Saturday/Sunday 5/6 April 2014 – Bury St Edmunds.
On Thursday evening El and I were sitting around home chatting and quite randomly decided that we should go somewhere and stay the night on Saturday. We had a hurried look on the interweb mainly at train timetables and maps of places within a couple of hours from home – and were then horrified at how much train fairs were at the last minute…. We looked at York for instance, return for two people 400 pounds. This is just insane – what the hell is wrong with these people! Obviously with some pre-planning it would be cheaper, but we are not always pre-planning people. Anyway, we decided on Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It had a cathedral, a market, a nice hotel and was cheap enough to travel to, cheap enough that we decided to go first class. I have never done first class on a train before – or any other form of transport for that matter. Where is my first class appropriate collar and tie you may ask ?this is a civil society after all !
The forecast promised us a cloudy but rain free day on the Saturday and showers on Sunday, which suited us fine. We left mid morning from Liverpool St for Ipswich, where we had a connecting train, and though we left on time for some unknown reason we were late arriving so ended up with an extra thirty minutes in Ipswich station, surprisingly it was not that exciting, and the coffee was crap as well.
We arrived in Bury St Edmunds and on the walk from the station to the hotel we passed a record fair, that just had to be visited later in the afternoon… We walked though the nicer parts of the market town and with a little bit of g-mapping found our hotel easily enough.
The Georgian era hotel looks really nice from the front and Charles Dickens stayed there in the 1800’s and is mentioned in his book The Pickwick Papers, slightly less cerebrally Angelina Jolie stayed there while filming Tomb Raider. Sadly I can report that while I have seen Tomb Raider I have not read The Pickwick Papers.
Once checked in we decided to go for a walk around the old part of the market town, have some lunch and check out the record fair. The Angle Hotel is on Angel Hill and over the road from St Edmundsbury Cathedral. I gleaned the following from a Suffolk guide book “Throughout the middle ages Angel Hill served as the site for the Bury Fair, attended by traders and entertainers from all over Europe. Today it still attracts visitors from abroad and home, but mostly serves as a car park.” I just found that hilarious…. And here it is – the site of the famous Bury Fair, and the front of our hotel.
Our first stop was the cathedral over the road, though I am a little confused about what bits are from what era, the original abbey was started in 1065, though the actual cathedral part was not fully completed until 2010… I do like cathedrals, but not so much the modern ones and I was a little disappointed. It was nice, but not “wow, how did they do this x hundreds of years ago nice”. The organist was having a wee jam session while we there and it was very loud – and not my cup of tea musically.
I am a huge sucker for high vaulted roofs!
The older parts of the abbey were round the back in the gardens and we decided to get lunch first and check them out later. We walked up through the market, a mix of traditional farmers markets – prices half that of London, and the same old plastic crap that is for sale in every market on every continent. The shops were fairly bland as well, the usual suspect high street retailers and the only boutique type places catered for a different market to us. The record fair was a bit of a disappointment as well, only a couple of people selling stuff, there was an LP copy of NZ’s Straightjacket Fits ‘Hail’ album and I was tempted, but did not buy it in the end.
I can report that lunch was good, the highlight of the trip to be honest!
We had a table reserved in the hotel restaurant and reviews had been pretty good, so we had high expectations. It was however, like the rest of day and was slightly disappointing. The menu was reasonable, the food was OK, it looked good and was prepared well – it just didn’t set the taste buds on fire. At dessert they got El’s cheese board wrong and the waiter said the port he served me was the cognac I asked for, when I said it was port he almost argued with me, it was even in a port glass! They were both sorted out, but not what we expected for the price.
There was quite a cool little underground bar in the hotel, we went down for a drink and by the time we managed to get our drinks all the seats were taken so we ended up heading back to our room to watch Match of the Day on TV – I will admit that was likely anyway.
The hotel was grossly overpriced for what it was, and our room was pretty shabby compared to places we have stayed in that have been a lot cheaper, but positives I can say about the room was even though the place was pretty busy it was dead quiet, and the bed very comfortable, a mega-sleep was had.
After another bout of rubbish service and an average breakfast we were going to walk around the abbey gardens before heading home. However the rain put paid to those plans so I nipped out to take a couple of photos of the abbey – including rain drops, before grabbed a break in the showers and nipped to the station.
We were lucky to get first class tickets on the way back as the train had a stop in Cambridge on the way back and what seemed like 10,000 people got on the train. It is the weekend of the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race on the Thames in London and there were a lot of fans travelling.
I am glad we went to Bury St Edmunds, it was nice to go away, and walk and hang out together – but we won’t be rushing back, even though I would have liked to explore the abbey gardens a bit more, just in case I missed something.