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, part II

One of the biggest regrets I had from UEA two years ago was not getting to take part in any of the Christmas events in Norwich. I saw advertisements for the Christmas Lights Switch-On and knew I wouldn’t make it standing in the cold in the evening, however much I wanted to. This year I was determined to go. With promises of fireworks, carolers, night markets, and entertainers, how could it not be a fun? It was all very sweet and silly, and I loved it. Norwich is beautiful at Christmas time.

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Carols at City Hall

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Lifesize Snowglobe!

Night market

Night Market– everything smelled soooo good

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When the lights came on!

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Fireworks!

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Fireworks from the top of Jarrolds

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Lights on at the Market

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Jarrolds looking beautiful


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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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Norwich Markets

One of my favorite things about Norwich is the amount of creative people that live here. You can take classes for any type of art or activity (like knitting, which I am doing!), and the city center is full of art supplies stores and independent shops. There are also so many markets.

I love markets. At home we have a small farmers market and a couple of seasonal flea markets, but nothing like the ones that have come through Norwich. Nearly every Saturday there is some kind of market at the Forum, and there have been many coming through the church halls around where we live. I’ve been to a market for charity Christmas cards, vintage jewelry, hand made baskets, local produce, sausages (proof of this is below), and more.

My favorites so far have been the Clutter City Market at the Norwich Arts Centre (in an old church), and the monthly flea market at St Andrews’s and Blackfriars Halls (also an old church, a theme I will return to in a later post).

Clutter City Market

The Clutter City Market was full of handmade objects. Toys, jewelry, clothes, home decorations, art work, and so much more, all hand made by the people running the stalls. It was engrossing and inspiring. I didn’t take many pictures because it was quite crowded, but hopefully you can tell from the photo what a lovely experience it was.

For more information and photos, please check out the official Clutter City blog on the event. The market is coming back in December, and I can’t wait!

Another market we went to recently was the Norwich Original Flea Market at St Andrews’s and Blackfriars Hall.

St Andrews Hall

This market has been held once a month here for 37 years. It is 100 stalls of strange and interesting antique and vintage objects in a very impressive setting. It cost 1 pound to go in, but this month the flea market was raising money for Cancer Research charity. My guess is that every month the entrance fee goes to support a charity, but I can’t find anything that confirms this.

James and I are not big antique people, but I love looking at peoples’ old things. I love old post cards, old games, photos, newspapers, brochures, the weirder the better. Being someone who has a hard time throwing things away, I find it very interesting to see what other people find important enough to keep through the years. There was plenty of this at the market, in addition to the expected antique furniture, lamps, jewelry, and vintage clothes. One of my favorite stalls was simply thousands of postcards from all around Norfolk, lovingly organized into categories (like “churches” and “windmills”) as well as geographical locations.

James and I considered purchasing this game, but realized we didn’t actually have any money with us. We loved how dressed up the characters on the box are. Betting on imaginary football matches is a classy affair.

It was really a lot of fun, and we are looking forward to the one in November!


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Seize the David O’Doherty! (Carpe D.O’Diem)

Two years ago, in my tiny room at the University of East Anglia, on freeview software downloaded to my computer, I saw an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks hosted by David O’Doherty. I’d never heard of him before, but he was doing the show like Shakira was supposed to be the host and he’d filled in for her at the last minute. The whole thing was very, very silly and I loved it. After it ended, I checked out his website (http://www.davidodoherty.com/) and loved that too. Here was an Irish man in a shark costume, writing books about panda facts, and a quick glance at youtube told me he is rarely found on stage without a tiny plastic children’s keyboard. What is there not to love?!

Today I am the proud owner of not only his book of panda facts, but also the newer one of shark facts. I recently bought his two most recent cds (paid for them and everything), and last night as the last part of my birthday present, James took me to see him at the Norwich Playhouse.

By the way, this is my favorite panda fact:

The Norwich Playhouse is a lovely little theater on the charming St George’s Street. It’s a small, quirky place and the attached bar is my favorite beer garden I’ve been to in this city yet. It’s right on the river and decorated in a way that would make Austinites feel at home. This bar will be the subject of another post, so I’ll move along.

I’ve only been to one other comedy gig before. My sister took me to see Craig Ferguson last spring and that night is etched in my mind for a lot of reasons. For one, I love Craig Ferguson and he was hilarious. For another, it was in Bass Hall in Fort Worth, which is more suited to seeing symphonies while dressed in fancy clothes than a foul-mouthed Scotsman and a dancing leprechaun. The fanciness of the location and the height of our seats in the balcony added an extra layer of surreality to my memory of the evening that is entirely unnecessary. It was always going to be a surreal memory because the afternoon of the show I had returned from Norwich. I was very jet lagged and tired and suddenly was sitting in a seat where a steep drop to my death was just a wobbly step away. Another layer of intrigue was added when I got home late after the show, completely unaware of what time it was or even where I was. It was one of those times when I was too tired to even go to bed, so I dropped onto the sofa, turned the tv on, and was greeted by 45min of news stations going nuts about something the president was going to announce. In a daze I watched Obama announce that bin Laden was dead. When I did go to bed late that night, the whole day felt like an elaborate dream. The long obnoxious flight from England, jet lag, a fancy theater, the altitude sickness-inducing seats, Craig dancing, leprechauns, someone dressed as a pirate with a chest full of gold, and bin Laden’s dead. The show was a hilarious and fun time with my sister, but I was hoping David O’Doherty’s would be slightly less confusing.

As James and I were walking down sleepy Colegate to the theater, we again were struck by how lucky we are to be living here. A five minute walk through a lovely village street takes us from our flat to a wonderful theater to see one of our favorite comedians. It felt like David O’Doherty was doing a show in our backyard.

Norwich Playhouse

We took our seats and waited for the comedy onslaught.

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He didn’t disappoint. David O’Doherty describes his comedy style as “very low energy musical whimsy” and that’s exactly what it was. The show was gentle, silly comedy performed in a charming, musical and whimsical way. Much of the night was about topics that are quite depressing, like a breakup, the recession, and mice infestations, but he managed to turn them into hilarious, sweet, and light-hearted comedy. He’s immensely likeable and seemed to be enjoying himself, never trying too hard or taking himself too seriously. Feeding off of that, the whole theater was filled with warm, lovely, positive feelings. One of the best moments came when he got out a tiny Cosmopolitan magazine insert about Women’s 1000 all time best sex tips and began to read/sing its contents. It contained tips like “Eat raw mushrooms because they smell like sex” and other similar ridiculous things that Cosmo is known for printing.

The show ended with the crowd-pleasing My Beefs 2012 and then David hung out in the lobby taking pictures with the audience for a while. He was a lot of fun and very friendly, proposing different amusing scenarios for each picture. I had him sign my panda book, then we took a couple of photos.

Being presented 100 Facts About Pandas

Yay! We are celebrating something!

I was impressed that he not only took pictures and talked with everyone, but that he seemed to be enjoying taking pictures and talking to everyone. The show was sold out so he’s coming back to the Playhouse on October 29th. If you’re in Norwich, you better go see it!


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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.