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5 Fab Things to Do in May

17 May 2016

Plantation Garden Norwich2

There's no excuse to stay in; May is a month jam-packed full of exciting events, the city is literally bursting with fun things to do. So if you fancy spicing up your free time here are some great suggestions to get stuck into!

1. If a man who was once booted out of the Surrealist movement appeals to you - you rebel - then get yourself down to Alberto Giacometti: A Line Through Time, the UK’s largest ever collection of Giacometti’s work. The exhibition of this hugely influential artist (his work sells for multi millions - in fact L'Homme au doigt fetched the highest price ever for a sculpture at auction last year, selling for a cool $141.3 million!) has opened right here in Norwich, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA).

Having once said that he “wasn’t sculpting the human body but rather the shadow it cast”, Giacometti’s preoccupation with existentialism and his earlier connection with surrealism are both explored in A Line Through Time, which also explores his enormous influence on post-war British art and his own inspiration- he was chums with other art heavyweights including Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Over 100 of his works (many of which are significant loans from all over the world) are available to view together at the SCVA until the end of August 2016, and there are free (with the purchase of an exhibition ticket) tours of the exhibition on Tuesday - Fridays each week. This is a must-see for any art-lover and truly a real coup for Norwich - and, in fact, the whole of the UK!

Please note the Sainsbury Centre is closed on Mondays,

Florida factory 389

2. Leather, lace trim, heels… there’s more than meets the eye to making shoes. Norwich used to be a shoe-making tour de force before cheaper foreign production battered the majority of local production, leaving behind a rich history but only one successful company: Van Dal.

If, like us, you have a penchant for the perfect pair of heels then make sure you take a tour of their factory: Van Dal still design and produce many of their ladies’ shoes right here in Norwich. Immerse yourself in the history of shoe-making with tales from their friendly team and see, first-hand and up-close, the whole process, from cutting the leather to adding the final touches.

Tours run Monday - Thursday and are free of charge, but require advance booking (it is a working factory, after all!), call 01603 493116.

If you'd like to explore more about the history of Norwich's shoe-making industry then the Norwich Castle Study Centre (Monday - Friday) is a hidden gem with a whole section dedicated to Costume & Textiles, with a wealth of information and examples as part of their 25,000 strong collection. Booking an appointment is required to visit but it's free and easy to do so; call 01603 493625.

Also, the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell has a lovely dedicated interactive display all about shoe manufacturing in Norwich (open Tuesday - Sunday).

3. Craving a break from the hustle and bustle of the city centre? Less than a 10 minute walk away you’ll find yourself outside what is, for many, a secret ‘green’ gem of the city: The Plantation Garden. Pay the £2 entrance fee in their honesty box (quaint, we know, but we’re a decent bunch here!) and you’ll be met with quite a sight: over three acres of grassland, trees and flower borders waiting to be discovered. Not only that, but as you wander around you’ll come across lovely surprises including a 100 metre-long Victorian-style Greenhouse, an Italian Terrace and a medieval wall. Keep exploring and you’ll come across hidden pathways and an impressive, unique Gothic fountain - one of the first features built by Henry Trevor, who bought the original site and began its transformation. On a Tuesday morning you might see the dedicated team of weekly volunteers weeding and maintaining the garden- such is their love for the space - and who help make it the tranquil retreat that it is today. 

Assembly House Afternoon Tea Image

4. Take inspiration from Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, and be ladies (or gents) who lunch! She began the much-loved tradition of Afternoon Tea back in the 18th century - feeling the hunger pangs between lunch and dinner, she began snacking on tea and sandwiches to combat that mid-afternoon slump we all suffer with from time to time! One of the best locations to while away an afternoon enjoying dainty sandwiches, super-cute cakes and light-as-a-cloud scones is the beautiful Georgian setting of The Assembly House. Friendly, attentive staff serve up an indulgent array of savoury and sweet treats, along with a delightful selection of teas sourced from Norwich’s iconic independent tea shop, Wilkinson’s of Norwich. So why not stray from your usual blend and give Orange Oolong or Darjeeling Fop a go - with names like that surely you can’t resist? 

5. Beer and Norwich go hand in hand - once upon a time we could proudly claim (at every possible occasion) that we had a pub for every day of the year, and though this is no longer the case, what we do have is an impressive selection of free houses across the city. We also do home-grown brewing very well - Woodforde’s are a prime example of a local brewing success story. 

This month between; 26 May – 5 June 2016 the city celebrates our love of beer and our beer heritage with the Norwich City of Ale festival. Over 10 days try any number of special events including beer tasting sessions where you’ll get the opportunity to sample various types of lagers and ales. Cheers!