For those on a tour of Europe, it’s easy to be drawn to explore the typical hotspots, particularly in the UK. The appeal of mega-metropolis London can detract from the glory of the English countryside and all that it has to offer, and whilst there’s plenty to do in the capital, there’s far more to the UK than London.
Take Norfolk for example; this picturesque county on England’s east coast boasts so much diversity in such a small space, and yet it can so often be overlooked by the intrepid traveller, and why?
There are many comparisons to be made between this stunning area and the ever-popular Netherlands, yet the latter remains a common destination for many a wanderlusting individual, whilst a gem in the UK’s tourist destination crown remains largely disregarded. There is much to be said of the similarities between the two – and in some respects, Norfolk even beats its canal cousin.
1. Life’s better on the Broads
Both locations have magnificent canal systems, and that is an undeniable fact. There’s nothing more relaxing than laying back on a narrowboat with tranquillity and breath-taking scenery all around, and whether that’s in Holland or England is generally irrelevant as both countries have their own plus points. But is there really anything better than the British countryside?
Norfolk offers you the chance to see some of the best of Britain from the water, bearing witness to the glory of a sunset or sunrise across the awe-inspiring landscape. Forget using pedal power on your bike, or the hassle of sitting in traffic with broken air conditioning in the height of summer; instead, select your floating vessel, hop on board, and explore the beauty of the county with the blossoming flora of the season surrounding you. You can even find traditional country pubs scattered along the waterways – perfect for stopping off for a pint!
2. Hunstanton vs The Hague
A traditional seaside resort is the staple of any UK summer holiday, and whilst Hunstanton may not be topping any glamorous destination lists, it’s packed with almost everything that could ever be classed as ‘quintessentially British’.
The incredible sands of The Hague are certainly awe-inspiring, whilst the innovative architecture both as the backdrop and the foreground of your beach trip, with its stunning pier stretching out to sea, are spectacular. Sometimes though, there’s nothing better than basking in tradition, which is exactly what Hunstanton offers.
Take a boat tour on ‘The Wash Monster’, enjoy an ice cream on the promenade after spending too much time in the arcades, or simply lay on the sand with the ever-familiar sounds of the fair echoing along the shores; however you choose to spend your time, you can rest assured that you’re living out a truly typical trip to the British seaside.
3. When it’s spring again I’ll bring again tulips from… Norfolk
A carpet of colour adorns the fields across both Norfolk and the Netherlands from March to May every year, offering a spectrum of vibrancy to dazzle the eyes. In Holland, you can barely turn a corner without a torrent of tulips swaying in the breeze, and Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival is one of the largest flower displays in the world.
With many travellers crowning the Netherlands as the home of the spring flower, Norfolk is the place to head for a more peaceful and soothing experience to see the blooming beauties. A floral rainbow envelops every inch of soil in the dedicated tulip fields to the east, with all the tones and tints of colour you could imagine embellishing the landscape as far as the eye can see. With less visitors than their Dutch relatives, these fields display one of the finest examples of blossoming British horticulture without having to battle the crowds.
4. Idyllic towns and villages trump city living
Norfolk’s only city is Norwich; its breath-taking cathedral and picturesque streets offer a beautiful setting with lots of facilities within seconds of each other, but as metropolitan centres go, it’s certainly not a city as you would come to expect. On the other hand, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are spectacular examples of urban utopias that grow more culturally diverse and architecturally outstanding with each passing year, with a phenomenal combination of contemporary chic and preserved tradition that blend seamlessly.
While these cityscapes are undoubtedly beautiful, it’s tough to equate the sublime setting of an English village to that of a cosmopolitan capital. Although it will entirely depend on the style of stop-over you’re searching for, immersing yourself in the quirky cultures and customs of a Norfolk town or village will give you the chance to fully appreciate just how sublime the English county is.
Wroxham’s ‘Capital of the Broads’ title is well-deserved and entirely understandable once you’ve visited the blissful town, whilst Thetford not only offers a serene forest to explore, but also a charming plethora of history to discover. Don’t miss Cley-next-the-Sea, which has the striking addition of a historic windmill, and check out the thatched cottages of Mundesley for a truly enchanting taste of Britain.
5. British cuisine is king
Stroopwafel, cheese and liquorice are all staple foods of a Dutch diet, not to mention there being a shop selling patat (French fries doused in mayonnaise) on every corner. Herring and mini Dutch pancakes also feature highly, as well as the delicacy of hagelslag, a chocolate sprinkle-filled sandwich. The diet is nothing if not varied!
But if some of that sounds a little too eccentric for your taste buds, the British cuisine is here to serve. Fish is famed in these parts, with Norfolk’s coast supplying many a fine restaurant and seaside chip shop with an array of freshly-caught goods ranging from the Cromer crab to Brancaster mussels and Stiffkey cockles. If you’d rather something from the land, samphire is a delicious addition to any dish that thrives in Norfolk more than most other counties, whilst Norfolk turkey is revered around many tables come Christmas.
Besides all of that, you just can’t beat a traditional Sunday roast in a traditional English pub surrounded by traditional British countryside!
So, there are the options and the choice is yours – what will it be, Norfolk or the Netherlands?
Bio: Kirsty Fensome is a Devon-based food lover with a passion for discovering the diverse cultures of the world and how they differ from those in the UK.