a TAPIF language assistant blog / un blog d’une assistante d’anglais

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Insider's England, Pt. 2: Fakenham & Norwich

On the morning of May 12th (2013, that is... yes, we're that far out now that I need to remind you of the year), my train pulled out of Reading station as I left my friend Emily (and the random guy in the alligator suit at the station) and headed north to the station in Norwich to see my friend Lottie. Norwich is the county town (like county seat) of Norfolk, a county that's north of London and has a lot of coastline.

this map (highlighting Norfolk) comes from Wikipedia.

You may (or may not) remember from my post about my time with Emily that these visits to my friends (fellow English assistants in Narbonne) were my first time experiencing non-London English life. I was so lucky to find these girls and was even luckier that they both graciously invited me to visit them in their family homes!

Lottie's been featured in many posts, not only about Narbonne, but also Morocco and Spain. I was so glad to arrive to see her and see some of her England! She and her mom, Jane, came to pick me up at the station. Her mom, Jane, is so sweet! I had met her before when she visited Narbonne in the spring, and she was lovely and warm and laughed at my stories, and I was happy to see her again, too! She also loves America and studied American culture at university, and she and her family had taken many trips to the States before. (Never Texas, though; we'll have to change that.) We took off to walk around Norwich in the afternoon, since Jane actually lives in a smaller town outside of Norwich.

Norwich is situated on the River Wensum.

I just love how green England is. I just kinda wish it could somehow be green without all the rain! (Luckily it was not actually raining this day, which is a success!)

Elm Hill is a famous cobble-stoned street, which features houses that date back to the Tudor era. You can see it below!

Elm Hill has been featured in some movies, such as Stardust.

Lottie and me! Looking back, I can really see the pain au chocolat right in my face. #worthit #noragrets

English telephone booths... just because

C'est vrai.

more modern Norwich street

Norwich Castle, a Norman castle built during the time of William the Conqueror's reign

more castle

one last view of Norwich

After we had a lovely stroll around, we headed to Jane's home in the town of Fakenham. Lottie actually grew up in the nearby village of Guist, but Jane moved here later. In early May it's still pretty cool in England,* and we enjoyed a night in watching TV and eating some chili. It was nice to have a calm night after my weeks of traveling!

The next day was nice and sunny (but still far too cold for May), and we headed out to the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, where Lottie had worked in high school (and where her brother still worked). I was excited to a) spend some time in nature, especially since it was sunny and b) see another part of Lottie's history! We had nice walks and talks and saw lots of beautiful flowers and little English (and maybe some adopted English?) creatures.

This very sunny picture makes me happy.

that head tilt though

pretty paths

Fakenham's war memorial (and random car)

That night, Jane, Lottie, and I went downtown (which is not actually called downtown in British English... so I guess we really went to the city center) to see Les Misérables at the cinema. Lottie and I had wanted to go see it in Narbonne, but France is not so big on musicals, let alone musicals about their own history. Most French people I talked to think it's a "Disneyfied version" of historical events. Okay, sure. True. But sign me up anyway. They had shown Les Mis for one week at the cinema in Narbonne... and of course, it was the week we were in Morocco. So we had waited until May to see finally see it, and it was worth it, y'all. I just remember all three of us kind of sitting as if we had just been hit with a hurricane-force (or Narbonne-force) gust of wind. It was intense.**

Our last day together, we headed up to Blakeney Harbor to go on a seal tour! This is apparently like, the thing to do in Norfolk. Which is true. It was! I love spending time by the ocean (even if it is freezing), and it was very picturesque, and who doesn't love seals? Face it, they are ocean puppies.

sheep on the way (this reminds me of a video I made years ago discussing fields of English sheep...)

Check out my gear! I was READY! Also it's 2 1/2 years later and I'm carrying another black and white striped bag. (Granted, it's just my school bag... but still. Some things never change.)

bundled up! Also, this is our last photo for the year... :(
(Spoiler alert: Not our last photo ever!) :)

Lottie was wearing gloves from our Canadian assistant, Zack (also featured in several posts).****

sweet babies

Not just ocean puppies... two land puppies on board, because why not?

We stopped at Blakeney Point, a little island inside the harbor, for a stroll.

back on board, back to shore

After the tour, we headed to the cute little port town Wells-next-the-Sea. I remember Lottie telling me some facts about this picturesque little village, but I can't remember them now. I feel like someone famous had been here? Or maybe I'm dreaming? This is what waiting 2 1/2 years to write a post will do. (Lottie just told me the only thing she might have told me was that the beach Gwyneth Paltrow walks out onto at the end of Shakespeare in Love is near this town. That must have been it.)

