Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend Trip #1: to Hunstanton

Friday evening after getting back from Chatsworth, I started planning my weekend trip to Norfolk to walk the Norfolk Coast path, which is also included in the much larger National Trail, Peddars Way. The biggest obstacle was getting train routes mapped out and booked. Luke, my new-found friend and peer here at Harlaxton previously purchased a rail pass that was good over any 8 days, so he was just along for the ride.  After about an hour I had my route mapped out. We were to take a taxi from the manor to Grantham train station, from there to Peterborough, then connect to a train to Elly, and finally to Kings Lynn from there. We were set. All that was left was for next morning to come.
The day before, I had plugged in my external hard-drive I brought with me, since I was going to be doing a lot of video editing. Because the outlets are configured differently over here, I had to use an adaptor with every electronic device. Most of the time there aren't issues, from what I've been told but ever so often, there is. And who would guess, but that I would in fact have an issue with the one device I was relying on more than any other except my computer-my external hard-drive.  When I would plug in, it would begin to power up but after a few seconds shut off. I must have tried three or four time, and each time the same result. I concluded that even with the adaptor, there wasn't enough wattage coming through to satisfy the required amount. After seeking out online storage services (and none really working out) and trying to use my iPod as a portable (it decided to become corrupt and my computer won't allow me access to it until I restore it, meaning I would have to wipe all 8,000 or so songs off, which over here is an issue since I don't have my other hard-drive with all my music on it-I digress...), I went into Grantham just before our train out to purchase a portable drive. While in Grantham, Luke and I grabbed a full English breakfast, a staple morning meal here (pictures below). After breakfast, we made our way to the train station.
One cab, three trains, and one bus later, we were in Hunstanton, a small tourist destination about the size of Sullivan, IL (population anyways-about 4,000). When I say "tourist destination" I mean for the locals, the actual citizens. It is pretty rare, as we were told on multiple occasions that Americans find themselves in this small sea-side town.
Once we were dropped off at the bus station, we began walking toward the sea and the busier part of town.  As we did, we noticed a hotel/restaurant on our right. We hadn't eaten anything since morning so we took the opportunity to fill up as well as ask about accommodation. Luckily, the food was good and the rate decent (60 pounds for Luke and I-30 each, about $50 on a Saturday evening), so we managed to kill two birds with one stone as we say back in the States. After eating and booking, we went up to our room to prepare for our hike. We unpacked our unnecessary items and we left for the tourist center to get an OS map of the trail and find out where it began in Hunstanton. Only a few minutes from our hotel, the center proved more helpful than we imagined. The two women at the desk informed us that the trail, no longer than what we were walking, was well marked and as a result, did not require an OS map. They were also able to direct us to the start of the trail.
Around 3:45 Luke and I departed the town center and made our way down to the coastal front and started in. For about a mile, we walked between the North Sea and the cliffs of Hunstanton. After a short spectacular walk on the coast, the path ascended to the cliffs, which by this point had become more like hills. Though the trail itself wasn't difficult up to this position, it comprised of almost entirely sand, requiring more energy to walk. The trail went on for six miles, going through flat land that bordered a golf course before winding inland next to several canals and then further through a wildlife preserve before ending in the small town of Thornham.
Once in Thornham, we walked to the bus station to get a ride back to Hunstanton. After asking a local where it was and discovering our stop, we were unfortunate to find out that we had missed the last bus of the day by nothing more than a minute or so, or we thought. We had asked a few other locals walking by if what we saw on the timetable was correct and they confirmed it. Suddenly taken aback with a minor sense of despair at the prospect of now having to take a taxi, we walked across the road to a restaurant to inquire about taxi services. The female bartender gave us a few cards but told us that it wouldn't be cheap. Leaving the restaurant, Luke and I walked back to the bus-stop with our heads down. I, especially, was upset with myself for not having mapped this part of the journey out well enough. As we sat at the stop, preparing to call one of the taxi services, one of the local women we had asked earlier about the timetable came out of the restaurant to inform us that there was actually one more bus to come, around 7:08 and that the timetable we saw was old and did not include it.
We were relieved. So relieved. The outlook had not been looking good as far as our wallets were concerned. Waiting for this supposable last bus, we sat in anticipation.
7:08 came and went. 7:09, came and went. 7:10, also came, and went. I could feel the despair from earlier begin to descend as I cursed myself for not planning ahead. Just as I was looking down at the sidewalk, I heard a loud vehicle, looked up, and to my great pleasure, beheld our bus. It went by rather slowly and I caught the bus driver's attention as he looked at me, asking, visually, if I needed on. I earnestly shook my head yes and Luke and I sprinted across the street towards it and got on.
A pound and a half later, we were on our way back to Hunstanton, overjoyed that things had worked out.
Once back to Hunstanton, we went back up to our room and showered. Afterwards, we were ready for supper. I had asked Luke, with the weather having turned chilly, if he would prefer just eating at the restaurant inside the hotel. He suggested instead that we walk and find a fast-food equivalent joint and eat there. About five minutes later we found Chicken and Pizza (the actual name of the restaurant mind you).
We walked inside and began looking at the menu boards. Amongst many of the meals, there was one called the USA Special. It consisted of 4 pieces of chicken, 4 chicken wings, 2 cokes, 2 fries, and 2 apple pies. We couldn't help but laugh while at the same time feel a pang of guilt at our reception. Regardless, after skimming over the boards, we ordered our meals. As soon as we had, a gentleman in the corner of the restaurant yelled over at us and asked where we were from.
This had happened to us before so I replied, The States, and Luke, Illinois. The guy went crazy. He was ecstatic. He, as we soon were told, was from Canada. He was thrilled to see another North American. We ended up eating there and talking with him over the course of 30/45 minutes. Dan, was his name (another Dan). He asked us where we were staying and when we told him, he laughed. We were informed that his grandmother actually OWNED the hotel we were staying at. Dan, who had come over 13 years earlier when he was 18 for study abroad, decided to stay here. Because his parents were English he could do so without having to apply for any special documentation and as a result, he had been there ever since. He also told us that he had a permanent room in the hotel. Dan invited us to go back to the bar at the hotel for a drink on him and then to go look into a party at the town hall.
After generously buying both Luke and myself a beer, we walked across the road to town hall to find out about the party/live band. The only other issue aside from the slight anxiety of partying with locals who weren't use to seeing Americans, especially young Americans, was that it was ten pounds to get in. Thankfully, we decided to pay and had a blast.
The live band was doing covers of American songs from the 80s. Though it took both Luke and I a while to get in the mood, so to speak, we ended up on the dance floor by the night's end due largely in part to Dan knowing the entire town. He introduced us to many of his friends and we even met numerous people on our own. Talk about a true experience in England. We were able to assimilate half-way decently with the townspeople and go to bed with another great night spent.
The next morning, we got up, had another full English, though it differed a little from the one we had the morning prior, walked around the town a little while, and then to the bus station to depart.
Three trains and a cab later we were back at "home" with a great weekend spent in a beautiful part of the country and with great people.

