Fortunately, no blitz to report. It’s day two of your correspondent’s visit to Norwich, England.
As expected, playing with the grandchildren has been the highlight. Lizzie apparently remembers Grampa Joey, as she calls me, and Mama, and her grandmother is called.
Juliette isn’t sure who I am yet, but she is a social and agreeable baby, and can easily be coaxed into a smile.
So far, the trip has featured several satisfying walks, as well as playtimes and various parks. If the whole plant scientist gig goes south, Matt and Amanda could open a very nice restaurant—the eating has been good. I tasted borscht for the first time, and have decided that beets are edible.
Some other observations on life on the eastern side of the pond:
- Houses in Norwich are tiny, by American standards. Matt and Amanda’s three-bedroom townhouse would fit in some basement rumpus rooms. Yet, it feels quite large enough for a small family—in architectural terms, I suppose I think it’s the American standards that make less sense. The houses in Norwich are mostly connected in long rows, with tiny fenced front gardens and small fenced back gardens. Despite this, there is more trees and open space than I expected in urban England, which is a pleasant surprise.
- Buildings here are older, interesting and much more muted in hue. Brick is a very dark red—common American red bricks are brighter and redder. The sidewalks here are either very dark grey cement blocks or, more commonly, what appears to be road tar mixed with rock. The streetscape is just a lot darker, as a result. Not in some unpleasant, dour way—the darker hues don’t seem somber, just different.
- Park equipment is sturdy and serious looking. They go in for more metal and thick wood. Swing sets here look like they are built to withstand gale force winds, which in this part of the world, they probably are. The equipment looks “old school” to American eyes—but not overly dangerous. In fact, I’ve been impressed at the number of parents and kids at playgrounds—parks are smaller here, but much busier.
- Drivers seem more polite here. Streets are very narrow, so when walking, you’re very close to traffic. But, if you step into a crosswalk, the cars all stop for you. Bikers are common, and sometimes can whiz by and startle you, but for the most part, bikers are considerate of pedestrians, too. Norwich is more compact than Cedar Rapids, and people here walk more. City Centre, what the downtown of Norwich is called, is small shops and busy sidewalks, plus an ancient and colorful central market. It would be hard to visit Cedar Rapids and not have a car to get around in. While I’m sure there would be times when an auto would be handy, doing Norwich by foot is fine.
- The city library is nice.I liked the system they have in their children’s section—there are bins of unsorted children’s books around the walls. That would not aid you if you’re looking for a particular book, but it’s meant for kids to browse in. Having such accessible books for kids makes sense. Book reviews by 8 and 9 year olds were posted on the wall. The kids illustrate like kids, but have excellent penmenship and are very literate.
Anyway, no doubt I will write more later. The visit and the company and the food have been excellent.