Don't want none unless you got buns, hun!

Look at these little beach houses! They're not big enough to stay in, but people rent them to store their beach gear.

SERIOUSLY this is like something from a movie. How lovely.

After our day of strolling the coast, we headed back home. It was pretty cold and we wanted to be cozy for my last night in Fakenham. So we drove home, but then, guess what?

We got locked out and spent some time in the backyard. And it started to rain. Because of course. But aren't these plants pretty? At least it was nice back there.

Me, locked out in the cold version... need I remind the world I don't do cold well?!****

We finally made it in and got cozy. Also, those are Em's house shoes I'm wearing! Between Zack's gloves and Em's shoes, it's like our friends were still with us keeping us warm. #cheesyalert #

It was so lovely to go see Lottie and Jane in Fakenham. They were so welcoming, and it's so fun to put together the pieces of your friend's history! We looked through old albums from their trips to Florida and relived stories from Narbonne. I was lucky to have gained Lottie as a friend this year; I love her positivity, her silliness, and her willingness to try anything. Plus she's kind of awesome and studied Spanish AND French; she headed off a few days later to spend the summer in Madrid for an internship! I miss her (but I'm thankful for Whatsapp) and I know I'll see her again! Maybe in Texas next time?!


I loved my time with both Emily and Lottie getting to see everyday English life (as opposed to London life). I spent a lot of time in nature with both of them (and eating warm food!) and I really liked getting to see small town life and the English countryside, which I'd never seen other than driving through on day trips to Stonehenge, etc. from London. And, spoiler alert: I very happily got to see them both in summer 2015... hopefully I'll blog that one day on the up-and-coming new blog! (Again, blog name TBD.)

*Upon reading this post, Lottie told me that this was the coldest May she can remember in England. Offfff course. Just for me! 

**To this day, every time I watch the movie Les Mis, I think of seeing it with Lottie and Jane! Also, when Lottie told her mom that I was writing about my them, the first thing she brought up was us singing the Les Mis songs. Did you know I like to sing?!***

***Footnote within a footnote. This is a joke question for all my irl people because I love to sing and do it all.the.time. Sorry, everyone.

****These are Lottie's photos she shared with me. :) Merci, Lottie!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Prodigal Blogger

I have an announcement: I’m back to the blog. I feel ashamed that I’ve been away for so long, especially since I never finished logging this most epically adventurous year of my life (so far).

The truth is this: I returned back to my life, and my life is an American one. Not just American, but an American #teacherlife. We Americans, we value convenience. We value speed. We value efficiency. We as a society value being busy, and stressed, and overbooked. (WHAT the heck is wrong with us?!) Throw in being a high school teacher with 3 preps (2 of which are solo), which usually involves working 6 days a week at school. (Not to mention almost.every.other.waking.moment.) 

So, just like that, two and a half years have passed. (I just turned 29, y'all. I'm basically 30!) I’ve been busy. Too busy. Often too busy to spend enough time with the people that I love, and I hate that. (Still attempting to find a solution to this problem… please hold.) The good news is that upon my return, I was (obviously) gainfully employed and have had the same job ever since! (Story to follow, because the story of my hiring process from start to finish was straight up ridiculous.)

But it is time. The return was born of several things: the ache in my feet to travel to places they’ve never been, the more easily fulfilled desire to walk down memory lane, the need to write about old adventures and new* before they’re lost in my mind forever, the need to write, period,** and the some serendipitous encouragement of a friend. #shoutout

I will first be finishing “So you think you can France,” which will be a blog unto itself, solely following my year in France. I started some of the writing back then in May 2013, when I was getting ready to return. Some of the writing will be new, and therefore a little tainted or blurred by time. (I wish I'd finished sooner. But alas, here we are.)

I then hope to start a brand-new more general travel blog, which may include some other regular-life musings.

So, to anyone who’s still out there: I’m sorry if I never answered your comments, and that I never finished this blog. But here I am again… a casual two and a half years (un)fashionably late. But read this truth, from my fingers to your face: I’ve missed y’all. I’m glad to be back. Allons-y!

I look like this now. On a good day. Pretty much the same-ish. I hope. Oh I got LASIK! Bought this shirt in France... in 2013. Ha.

my 10 year high school reunion... I told you I got old.

But mostly, I do this. Wear a lanyard and school badge (but not makeup) and go to work. And look exhausted.

À bientôt!

*I did some traveling in summer 2015 that I need to write about, too!

**Thank you, Amy Poehler, for writing in a very real way that reminded me that writing is a beautiful thing. It’s like your words reached into my brain and coaxed my own out again. Except that I’m not as good as you. But I’m still doing it.