Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh I do like to be beside the sea

We found ourselves sat in the old first class carriage of the steam train that enthusiasts man back and forth between Holt and Sheringham. We'd been trying to find a way to spend our first full day in Norfolk and a bit of steam powered perambulation seemed a fine choice.
I've been trying to cast my mind back to see if I've ever been actually aboard a proper full sized steam train. I've travelled on various fabulous trains in the UK, Europe and the US but we've always had more modern engines to pull (and often push also) our elegant extravagantly decorated rail-running temporary homes. The nearest memory I can conjure up is the coal fire at my grandmother's (always known as little gran) house, the evocative slightly sooty air that also powered her oven. This fire was a constant fascination to me with its dancing mostly orange but occasionally blue flames and and if I was very lucky a warming meat and potato pie lurking inside the oven. We can smell the smoke and occasionally a fleck of smut drifts in the window and threatened to smudge our clothes so despite the authenticity we moved a little away from the window. We only have a short journey on the North Norfolk railway and the stations are a delight crammed with vintage luggage, old enamel signs and a cornucopia of railway memorabilia being poured over by men in railway caps and jackets bearing all sort of gold insignia. From the train we see our first glimpse of the sea beyond the corn fields. When we arrive at Sheringham - the end of the line - there's the whole process of moving the engine from the front of the train as was to the new front of the train and taking on water. This is all accompanied by enormous plumes of steam, ear-piercing tooting on the whistle and much picture taking by passengers, onlookers and steam fans.
Sheringham is rather packed, surprisingly the ding ding dings emanating from the amusement arcades means that some people are not on the beach nor partaking of the finest of crab sandwiches rustled up by Joyful West's. Rather thoughtlessly captured by the shining sun its alluring rays we have furnished ourselves with ice cream cones as we walk to the sea front and sadly have no space to chase this with crab sandwiches and i know they are very good as we had them on a grey August bank holiday on my first ever foray to these parts. The crabs (or swinners I've learnt they're referred to around here) will have to wait for another day!
We soak up some images of the beach and the crashing greeny blue waves to revisit on a gloomy wintry day back home. M always had an infinity with the sea, she said it was because she was a Pisces, I'm not sure if she saw this part of the North Sea coast but I'm sure she would have enjoyed this journey. I couldn't help thinking about M whilst we were on the train also. Our last holiday was on the Grand Luxe railway (sadly no more) exploring the US west coast treasures and all my most memorable treasured train journeys are ones we took together. Especially as we crossed paths of the dining cars on a special Sunday lunch train my mind shot straight back to happy times fine dining on the Orient Express, British Pullman and the Northern Belle.
In preparation for the days ahead we arm ourselves with sheaves of tourist information guides on the local eateries, galleries, shops, museums and touristy delights. MC is rather taken by an exhibition of tanks and D and I make a mental note of interesting shops, delis and restaurants we'd like to try. After a meander around Sheringham we board the last steam train for the days and marvel at how some children are allowed to run wild whooping and running up and down the carriage whilst their indulgant parents look on and no doubt hope their little cherubs will tire themselves out before bedtime. We've had a fun day both on and off the rails and now we just have to consult our guides books for ideas for dining tonight. Ah the tough life of a holidaymaker!

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