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Saturday, 5 December 2009

Lincoln Christmas Fair: 3rd to 6th December.

Last Thursday, four of us went to the Christmas fair in the city of Lincoln. Although I had been to Lincoln in the past, on business, I had never been to the annual Christmas Fair. So this year, you could say that I was a Lincoln Christmas Fair virgin (in name only) and happily went along with my friends, Dawn, Sue and Jon. Well, actually I begged and pleaded to be included in their trip and was delighted to be invited along.

The morning started with torential rain but cleared up a bit later. It remained wintery cold all day. The rivers were all brown and  flooded as we travelled by train to Lincoln through Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

We took the 12.27pm train from Nottingham on this freezing cold Thursday afternoon and arrived in Lincoln City about 1.30pm, a time otherwise known as ‘drink o’clock.’ The railway station is fairly central and we walked into the main shopping precinct together, heading in the general direction of the touristically famous incline known as, Steep Hill. I’m glad that we weren’t traversing it in the snow, that’s all I can say. Steep by name and steep by nature. The thought of a boozy drink at the top drove us on. Part way we perused a dusty second-hand bookshop and a classy and terribly tempting 'hand-made chocolates' shop.

A cosy local pub, The Wig and Mitre, forced us to partake of a few ales and wine and offered us some respite from the bitter cold and a chance to sit and chat together. Next, we found a cosy café to devour some hot buttery cinnamon muffins, sandwiches and Earl Grey tea. How terribly English, what? The word ‘cosy’ became the word of the day. Well, that and its counterpart, 'freezing'.

Departing the café stop, Sue got somewhat attracted by the aromatic and olfactory caffeine charms of an Olde Worlde coffee and tea emporium across the street and, inside, Dawn and I astonished ourselves with the high prices whilst admiring the Japanese style teapots, crackle glaze ceramics and tea making paraphernalia. All equally beyond our purses. Jon smiled a lot after sniffing all of the rich aromas in one go. His nostrils twitched violently and he had to retire to the street before he bought the contents of the entire shop.

Lincoln Christmas Fair.

Along our calf- aching route uphill, we came upon an art gallery and craft shop combined. This venue distracted us for half an hour as the light outside started to fall and the evening crowds thickened in their exuberant rush to enjoy the delights of the Christmas Fair that officially opened at 4pm.

Compared with Nottingham and the ‘German Market’ that graces our fair city this was a fair beyond compare. It was huge. We did a tour of the historical Bishop’s Palace and I really liked the atmosphere they'd created therein and we were all amused by the faux medieval costumes and lighting and straw lain floors. My friend Dawn was attracted by a display of rings and by one in particular that showed phases of the moon – a ring within a ring, in fact. I found a skull and posed  for this photo in which I appear like a stunned 'older' Hamlet with lock jaw. However, the intention was to pose like an intelligent and troubled, yet handsome. young Dane really.

I did wonder if the event was profitable for the artefact style stall holders as most folk just go to the event to enjoy the tradition, the sights and friendly Christmas atmosphere and some cheap food and drink along the way. A lack of cash points in this part of Lincoln – by the Castle and Cathedral – didn't help either.

Back up near the Tourist Office we tried out the wares offered on the German Sausage stall and I had a very tasty bratwurst with a generous amount of mustard. Herrlich gut! Dawn and I were a bit chilly at this point and a hot glühwein each helped to warm us up. Sue and Jon joined us in drinking a  body warming drink and the air around us was full of hot, wet spicery. I was in the Christmas spirit already! Glühwein is tradionally prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Sometimes honey is added instead of the natural sugar.

Steep Hill

Our route through the crowds took us via the Castle grounds and hundreds of stalls offering everything from donnuts and pretzels, Lincolnshire bomb cheeses and sloe gins and whiskies in many a fruity guise. Most of the stall holders were dressed in faux Victorian dress which added delightfully to the festive atmosphere. En route, the streets thronged with happy people in modern dress and Chocolate Box style dress and there was a great Dickensian Christmas style opportunity for the jolly clashing of wicker baskets – or plastic Tesco carrier bags. Not quite the same effect, but clash away merrily anyway!

