November in Norwich
November is where Christmas begins…
We’ve lots of local food and drink, bricks and mortar shopping and seasonal experiences to enjoy this month
says Melanie Cook of www.VisitNorwich.co.uk
In 2020 and 2021 we navigated Christmas with Covid-19 restrictions, who would have guessed we would face a third in still difficult times? Yet, this Christmas could be the first in three years where we gather together more than ever.
With us all affected by higher food and energy costs, I’m wondering if spending time dining or visiting with other households is going to become more of a thing. When you think about it, if you’re cooking and heating a home for one household, why not invite someone over and then they return the hospitality another time? Popping in and out of each other’s homes, taking it in turns to host could work. And as this time of year is about caring, sharing and socialising (probably far more than any other), it’s the ideal opportunity to make it happen.
Seasonal food and drink are things to get excited about. Roasted root vegetables, Yorkshires and lashings of gravy, glasses of full-bodied red or fragrant gluhwein, crumbles, pies and of course chocolates. Not forgetting to allow ourselves more cheese than usual. Because it’s Christmas. And whether we eat in or out, get dressed up or dressed down, go shopping at weekends, midweek or evenings, it’s all there to be thoroughly enjoyed in whatever fashion we like.
Like many others I started shopping earlier than ever this year for those lovely little extras like biscuits, chocolates and books. That sort of thing. Thanks M&S for your Christmas emails in September, a reminder to start getting organised. And I’ve already made a clear (ish) list of presents I want to gift. As usual I’ll set aside some Saturday mornings where I’ll head into Norwich to browse the independent and high street shops. Mixed with visits to Christmas markets you don’t have to spend a fortune on a small something that’s been handmade or crafted which is really special and can mean a lot to someone, even if it costs under £10. I do all my shopping with no agenda other than Christmas. Browsing and buying, soaking up the atmosphere created by pretty draped lights, decorative windows and lots of uplifting music.
I absolutely love shopping this way. It definitely makes this Christmas tradition more special and far less of a chore. I always make sure I don’t ‘pop into the bank’ or the supermarket. I’m there for one thing only, and it includes nothing which is classed as ‘my usual routine’. I also do this on my own or with a friend who understands the concept of enjoying quality seasonal time. I soak up Christmas cheer, enjoying a coffee on my way or something a bit stronger if I take the train. I’m considered, unhurried, present and not blindly shopping because ‘I just have to go home with something’. Planning time to do things this way makes the festive shopping enjoyable and certainly not a burdensome process at all.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s taught us to appreciate our local surroundings, to support local businesses and be community minded whenever we can.”
Top pick shopping locations includes: The Norwich Lanes – particularly Upper St Giles (stop here for coffee or lunch); The Royal Arcade which has seen a host of wonderful new independent shops open – it’s going from strength to strength; Jarrold – who recently launched its revamped food hall including a larger wine bar and a cheese room. Yes. We’re back to cheese – in a room. Festive Fair at The Forum (24 – 27th November); Country & Eastern on Bethel Street, Elm Hill – oh so pretty; and, a location which is easily missed, the shop at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. This is great especially if you have someone particularly stylish to buy for. Then we have all our high street favourites in Castle Quarter and Chantry Place (who have several new openings) plus the old favourites Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.
Out of Norwich head to The Christmas Shed at Fielding Cottage; Holkham Hall, Pensthorpe and Dalegate Market at Burnham Deepdale. Where, if you have time, you can make a day of it. Check their websites for special shopping days and weekends.
Food & Drink
Christmas is the time of year we make a special effort to spend time together. And dining out is hugely popular whether it’s family get togethers, meeting up with friends we haven’t seen for ages, romantic dinners or Christmas drinks. Sir Toby’s Beers on Norwich Market is a favourite haunt for traditional glühwein with, or without a top up of rum or brandy. It’s legendary with locals and an atmospheric hang out if you are short of time or want to spend a little less.
