Thursday, 28 June 2018

My, How You've Changed!

Local craft ale. My drink at dinner in
Nottingham city centre
We had an invitation to a celebration of an old university friend's 40th anniversary of his licensing as a Reader (a lay preacher and assistant minister) in the Church of England recently. It was in Nottingham where he and my wife were good friends at that time, and neither of us had been back there since her graduation other than to the university itself, but that is not in the city centre.

The celebration, a church service followed by a buffet lunch, was on a Saturday, starting at 11:00 and we decided to make a two-day "adventure" of it by travelling there on the Friday and staying overnight, exploring a bit and possibly doing something on the Friday evening if we found the right sort of thing.

For just one night we did not need much luggage and I did not bother with a wheeled suitcase, simply putting everything into my small overnight bag (that's probably why it's called that!) including my MacBook so that I could catch up with some photographic filing on the way. Nottingham is not far from our home in Stamford and there was not much to be gained from either First Class travel or Advance Tickets, so we booked off-peak Standard Class returns via a change of train at Leicester each way and I booked a city centre Mercure hotel (for which I collect Club Accor loyalty points towards future free hotel stays). Again this was a cheap room because for one night we really did not need much space.

George's Great British Fish and Chips
So off we went about midday on the Friday, having done several mundane market-day jobs at home before we left. Our shopping included a takeaway salad lunch to eat during the journey - the change of trains at Leicester provided an ideal opportunity to eat, followed by coffee bought from the Pumpkin café next to the waiting room.

Arriving in Nottingham we recalled that not long ago there had been a major fire which marred the recently refurbished station. A good tidy-up job had been done and if we had not known about the fire we'd never have been able to tell from looking at the station. Nottingham station is interesting in having the city's main tram line passing right over it and providing an excellent interchange with the railway below, but although I had chosen a hotel on the tram route we were in no hurry and decided to walk to out hotel.

"Just an ice-cream" for pudding ...
Our walk took us through the Broad Marsh Shopping Centre, which from my memory was never very special but now frankly is a dump. To be fair it is undergoing substantial rebuilding, but that looks long overdue. Having go into the place, through a building site and along half-closed roads, we then struggled to find the way out that we needed: such a pity because once we did find the outside world we were in charming city-centre streets which were really very attractive. A further short walk brought us to the pleasant street corner where our hotel was located and we checked in.

Mercure had given us a room upgrade, which was very nice, but unfortunately our air-conditioning was not working. That was one of several things that went wrong, actually, and the handyman was not able to fix it but lent us a very effective fan which did a reasonable job. We were given a free drink at the bar by way of compensation and when we checked out the next day we were given a discount on the room rate as well, the best they could do, really, so I will still be able to leave a good Trip Advisor review!

Having unpacked we set off for a walk around the city and decided that the only activity we needed that night was a good dinner, so we went back and changed, enjoyed our free drink in the bar and set off to a restaurant we had picked out on our walk, George's Great British Kitchen, one of the few independent restaurants we had seen. Apparently it began life as a fish and chip restaurant and still trades on that history but has a much wider, British, menu now. We both had haddock and chips but with different craft beers, and the most amazing ice-cream that came complete with a huge candy-floss! The photographs illustrating this article are all of this meal. The whole city seems to have weathered the recession better than most towns, and the tram system and city centre in general all feel very much better than I remember from visiting decades ago. When my wife and our friends were students here it was all very different: like most places the streets were full of traffic but now are very quiet and pleasant spaces.

Off to bed, and a decent night's sleep in spite of the choice between "hot" and "noisy" (we chose mostly hot with a touch of noisy), and in the morning we walked off to All Saints' church for our friend's celebration. Again, the tram route goes that way but we chose to walk. We had checked out and so had our luggage, but it was not much luggage for a one-night stay in warm weather. We met other friends as we approached the church and had a good time, especially those who had been at university together but also those of us on the fringe who just happened to be married to one of them, and after lunch five of us travelled back together, catching the tram straight back to the station for the next southbound train. We sorted out how to buy tram tickets and had just bought our five when a tram turned up. The ride through to the railway station was very smooth and pleasant: trams are such a civilised way to move through a city. We then followed the signs to the railway platforms and found seats on the London train that was already there, well ahead of its departure time: time enough to buy a round of coffee at Pumpkin (enough to earn a free one on my loyalty card next time I travelled!). The other three were all going on to London to their homes in Surrey but we changed at Leicester again for the train home to Stamford. Not such a long wait this time and we were soon on our way. Two of our friends from Surrey had travelled to Nottingham that morning and must have spent more of the day travelling than anything else, but at least when travelling by train it is possible to relax and enjoy the trip, and they had company on the way back.

I did take my camera with me intending to take photographs of Nottingham trams, but somehow the opportunity never seemed to arise, so perhaps I shall return one day.

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