Three Linconshire gents raising funds

On chatting, Dawn and I, seem to share a similarly surreal sense of humour and we had an inventive time together whilst watching some massive bubbles float and meld in the black-blue night sky. We concluded that the bubbles were powered by invisible hamsters with trimmed claws. It was too heart rending to think what happened when these bubbles burst so I indulged my senses with a free tasting of the most sumptuous lemon infused combination of olive oil, lemon and light balsamic vinegar. I dipped in my free bit of bread, wiped it copiously in the mixture, placed the morsel into my welcoming mouth and went to heaven!  At another very lovely bread and cake stall I got some gorgeous smelling olive bread for myself and Dawn.

olive bread

A few samples of the sloe gin and a purchase of those afore-mentioned olive bread buns made the whole evening seem even more festive. Observing all around me, I was interested to see the police in action, checking that each stall that sold things alcoholic had a licence to do so.

Another busy stall that Sue, Jon, Dawn and I haunted, was the home-made Christmas Pudd stall. They were handing out hot, steamy and delightfully rich and fruity orange fragrant samples. As Rick Stein often says “Delish!” Along the way I picked up issue 10 of  a free magazine called Good Taste covering the Lincolnshire Food scene. I may well report on this in my next blog post.

Well, boys and girls, time was getting on and we made our way through the gloriously tacky fairground bypassing some pleasingly full looking local restaurants and a busy deli with hanging hams displayed at the top of the upper town shopping precinct. We temporarily lost Jon near to a shop window full of cheeky lingerie. Several mobile phone calls later he was back with us.

Back down in the lower pedestrianised part of city we searched for an atm  (cash machine) without a massive queue and having garnered some ready cash and diverted our course from a 'chavs with bruteish dog' invasion, we survived crossing a startlingly busy road near to the railway station. Gallantly, I took Dawn’s arm in mine and we both legged it rapidlly to the other side. We were all gagging for a drink.

On Brayford Wharf East we entered a pub of dubious ‘sticky floor and stale air‘ merit and spent the remaining half hour imbibing a drink each and rejoicing in the doggy attentions of Penny the young Labrador. She was a growing pup keen on snuffling up any discarded food and crisps whilst wagging her playful tail.

The 8.45pm train took us all back to Nottingham, Sue and Jon headed off to their bus-stop and myself and Dawn hot-footed it uphill (more hills!) past the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery and the conveyor belt charms of Yo Sushi to the warmth of the Lace Market Market Theatre bar until it was time to abscond back downhill to the chilly bus station for our seperate buses home.

As they say “A splendid time was had by all.”

As Tiny Tim would say “ God Bless Us Every One, and keep eating!.”


Gail's Man said...

Glad you had a nice trip to Lincoln. I've not been there for about 20 years. How's the job hunting going?

Phil Lowe said...

Cheers Gail's Man. Job hunting is going very well. Working Links are helping me focus and find work that I want to do. Thanks for asking mate. We must catch up sometime. Fancy doing a coffee?

hectoria said...

Sounds fantastic;I think Lincoln is brilliant in the winter when decorated for Christmas tho have never been to the market.There are a lot of foood entrepreneurs these days with fabulous stuff but they can be expensive.

French Fancy said...

This sounds such a great day out - there is nothing like being in a little group of like-minded people, laughing at the same silly things and being out in the wintry pre-xmas fun.

I've never been to Lincoln but it goes with two things in my mind - green and biscuits.

Good luck with the job hunting - you need to get saving for your French escapades.

Marian Barker said...

Glad to hear that you're having a great time.

Phil Lowe said...

thanks French Fancy - it was a lovely day with some lovely people and it's always good to be silly don't ya think? Yep, get some fufilling work and when I have some pennies I would love to come over to France.

ta Marian sweetheart. I am one happy bunny presently.

Phil Lowe said...

Hi Hectoria, I love going to farmer's markets and organic fairs ect and am keen to support them. Can be quite expensive but the quality of the food is generally excellent.

Karen said...

One day we'll get to the Lincoln market - we'll have to get more organised & try next year. All the food is what tempts us! Like you, we love Farmers Markets & anywhere good local food is sold, though it's often a drain on the purse, as we cannot resisit things. But we'd rather spend on scrumptious food than on other things.

Phil Lowe said...

Karen: You should definately go. Lots of food stands. The fair only lasts for four days though.