The Catholic Lady’s guide to Norwich

The General Election took its toll on me. For days the first thing that people told me as soon as they saw me was: “I’m sorry”. Luckily for me, I had booked a cheap train ticket to see my friend Tamsin in Norwich just after the election. In fact the social calendar for me was: Blessed is She brunch I hosted, my friend Caroline’s hen do, Norwich and TRG conference + a night out that saw the biggest snob of all times set foot in Players (still not a fan).

The most interesting fact about Norwich after the fact my friend Tamsin is from there is that it’s a little lovely Medieval city. As such it has a lot of churches, a Cathedral, a Guildhall and names like the City of London. If you have spent as much time as me (or worse, my tutor) learning about guilds then you’d be quite excited by that prospect. We started the day walking from the station towards the Cathedral, and passing by a delightful All-Bar-One and a really intriguing bar called Mr Postles’ Apothecary, where we ended our day before my 9pm train. From then onwards it’s all very Instagrammable.

Our first visit was the Cathedral, which is obviously an original Medieval building with interesting tombs including that of Edith Cavell in the back yard. One thing I have noticed, other than a courtyard that reminds me more of Florence than any churches I’ve ever seen in Britain, is that all churches have at least a small collection of metalworks on show, like miniature V&As. In the Cathedral in particular it’s hold where it used to be that they put the Blessed Sacrament during Mass in the Middle Ages, and has a few plates from the 17th century with Latin inscriptions that gave rise to the speculation of where papists hid in the most Protestant part of the country. Most of the churches are in a Medieval style, including the Gothic Revival RC cathedral by George Gilbert Scott, except for the Willow Lane chapel, which was the Jesuit chapel built at the emancipation of Catholics despite the fact it was built in a known non-conformist style. A very interesting building is the one hosting the Islamic Centre, which looks also like it used to be a non-conformist meeting place.

The best bit of Georgian goodness is of course the Assembly House, but alas we did not stop for afternoon tea. Having stuffed ourselves with crisps at the oldest alehouse (Adam and Eve by the river) ice-cream, and a huge cup of shaved ice that ended up in my water bottle which was by that point boiling, we opted for a late lunch/early dinner at Jamie’s Italian with a free bottle of decent wine courtesy of my very expensive monthly bill with O2. It was my first time eating at one of his restaurants, and the name did not disappoint. It is definitely Jamie’s idea of what’s Italian, with a vague connection to what Italian food really is like. It is nicely decorated, although very casual, and the chairs were comfortable enough for some rest after walking around a lot. It’s also situated in the Arcade, which reminds me of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, but smaller. So that kinda adds bit of authenticity to the Italian feel, at least if you’ve ever been to Milan. Otherwise it just looks like a nice art déco feature.

The arcade spreads from the market, which looks like a group of seaside houses but selling things you’d find in Camden probably for 1/4 of the price, to the castle, which we did not visit due to time constraints. We spent way too long trying to work out the location of Edith Cavell’s tomb, assuming it would be near the exhibition of paintings about her life in the format of the stations of the Cross, which was accompanied by a guide with her biography and prayers and I find really lovely because it makes a powerful point of when Our Lord said we should take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Far from exalting her (although she was obviously really brave), the selection of paintings highlights her life in relation to Christ, including by featuring Thomas a Kempis’ Imitatio Christi. Her faith was at the heart of why she did what she did, and so her life is a reflection of God’s love for us, so I really don’t find it sacrilegious or anything. The tomb was indeed where the exhibition was just, err, outside of the church.

Just because I’m not as holy as it sounds, we spent a great deal of time that afternoon in Debenhams thinking about my outfit for the wedding of the year. ALL THE SHOES. But that’s a subject for another time. We ended our day, as I said, at the Apothecary, having a really interesting cocktails (mine was a Ruby Voyage) with 2 for 1 price. For already cheap cocktails. Because, as all annoying Londoners do, the first thing you ever say when you get out of the M25 is “Oh my word, everything is so cheap“. You know you’re annoying everyone by doing it, but at the same time you feel like you have to uphold the good old traditions. Because if nobody upholds traditions, especially blond young Tory women, then where will we end up?

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