We had a to-do list as long as your arm this weekend, but it had been a tough week for everyone so we decided to sack it all off and go out for some fun instead.
The Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival was on this weekend and some advertising had caught my eye, so a trip to the seaside it was. We hurled buckets and spades and an empty cool bag in the boot and headed off on the rather mammoth drive. Predictably none of our ice packs were in the freezer, so I nipped into the supermarket and picked up a bag of ice, ignoring the Old Man's protests that it would never last - it did of course. Win to me. It worked perfectly but ugh what on earth do they put in that ice?!
With The Kooks blaring out of the stereo and the car windows open this felt like the first day of summer.
Do you want to go to the seaside?
The festival is in it's fifth year and attracts over 20,000 visitors to the two towns. There's so much going on with events over many venues including live music; trails; cookery demonstrations; children's entertainment and stalls. In truth our whistle-stop tour of Cromer wasn't enough time to enjoy everything and when we go back next year we'd look to stay overnight. Some of the evening events looked brilliant, the lifeboat museum had combined it with the national Museums at Night campaign for example and on the Friday night there was an opening concert on the pier.
First up we visited the guys from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. And they were indeed an authority, showing off native crustaceans from the Cromer coast and beguiling us with fascinating facts like how to tell a male and a female crab apart, and how female lobsters carry their eggs around on their underbelly for around 10 months - it's actually all very fascinating and you can read more about it here.
I have a love/hate relationship with crabs. When I was a kid I remember swimming out in the sea with my mum. It was one of those flat beaches where you could swim out for miles and still touch the bottom. Well, this one day I inadvertently put my foot down right on top of a bloody great crab which then proceeded to go into attack mode and attached it's vice-like pincer grip to my instep. It was pure agony, especially as the salty sea water came into contact with the puncture wounds and I had to lift my leg high into the air like a very inelegant synchronised swimmer with the crab fiercely attached so my mum could remove it. As my leg went up, my head went under and I very nearly drowned.
My payback to these vicious crustaceans is eating them. Preferably with a spritz of lemon juice in a nice crab sandwich - delicious!
We visited the demonstration area and were shown how to dress a crab (I've never understood that expression. Surely undressing a crab would make more sense?!). The Old Man was keen to have a go so he was given his own crab to wield a knife at, and although it's probably not the neatest ever dressed crab, he did a pretty good job and felt confident enough for us to buy a whole crab to bring home - that's currently sitting in our freezer, so I hope he can remember how to do it when the time comes.
As well as all the crab and lobster, there were tonnes of other local food stalls at Evington Lawns, right near the sea-front. Real ales; local apple juice; freshly squeezed French lemonade; local cheese; breads and pastries; cakes; fudge; honey; pickles and preserves all made for a scrumptious stroll, savouring the samples at each one.
This lavender cheese was just divine, made from local cow's milk by Norton's Dairy, it is flavoured with delicate lavender, chervil and rosemary for a sublimely fragrant soft cheese. It certainly made it into my cool bag to bring home.
There were displays by the local beekeeping association, as well as lots of honey and honey-related products on sale and Ruby tried her hand at rolling a beeswax candle.
We'd sadly missed the paella and by the time we got there were greeted with what must be one of the world's largest paella dishes completely empty - some poor sod must have had the job of washing that up. We made do with delicious crab sandwiches served up by appropriately dressed staff, and washed down with a refreshing bottle of local Bramley apple juice.
Everywhere and everyone was decorated to the theme and it was a really vibrant festival atmosphere. There was so much to see and do (and eat!) we could have stayed for hours, but sadly it was a five hour round trip so we had to cram in what we could.
We headed over to the pier, one of Britain's oldest with roots going back to the fourteenth century, although in those days it was more of a jetty. The pier as you see today dates from 1901.
It's always a popular haunt for crabbing, but over the festival weekend competition hots up for the championship and there's always people happy to show off their catches.
After an obligatory ice cream and a go on some of the rides, we took a stroll along the beach, watching the seagulls and admiring the pretty beach houses.
Just time for some fish and chips by the sea front from No 1 Cromer, before heading home.
It was a glorious day and we ended our foodie road trip with a pit-stop at a cute caravan by the roadside on the way home to stock up on some fresh local asparagus to add the the haul. It combined rather nicely with the crab in a homemade quiche which we scoffed for tea last night.
We'll definitely be back to sample more of the delights that Cromer has to offer and will be making a date in the diary for next year's festival.
Linking up with Time Traveller.