Norfolk’s Seals (and other Norfolk Goodness)

Thanks to the Queen and her lovely Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (yeah, this post is well overdue), we had a four day weekend. That's practically a holiday so a bunch of us went up to Norfolk for the weekend. Sandringham House

On the way we hit up Sandringham House, which is where the Queen + the Royal Family live for two months in the winter, and generally where they celebrate Christmas. Apparently this is (in part) how they raise funds, letting people into their house to looksee while they aren't there. Anyway, Sandringham is gorgeous. And filled with many many old things.

We were allowed into into maybe five or six of the main rooms ("used regularly by Royal Family" apparently). They were very very fancy rooms, filled with random things like armour and jade collections. There was a massive gun collection from back in Edwards day. There was some charming sketches and things of the royal family that I quite enjoyed. There were also an awful lot of portraits of people that I didn't recognise. The guides were super helpful, and had many fun little stories and anecdotes about the rooms, the objects in them, and the portraits.

The ballroom was the last room we visited, and we were amused to find out that they have a projector and a drop down screen in there so they can do cinema nights! Also, apparently the ballroom was cleared out with the younger members of the Royal Family were children, so they could have place to run around when the weather was miserable. Good call, I think. With the amount of expensive and fancy things stuffed into the other rooms it would be a nightmare for anyone minding a small inquisitive child. There were a few details (like the thumb of a statue glued back into place) where we wondered if such a situation arose.

The gardens were pretty nice, too. We wandered around the very expansive grounds. Apparently they hunt out there, and have fruit orchards and things where they grow apples for apple juice. They also have a Buddha statue. I rubbed his belly.

There's also a museum, and in the old stables they store all the old school cars the family has retired. Less interesting than the house, but novel just the same!

It was a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon, actually. Quite enjoyed it.

Cromer

We had an apartment in Cromer, which is on the coast in Norfolk. It's a small little village that is quite sweet. It's very different to New Zealand beach towns, in that it's all built up with brick terraced houses. It was also cold and windy as fuck, even in June. The swell was pretty ridiculous, and was exploding over the boardwalk. The pier was also quite merrily decorated for the Diamond Jubilee with Red, White + Blue bunting, which was fighting the wind. We hit up one of the little arcardes, which was amusing. We got quite excited about the 2p game, it wasn't the chance to win back some money, but more about the satisfaction of winning! Quite fun, actually. The delight was definitely worth 8p!

Sunday was mostly spent at the apartment. The weather was pretty miserable, and we all appreciated the down day. We decorated the apartment with bunting, drank from union jack cups, and watched the Jubilee Flotilla float down the Thames on BBC. We cheered whenever we saw the waka, or the NZ flag. I didn't think I was a royalist, but by the end of the weekend I definitely had a soft spot for the Royal Family. Saturday night we pulled out the alcohol and card games. Oh Circle of Death! Such a ridiculous game that mostly reminds me of second year uni had us in fits of giggles. Turns out some games don't get old.

Wexham

We were told that if we walked down the beach, perhaps we'd find some seals. Seeing seals was right up there on our things to do, so we drove out to Wexham. Side note: it took us forever to figure out the place was called Wexham. We knew it sounded like 'wax something' and it took a few 'ask the locals' attempts before we hit on the right place.

Wexham Beach is lovely. It's very British, which is to say that it was cold. It was windy, and there were many stones. Still, there was some sand, and blue skies, and the smell of the brine in the air and a gorgeous view of the horizon many many miles away did me good, and I felt a tiny connection to home. We picked a direction and walked. And walked and walked and walked. I collected good stone skipping stones and had to stop when both my pockets were full. I just realised (a month later) that I left my cache of stones in Liz + Robs car - sorry! My bad! It was a good solid walk, but sadly, there were no seals.

On the way back we stopped at a barn for lunch. It's apparently quite old (16th century, I think) and you can wander around a bit. Basically it shows how they used to process wheat (or something) back in the day, which is to say manually. It was a nice spot for lunch, and I was amused to discover that they used a ships mast as a beam in the roof.

Horsey Windpump

Is a big massive windmill on the edge of Horsey Mere. It's touted as a tourist spot, so as tourists, out we went to go see it. It's very very big, and was used as pump to drain away the Horsey Mere (part of the Norfolk Broads) to reclaim some of the land (even though the earth was salted and took a while before it could be used to farm. Apparently it was quite important back in the day, and they made loads of little canals and things. Today it's more of a tourist thing. It doesn't work anymore (hit by lightening in '43), but you can climb up the five stories and stand on the tiny tiny rickety balcony (two people only, clearly for safety reasons) and admire the view.

There's also a bunch of walks and things around there, which was novel. Apparently there was a beach with the possibility of more seals. At this point my hip was very nana like, so I rested (read: slept) in the car while the crew went on their way. Two of our crew were keen geo-cachers, and introduced everyone else to it. Sounds quite fun, actually! Rob seemed especially enamoured by the idea.

Seals at Morston Quay, Blakeney

So, turns out that if you'd actually like to go sea seals, you need to get in a boat and go out to where the seals are. Generally, seals are where people are not, and are in quite out of the way places. These seals were out on the very edge of a peninsula, Blakeney Point. The peninsula is growing every year as the sand gets moved by the current up the beach. And that's where the Seals are!

We got in a wooden boat, like a big dingy, and off we went, with about thirty other tourists all squished in together keen to see the seals. It was about a ten minute (if that) trip out to the point. It was pretty bizarre, not like any animal experience I'd ever had. In zoo's animals generally ignore you. They don't care who you are, and they don't often acknowledge you, let alone look at you. This was not the case. There were approximately 300 seals in the colony. And all 300 pairs of eyes were trained on us.

All of them. All heads looking our way, whether on the beach or in the water. It was insane. Even when they were swimming, they'd swim alongside us, or around us. They'd dive under the surface, and pop up closer, with their little noses pointed our way. I felt like I was intruding, and they definitely felt our presence, just like we felt theirs. It was a very bizarre, but very very exciting trip out.

Oysters at The Crown Hotel at Wells-next-the-Sea

On the way home we stopped at The Crown Hotel, which is run as part of the flying kiwi inns around Norfolk. Amazing beer (apparently), amazing food, and even better oysters. Seriously, I haven't had Oysters since NZ (Bluff oysters all the way!) and I'd forgotten how amazing they could be. Europe mussels are sad little tiny disappointing things, and their fish is a bit bizarre so I'd mostly skipped Europe's seafood. Until we were at The Crown Hotel and people were getting oysters, how could I not join in? I couldn't. So I got one, fully prepared to be disappointed, and bitch about it's lack of awesomeness in comparison to NZ seafood.

Consider me pwned. I should have known better, knowing this establishment was founded by a kiwi, really. The oysters were divine. I was sad I'd ordered only the one. I'll not turn my head at the next offer of oysters, believe me. These were amazing! A lovely lunch, and a delightful way to end the weekend before driving home. All kinds of awesome.

So yes. That was my weekend in Norfolk, and it was lovely. Held here for posterity, so when I've forgotten what I did with all my long weekends, I'll be reminded.

Full disclosure, most the photos that contain me, group shots and/or jumping were stolen from Liz + Rob. You can view their post about the same trip here.