When life is normal, it is no wonder that England is such a tourism drawcard. From the busy vibe of London, to the rustic idyll of Cornwall or the charm and history of destinations like Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon, England has so much to offer.
There is one city that encapsulates the best of England, is under two hours by train from London and is also a road less travelled.
Let me introduce you the lovely city of Norwich in East Anglia; a delightful fusion of the modern and historic.
Norwich's centre is easy to walk around and it has a river at its heart. As well as being the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom.
It has a flourishing arts, music and cultural scene, superb independent as well as High Street shopping, lively restaurants, bars and nightlife and a heritage that is a delight to explore. It was also England's first UNESCO City of Literature.
On my last visit, late in 2019, I was fortunate enough to see the local football team, Norwich City, thrash the English Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Industrial Revolution almost completely bypassed Norwich, leaving intact historic cobbled streets, city walls, and a majestic Norman castle and cathedral.
Across the city you'll find fascinating old pubs, modern bars and eating establishments to cater for all tastes and pockets.
Norfolk produces the best malting barley in the country and the best is grown in north Norfolk where the salty sea frets, high fields and warm climate make ideal growing conditions
The barley is turned into gorgeous, thirst-quenching real ale. Norfolk, of which Norwich is the county seat, also has the most microbreweries of any county in the country
Just outside the city, St George's Distillery at East Harling was the first whisky distillery in England for 100 years and since 2006 has been producing award-winning whisky that has gained a worldwide reputation! There are daily tours... and tastings.
St George's Distillery is owned by the English Whisky Company who are producers of single malt whiskies and even make a special batch for Marks and Spencer stores.
The barley used by the distillery is sourced in Norfolk and historically would have been exported to Scotland's whisky makers.
Back in town, visit Bullards Distillery - the only one in Norwich and the first for over 150 years.
The city’s historic street layout is wonderfully haphazard, but there’s no need to get lost, just look for the obvious landmarks – the spire of the majestic Norman Cathedral and the dominant castle on its all mound.
The city has the largest permanent undercover market in Europe, cobbled streets such as Elm Hill, Timber Hill and Tombland, ancient buildings such as St Andrew's Hall and half-timbered houses. There is a delightful riverside along the winding Wensum.
The modern Forum is one of the most popular public libraries in the UK and home to the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Children's Library and Second Air Division Memorial Library.
There's always a buzzy atmosphere in The Forum with exhibitions and activities taking place year-round.
Open six days a week, Norwich Market is a lively site that's surrounded by some of the city’s great historic buildings, including the flint 15th-century Guildhall.
Underneath the rainbow-coloured roofs you will find stalls selling local delights including Cromer crabs and fresh killed pheasants.
Norwich is also renowned for its scenic nature reserve – Earlham Park. Take a peek at the river running throughout and immerse yourself in the greenery known for regularly hosting events on the go.
The Norwich Playhouse is a beautiful 19th century building, and hosts a range of theatre performances.
The beaches of North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and the watery attractions of the Norfolk Broads are all a short train ride away and Norwich Station is only a 1 hour, 50 minute ride away from London's Liverpool Street.
Trains are a delightful way to travel in England. Highly recommended. See www.eurail.com/en. www.visitnorwich.co.uk/