on with the current teams and players, and follow Liverpool. I do enjoy watching pretty much any team (with the possible exception of Stoke), but I am woefully lacking in knowledge of tactics, positions, and history. This is because I don’t care about those things. It’s a sport, and I like to watch it.
*Disclaimer: I try to use the words “soccer” and “football” correctly depending on who I’m talking to, but that’s quite difficult with a blog. Assume either way I’m talking about soccer. If I’m talking about American football, which is unlikely, I’ll say “American football.”

So back to Carrow Road! Talking about stands, I did notice that there is a definite demographic associated with different areas. This is probably obvious to all British football fans, but I’m new here! At the Norwich game in March, in the Jarrold stand, we were surrounded by older gentlemen and families with young kids.

Last night, in the Barclay, it was almost entirely teenage and 20-something males. It didn’t really make a difference in atmosphere at an England U21s match though, as the passion for the team wasn’t exactly overflowing (i.e. we didn’t have to stand the whole time). We were subjected to 15min of the wave, but it did generate some much appreciated heat.

All in all, it was a fun, cold, and good-natured atmosphere accompanied by a mediocre at best football match. England ended up winning 1-0 with a penalty. It was taken at our goal, so that was fun, but otherwise it was kind of a dull game. James described it as, “Exactly what you would expect from England.”

Being Liverpool fans, it was fun seeing Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson. Sterling was really exciting to watch, and it was good to see Henderson actually playing well. Who knew?

I also enjoyed this little boy waving his England flag at half time.

My favorite moment came, however, when the 20 year old next to me got out his smart phone and showed a picture of his “gorilla surrounded by leaves” tattoo to his friend and pointed out all the improvements he plans to make to it in the coming weeks, like making the ears bigger. His tattoo guy will make adjustments to it for free! Score!


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Rainbow Wholefoods

When I was in Texas, I relied heavily on the Sprouts in Southlake. Sprouts is a grocery store which emphasizes health. They stock all the normal grocery store goods, like fruits, vegetables, meat, cereals, etc, but focuses on the organic and natural. They sell vitamins and supplements, and also have a wide array of gluten and dairy alternatives. I could find any kind of gluten-free flour I could wish there, as well as dairy free chocolate chips, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and so on. It was the best. My favorite. And it was half way between my house and my doctor’s office, which made it seem even more magical.

I haven’t found anything quite like the one-stop shop Sprouts here, but the closest I’ve come is Rainbow Wholefoods. It’s like Holland and Barrett with more food and without all the confusion. Rainbow is a lovely little store in the amusingly named Labour In Vain Yard, up the hill from Tesco’s. 

This is where I go for my cereal, baking ingredients, snacks, and the occasional tub of Booja Booja ice cream. The staff is friendly and they remember me when I come in. (Although I am slightly filled with jealousy towards them as I unsuccessfully applied for a job there a few months ago…) All of their products are organic, vegetarian, and GM-free. They don’t have the same array of gluten free flours that Sprouts does, but I can usually just about manage with what they do have. The staff are willing to order new products if I ask them to, as long as I can find a UK supplier.

I think the main difference is what I’m used to isn’t as common here in the UK. Being allergic to potato, I rely on other starches like tapioca, which just seems impossible to find here in stores. I have to order tapioca starch from websites such as healthysupplies.co.uk. It also seems impossible to find almond flour. Ground almonds is quite common, but it doesn’t work in my recipes for almond flour. It is too heavy and adds too much moisture. Frustration!

While Sprouts was great for allergy-free alternatives, Rainbow Wholefoods is great for those looking for vegetarian and vegan alternatives. There is even a vegan restaurant above the store. I am not a vegetarian or vegan (except in baking due to my egg and milk allergy) because I am allergic to so many vegetables, but I do love Rainbow.


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Birthday cake from Biddy’s!

One of the drags of having so many food sensitivities is having to make your own birthday cake. It takes a bit of the magic out of it, and once you have made it, no one else seems to want to share it because no one else really likes gluten free/vegan cakes compared to regular ones. This year I was going to make brownies for my birthday, because they are easier and I was feeling lazy. A few days before, I went to the grocery store to get cocoa and apple sauce and all I found instead was this:  Get it together Britain.
Resigned to no birthday treat this year, I started home. On my way I passed Biddy’s Tea Room on Lower Goat Lane, a lovely vintage shop for afternoon tea and cakes.

On a whim, I stopped in to see if they made gluten free and vegan cakes. I was greeted by Charlie, who immediately offered to create a cake catered to my many food allergies for my birthday. I went home, emailed her my allergy list, and two days later returned to Biddy’s to pick up my cake. Charlie and Amy were there to wish me a happy birthday and gave me my cake for free! It wasn’t just a gluten-free/vegan cake, it was also vanilla free, lemon free, and free of many other things that tend to appear in cakes. They went to the trouble of making a new recipe just for me, then gave it to me for free. It was a wonderful birthday present. And quite delicious!!!