We’ve just returned from a fabulous food and wine adventure in Europe and I have so much to tell you that I am going to be compiling three columns to run in a series. I hope you enjoy my tales.
Our journey began with a visit to the wonderfully posh London. This beautiful city is filled with treasures—art, history, beautiful gardens and, of course, Royals!
Highlight of this trip for me was a visit to world famous Borough Market. Set beneath the railway viaducts between the River Thames and Borough High Street in South East London, this sprawling feast for the senses is laid out in a huge labyrinthine central area as well as two more self-contained markets.
The offerings were a reminder of the exquisite farm and sea bounty available in the UK. Wild meats are very popular in the British diet and I loved seeing venison, pheasant and pigeon available.
The UK is really promoting an “eat local” mentality and hugely supporting and marketing products from their local farmers and artisans. I saw this push everywhere, down to a large biscuit manufacturer’s advertising that only UK wheat was used in their making. Very inspiring.
Off we went then to Norfolk, the romantic, fairytale English countryside smack in the middle of the farmlands. I almost wept when we arrived at our charming farmhouse, laden with vine and rose bushes, cows mooing in the background and a symphony of birds calling in the trees—I found myself expecting Mr. Darcy to appear.
Not for the faint of heart, driving in the countryside is somewhat of a harrowing experience. Starting with the fact that the steering wheel is on the other side of the car, the winding, mindboggling maze of sidewalk-sized roads between villages does offer a challenge.
However, once mastering the local driving technique and etiquette (ie when spotting another car or, God forbid, a large tractor coming your way, immediately drive off the side of the road and teeter on an angle until they pass), it does become quite fun.
We were thrilled when we realized that the seaside was only 20 minutes away. You may recognize the village name of Morston (famous for their mussels). It, along with quaint seaside villages like Blakeney or Holkham offer stunning vistas of the North Sea and delicious crab and other seafood.
Do not miss Holkham beach. With miles and miles and miles of sand set in front of a beautiful forest nature reserve, walking, horse backing riding, picnicking or just relaxing make for a perfect day there. We were told that the Queen summers her horses nearby and they exercise on this beach.
Pubs are around every bend, as suspected. Lots of the traditionals left, however the gastro pub now reigns supreme all over the UK.
The Wiveton Bell is a must stop. Located in a tiny village with a vista of an ancient church set across the road, guests can dine inside or out. A charming interior with wide rustic beamed ceilings, wooden tables and a cozy ambiance, we felt right at home with the local crowd. I loved the array of wellies (Wellington boots) lined up at the bar—some with their furry best friends alongside to enjoy a pint and some good local gossip.
Sunday lunch is quite the event in the UK. The Brits have a lovely tradition of sitting down to a big midday meal on Sundays. The Bell serves up a beautiful award-winning Sunday Roast menu: Paul Graves Local Beef Sirloin or Pork Loin with Crackling, Duck Fat Roast Potatoes, Cauliflower Cheese, Seasonal Vegetables and mile high Yorkshire Pudding with homemade hot horseradish or apple sauce. Yes please! Do make reservations after second breakfast for elevenses or a luncheon on Sundays. www.wivetonbell.co.uk
After falling madly in love with Norfolk and the country cottage, we are planning our part II. It actually may become an annual pilgrimage for us and I fear we may begin to take on hobbit characteristics in the process. Next week I will share thoughts on our next stop—Spain!
Yours, Jennifer Baggins.
Jennifer Schell is editor of B.C. Wine Trails Magazine.