Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Farewell Tribute to Norwich

Since I arrived in Norwich 8 months ago, I've definitely voiced my fair share of complaints about the place. However, days like today make me really appreciate this most livable city. There was no summer here last year, but there was no winter either. For me this is amazing as extreme temperatures irk me like no other. It snowed exactly twice, and on one of those occasions I was away. And yes, it does rain for at least thirty minutes most days, but it is important to note that Norfolk experiences more sun than anywhere else in England. It's crazy how one minute it will be cloudy and rainy, and then out of nowhere it will be a perfectly sunny day. (The reverse scenario is also true) Some of my most priceless moments have been riding from the city centre to campus down The Avenue in the rain only for perfectly sunny skies (with rain droplets still falling) to appear around me. The occasional rainbow is good eye candy too...specifically Skittles.

As I left the house this morning, I decided to walk to town rather than ride my bike. Wearing a t-shirt, light sweater and jeans (my ideal getup as I wish fall and spring were the only two seasons), I played my friend Johnny Walker's Asheville Sessions on my I-Pod. I met Johnny in September, soon after my arrival here. He was busking in town, beside the Norwich Market, where some of the best people watching of my life has taken place. I was a bit sad on my walk, knowing that Johnny, who lives in Liverpool and has only come to Norwich a few times to busk wouldn't be there for one last round of acoustic rock on this perfect day. In his place was a Siberian brass trio playing classical favorites, and I realized, this is the Norwich Circle of Life. One busker leaves and some more take his place. And there are thousands of people out and about on a Tuesday morning to enjoy these tunes. (Those people under the age of 60 who stroll along all day are probably collecting benefits at tax-payers' expense, but oh well!)

As a pedestrian/cyclist, the Norwich City Centre is fantastic, because you can ride/walk anywhere within fifteen minutes. I'm glad I never bought a bus pass, as there is no direct route from my house to school, and the daily ride is a great time to think, relax, and plan for the upcoming day. (The fact that my route goes along side streets for 80% of the way and the rest of the trip has sidewalks with cycle lanes makes it even better!) Having to rely on others for transportation (ie bus drivers) is painful at times, especially when you can be stuck for 45 minutes at a bus stop with no word as to when the next vehicle will arrive.

As for shopping, Norwich has numerous supermarkets, Primark, a few malls that have everything you need, and the longest-running open-air market in the UK. What more could you ask for? Well, for starters you could ask for better affordable restaurants. I love Torero, an authentic Spanish Tapas place, and there are some decent sandwich shops and fish & chip shops, but overall, unless you want to fork out a week's worth of wages, there is very little mid-range decent dining. The exception here is Indian/Thai food, as there are many places to find these cuisines, though one inevitable becomes sick of them after a while.

And there's Cinema City, the shining light on my world. A city without a theatre that focuses on showing independent films is not worth living in! The fact that there's a bar and restaurant attached to the cinema makes this experience incredible.

That's my life. It's only been 8 months, but it seems like I know this town inside and out - except for the one way streets in town, but that's because I don't drive here. Yes Norwich, for all my complaining, I will miss you, and I understand why, as my friend Dan told me last night, some 80% of graduates of the University of East Anglia never leave the area!

Stay tuned for my farewell tribute to the UK.

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