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13 September 2013

By David Godfrey

Norwich, the cathedral city of Norfolk, and the terminus of the old Great Eastern Railway.

Because, as Nikolaus Pevsner wrote in 1962, "Norwich has everything."

What to see
Inside the cathedral, the lofty clerestory lights up the cathedra, set high on steps behind the altar, with a wind vent so that the odour of sanctity could waft up from relics below. The Despenser retable in St Luke's Chapel is magnificent.

In the elegant Close you might catch sight of Norwich School pupils in their gowns; or falcon-spotters in the car park; or a scarlet-clad Queen's Chaplain, stiff-starched bands dancing in the breeze. It could be a different age.

Beyond the cathedral close, Norwich is full of medieval churches, and has plenty of independent shops in the smaller streets. The castle houses a museum and art gallery, and the battlements provide fine views over the city and county. Tombland Bookshop, opposite the cathedral gate, is particularly pleasing, but does not open on Sundays.

Where to eat and drink
Many eateries serve local fresh produce: Roger Hickman's Restaurant, on St Giles - also closed on Sundays - gets rave reviews; and Farmer Browns, on Tombland, offers three menus: field, land, and sea, but it, too, closes on Sundays. There is no Proudiesque monopoly in place, however: the cathedral Hostry restaurant will take your money on any day of the week. Other non-Sabbatarian establishments include the Reindeer, on Dereham Road, which makes up for what it may lack in atmosphere with superb food and a good wine list. Shiki, also on Tombland, offers excellent Japanese food. How its itamae (chefs) ended up at the west end of Norwich Cathedral, heaven only knows.

The closeness of the cathedral's quire-stalls lends intimacy to choral evensong, where the talented Ashley Grote and his singers ply their art day by day. After evensong, follow the lay clerks to the Adam and Eve, on Bishopsgate, for a fine pint of proper local ale.

Near by
With a car, Cromer, Walsingham, Wymondham, or even Hunstanton are all easily accessible for day trips through country roads, with church after church on the way. Arm yourself with Norfolk Rood Screens, by Jeremy Haselock and Paul Hurst - the number that survived iconoclasm in this part of the world is remarkable.

Nearer the city, you might visit the City of Norwich Aviation Museum, in Horsham St Faith; or spend a meditative hour at Caister, with its medieval church built with Roman bricks in the corner of the old fort. It is easy to feel alone with the ghosts of the past in this eerie place, until the daydream is shattered by the cacophony of the fast train to London.

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