 Our first full English breakfast in Grantham
 Lunch at our hotel
 Hunstanton (Coast-North Sea)
 Train station before arriving in Kings Lynn (took the bus from there to Hunstanton)
 Luke, just before our heading out on the trail
 The North Sea
 The Coast

 I'm the small person in the middle right,

 Trail marker
 Going inland

Looking back at Hunstanton and its lighthouse

 A few horses that walked by us on the trail

 Canal as we head inland

A small, marina? Just before Thornham

 Almost to Thornham

Movie of our waiting at the bus stop.

Until Again,

Thank you,



  1. how awesome Keith, although sounds like the electronics are not coroporating ..go figure! Funny meeting the Canadian who's family's hotel you were staying in.... it is a small world but so big! I love the video and glad you made the bus. If I were there I couldn't imagine where I would end up, you know me, can't find my car let alone find a location in England. I am so enjoying sharing your journey, I have such a big smile on my face and in my heart. Luv u! (a little american for ya) Can we send you anything, flash drives, itunes collection of The Eagles! Seriously anything we can send you just let us know.

  2. Keith...........Thank you so much for allowing me to go on this trip with you (HAHAHA) I really do feel like I am there as I read your trip log.The pictures are great and you certainly do have a way with words.What a wonderful adventure you are having! Enjoy! Love, Mimi