Norwich, county town of Norfolk in the United Kingdom. It used to be notable for a chocolate factory, which is long gone, and soon to be redeveloped. The floating aroma, such as I remember it, was pleasant.
But I digress. Here, in inverse order of importance, the ever-so-slightly scattergun guide to Norwich.
Coffee and food
It took a while for Norwich to discover cafe culture, but the scrabble for some sort of cosmopolitan atmosphere, now established, continues apace - in the manner you'd expect of a provincial market city. Star*ucks obviously see Norwich as key to their empire-building stategy, for they've built two outlets within one minutes walk of each other. Genius. Suprisingly close to a fairly nice non-chain sandwich bar as well. Also be warned that the coffee from the outlet on Gentleman's Walk is more often than not foul. Suggestions for avoiding them include:
- Togo's (down a side street off Gentleman's Walk) for tasty but expensive sandwiches, fairly tasty cheap coffee and being treated like dirt by the woman who runs it. You can't have it all.
- The Costa a couple of doors down for okayish coffee.
- Caffe Nero also on Gentleman's Walk lays claim to the accolade of "best espresso outside of Italy". I'd say this is perhaps an exaggeration, but they are tolerable (if expensive) and open late.
- Cafe Java near the old bus station, serving very good sandwiches and fresh soup with good coffee.
Norwich now has a disproportionate number of cinemas for the comparitively modest size of the town. I'm not complaining, you understand (although it would be nice if they didn't all show the same film). On top of the existing scummy Odeon multiplex on the scummy Anglia Square shopping centre, and an ABC cinema on the Price of Wales Road, two new cinemas have been built. A huge UCI multiplex with 14 screens on the new Riverside development (which is shaping up to be very nice indeed). Also, the altogether less impressive (but hilariously named) Ster Century in the Castle Mall in the centre of town. Much better territory is Cinema City, a tiny and fabulous independent cinema in an old theatre, showing mainly arthouse films and old classics.
The usual complement of shops, including Virgin Megastore and HMV as well as a few reasonable independent shops for vinyl junkies (try the little streets near the market). Live music is supplied chiefly at the Waterfront venue and the UEA LCR. There was a fatal stabbing that raised questions as to the competence of security. Still, it's not as bad as all that, and Norwich attracts a fair number of smaller bands on UK tours.
Finally, a new library was opened a year or two ago in the centre of town, on the site of the old one which burned down overnight in August 1994. It's been named The Forum, presumably in some vain attempt to lend the place some gravitas. It is nonetheless quite impressive, especially at night with its big dome lit up.
Trains are always late, often cancelled, although anyone who has had to rely on the British railway system at any point is likely familiar with this. Semi-regular trains to London via Ipswich, Lowestoft, various anonymous Norfolk towns and, from September 2002, a direct service to Cambridge.
The local team are Norwich City, or the Canaries. I'll leave it to someone better informed to fill in the details, but essentially they were excellent (even beating then-kings of Europe Bayern Munich in the European Cup) until the local villain decided to tighten his sweaty grip on them, sold off all the good players prompting about a rapid and terribly sad fall from grace, for those who care about such things. They have just been promoted, though, so smiles all round.
Essentially a nice place. Could, I suppose, be accused of being a little dull - but generally fun and good for shopping. Things are looking up with several new and planned developments, although the city planners seem to lack any real vision as to what direction Norwich should be headed in.