The sun was shining through the windows as we drew back the curtains which was a good start to the day. After a hearty breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant we wrapped up warm and walked along the now familiar route to the Meadows Way West tram stop.
Instead of taking a tram into the city centre, we caught one towards Toton Lane as we wished to visit the main campus of the University of Nottingham two miles from the city centre. The university has its own dedicated tram stop located towards the south entrance of the campus with a path leading up to its main buildings. Rather than follow this path we decided instead to take a longer route through University Park.
The campus covers 300 acres and is regarded as one of the largest and most attractive in the country as it is set around a lake. We followed a path around the lakeside leading to an ornamental bridge and a lakeside terrace. Our attention was drawn to two magnificent stone lions and reading the plaque discovered that these had been a gift from Nottingham’s twin city of Ningbo in China marking a decade of civic partnership between the two cities. In 2004 a China campus of the University of Nottingham opened in Ningbo which is an historic city near Shanghai on China’s east coast.
From the lakeside terrace we enjoyed views of the stunning architecture of the university’s Grade II listed Trent Building which opened in 1928. Making our way along woodland paths we climbed the hill to the building itself and glanced in its elegant central hallway and Great Hall.
Returning to the tram stop by a different route we passed the imposing Portland Building and had fun watching the ducks and geese slide along the partially frozen lake. I would definitely recommend adding a visit to University Park to your Nottingham itinerary as the landscaped gardens and riverside walks are for the enjoyment of everyone and not just for its students.
Nottingham tram services are very frequent and we were soon back on board and returning towards the city centre. As we had purchased day tickets (£4) each and were able to enjoy unlimited travel, we continued along to the High School stop so that we could take a walk through Nottingham Arboretum. This is Nottingham’s oldest park and is home to a collection of over 800 trees some of which are from the original collection planted in the 19th century. I’m certain that the park is at its best in spring and autumn but during our mid winter visit we had a pleasant walk taking in the Victorian circular aviary, Chinese bell tower, bandstand and lake.
We left the park at the lower gates where a cafe is located and returned to Lace Market in the city centre from the nearby Nottingham Trent University tram stop. The previous day when we had walked along High Pavement we had seen the exterior of St. Mary’s Church so we thought we would take a look inside before returning home. The church welcomes visitors between 10.00-3.00 each day excluding Sunday when services take place and is free to enter.
The church is the largest medieval building in Nottingham and is a fine example of the prosperity of the city during the 15th century. On entering we were stunned at its size and magnificent architecture. Its huge stained glass windows and monuments bear witness to the funds donated by the guilds, merchants and nobility of the city.
My eyes were drawn to the spectacular West Window which commemorates one of Nottingham’s lace manufacturers. The blank panels are purposefully positioned to reflect the elaborate stone porch outside. In front of the altar are exquisitely carved choir stalls with singing desks and lamps which looked so beautiful and would be even more so if the choristers were present.
As with so many English churches the original oak pews and stone floors in the nave have been replaced. Removable seating and modern flooring enables the church space to be used for a variety of purposes within the community but ripping out the original oak pews certainly divides opinion.
Our weekend in Nottingham was drawing to a close but there was still enough time to enjoy a meal before heading back home. We’d walked past Belgo numerous times as it is opposite The Nottingham Contemporary at Weekday Cross and the thought of mussels and beer had us heading through the door.
The interior has a casual decor with reclaimed wooden booths and beer drums hanging from the ceiling giving a nod to traditional Belgian beer halls. A table had just become free in the large bay window so we settled down there and perused the extensive menu. As there are 52 Belgian craft beers available, our waitress offered helpful pairing suggestions to accompany our food.
My starter of moules marinière served with a freshly baked baguette was of generous proportions and its mouthwatering sauce delicious and I scooped up every last drop. Our other starter of king prawns in a mango, chilli and red onion salsa was also impressive. For mains, I was tempted into trying the Flemish beef carbonnade with steomp mash, a richer version of traditional mashed potato. My beef was soft and tender and had been slowly cooked in a thick beer sauce. Across the table the rotisserie chicken and double cooked frites were going down a treat served in authentic Belgian style with mayonnaise.
When the dessert menu was offered I couldn’t resist a freshly prepared bubble waffle but was surprised how big it was when it arrived. Eating spoonfuls of the warm waffle topped with ice cream transported me back to the streets of Bruges where I’d sampled one previously. Friendly service combined with authentic Belgian cuisine and a vast choice of beers ticked all the boxes for us, setting us up for our train journey home.
Our weekend had come to an end but we were returning home with happy memories of our three days in Nottingham. A city where we went down caves, took part in a mock court case, enjoyed an evening of Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal and dined very well. Next time you feel like a weekend away, I suggest giving Nottingham a try as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
During our visit to Nottingham we were guests of Visit Nottinghamshire and as always all views and opinions are entirely our own.
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