Breakfast out is always a good call. Often less expensive than dinner but still a hearty meal with all the trimmings. Try The Ivy, The Cosy Club, The Britons Arms, Jarrold or Frank’s Bar.
For lunch or dinner head to newly opened Yalm in the Royal Arcade, Benedicts, Brix and Bones, Namaste Village, Chantry Place, Cathedral Quarter, or L’Hexagone (recently reviewed by none other than Jay Rayner of The Guardian to much acclaim). Or Yellows and Delia’s at Norwich City Football Club. In this mix there’s a good choice of casual and fine dining.
Afternoon tea is becoming ever more popular at Christmas with many establishments theming their teas too so take a look at what’s on offer at The Assembly House, The Maid’s Head, The Britons Arms, The Ivy and The Cosy Club.
Christmassy things to do
There’s no end of experiences to enjoy and some are free and low cost which helps to balance our Christmas finances. Norwich’s free Tunnel of Light returns 17 November to 5 January, along with the Castle projections and there’s all the usual pretty lights and talented buskers to keep us entertained. At the Sainsbury centre for Visual Arts it’s free to see the permanent collection and visit their Sculpture Park (which is great for a riverside walk too). And whilst you do have to pay to get into Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Strangers’ Hall and The Museum of Norwich, they are all good value and offer free activities during the school holidays.
Many Christmas markets offer complimentary entry and are always uplifting. Norwich has several over the weekends in the lead up to the big day itself. And Norwich Cathedral, St Peter Mancroft and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist have large programmes of music and Christmas services; some you need to pay for, some not.
A Christmas show will always put a smile on your face. And whether a matinee or an evening performance it’s special. Norwich Theatre Royal’s panto (Jack and the Beanstalk, 10 December – 7 January) has tickets between £10 – £32.50. Whilst Norwich Puppet Theatre’s mix of shows and workshops for children is always popular. Norwich Playhouse gives us music, comedy and family shows and The Garage always puts on a ’My First’ for ages 0-5 years. In 2022 see My First: Into the Snow Globe which takes place between 15 – 31 December with tickets for adults at £10.50 and for children £5.50.
Thursford’s Christmas Spectacular returns this year with Europe’s biggest Christmas Show between 8th November – 23rd December with performances at 2.00pm and 7.00pm. Prices start at £41 (weekday evenings).
Special Local Experiences
A Christmas tipple mixed with an experience makes a great night out. Cheryl Cade takes festive themed tours around Norwich with her NEW for ’22 Christmas Spirit Tour. Tours cost £34.99 (selected dates, first week of December) and take you from the heart of Norwich Market to the historic Tombland with stories about Norwich’s Christmas traditions and past, along with four stops for alcoholic drinks and nibbles.
Gyre & Gimble in The Royal Arcade has a wonderful Gin Academy which is a 2.5-hour gin experience (£70) where you make your own recipe spirit whilst sipping gin cocktails. You also get to take your own distilled gin home, a full 70cl bottle which makes a great present or addition to your bar.
Whisky is a delicious spirit to enjoy at Christmas so head over to the English Whisky Distillery which has long been established as England’s oldest and most prestigious registered whisky distillery. Note: their Norfolk Nog knocks socks off Baileys – I recommend that you try it. Handcrafted, using locally sourced barley and fresh water from the Breckland aquifier running underneath the distillery, here you can take guided tours, taste the fruits of their labour and buy whisky from their shop. The English Whisky Distillery exports all around the world, yet luckily we have them on our doorstep.
Finally enjoy a glass of mulled wine and homemade sausage rolls at The Maids Head hotel whilst you create your own front door wreath following a demonstration from Hannah Jarvis of Fern Flowers. Tickets cost £48 and workshops take place 27 – 29 November. And with all those potential guests arriving what better way to welcome them into your home than with a delightful, Christmassy front door.
Full details of everything mentioned here and loads more ideas can be found at www.visitnorwich.co.uk