The early morning fog blanketed the town as my husband and I drove over to collect my niece and take her out for the day to celebrate her 12th birthday. Twelve! How very grown up this young lady has become, so deciding upon a suitable day out was difficult. We didn’t want to travel far, keeping within the county, because my mum is poorly in hospital and we needed to be nearby just in case.
Great Yarmouth on the East Norfolk coast seemed just the right place to head towards. Yes, the fog was quite dense but the forecast was sunny and warm for a late February day.
Wrapped in warm jackets, we headed off on our journey. Within a few short miles, the blinding early Spring sunshine was warming the car and had burned away most of the early mists.
Our first stop was an attraction I had first visited with my parents and grandmother over 46 years ago, the Merrivale Model Village. I had no idea if this would be something a game-playing, music-loving almost teenager of 2019 would find interesting but there was one way to find out. We had our photos taken which would appear in the giftshop later and allow us to be superimposed as miniatures of ourselves, and entered the tiny world.
Parts of the attraction were as I remembered them from previous visits with my own children and parts were updated to keep the areas interesting and topical. My niece discovered the push button sounds and interactions and was keen to hunt out more of the same. The delights of a modern-day NASA rocket and a suspension bridge over a pond of giant Koi Carp, giant by our standards not miniature standards, mixed well with old fashioned funfairs, maypole dancing and even medieval jousting and dipping. My niece especially enjoyed the sensory garden, although picking and tasting mint and herbs was unavailable due to the time of year.
We steered little bumper cars around a driving area, another old-fashioned style of beach entertainment, watched a makeshift wedding party at a church, a fire engine rescue a girl from a burning window, with ‘real’ smoke emissions and then headed to the gift shop where we purchased a picture of ourselves in miniature.
The Merrivale Cafe yielded treats such as homemade soups and pasties and traditional favourites such as tea and toast and cream teas. Refuelled, we used our day pass and re-entered the attraction to play a round of crazy golf.
At risk of overuse of the word ‘traditional’ we spent an hour playing the old-fashioned slot machines and 2p games, spending only £1 each, as the winnings just kept coming!
By this time, the sun was unseasonably warm so we grabbed some bags from the car and, stopping for ice cream cones along the way, made for the beach and a spot of kite flying.
My husband, an avid kite flyer, wanted to teach our niece how to fly his stunt kite. At over twenty years old, his ‘Top of the Line’ kite was in perfect condition and he had brought along a tail, 150 feet in length, which he had made himself.
To begin, he positioned our niece in front of him, allowing her to feel the pull of the kite while he held onto the straps for safety. She soon mastered how much movement was needed to create whirls and patterns against the bluest of skies and even had a turn at flying it herself. Giggles of delight and gasps of astoundment when she almost whipped an onlooker with the tail, were lost in the breeze as the kite danced and gave the onlookers a welcome aerobatic display.
An hour of beach kite flying under blue skies, surrounded by a light breeze and we were ready to find a gift shop before returning to Norwich for our first ever meal in a vegan restaurant.
Trinkets and the obligatory Great Yarmouth rock purchased, we drove back to Norwich, parking the car at my workplace – a school in the heart of the city and set in the beautiful grounds of Norwich Cathedral. My niece had never visited this part of the city and was awestruck by the cathedral’s dominance. We were a little early for our table booking so decided to go into the cathedral and show her around.
The choice did not disappoint and we were treated to the Cathedral Choir singing their hearts out, while my niece photographed tombs, stained glass windows and historical plaques. Even my husband noted there were parts of the cathedral he had not been into before.
My niece and I spotted the prayer candles and lit one for my mum, her grandmother. It felt a nice gesture and we included a donation.
We arrived at The Tipsy Vegan in time for our table booking and were pleasantly surprised. A lovely restaurant with friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere, previously undiscovered. Our option to choose a vegan venue was largely dictated by my niece’s vegetarianism and the lack of dedicated vegatarian restaurants available, when we searched. Pleased with our choice, we feasted on Saffron Risotto Balls, Korean Ribs, Sweet Potato Curry and Ricotta-filled Pasta Parcels, accompanied by home-made lemonade infused with charcoal, sour apple Palomas and blackberry and mint lemonade. Our tastebuds were treated to a number of new delights, and all of them well presented and filling.
Even though we were full to bursting, we greedily walked to Sundaes Gelato, an ice cream bar, for desserts which we surely didn’t need.
Needless to say we didn’t finish our desserts, a food coma for all was almost induced, and apart from some picture taking of the Cathedral at night, our journey home completed our day of fun. Even if our niece didn’t sleep well, we were ready for bed by half past nine!