I’m sitting at my desk on my lunch break at work. The great thing about my desk is that I have an amazing view of Regent’s Park and surrounds, further back Primrose Hill and even further the Wembley Stadium arch. Today, however, I can see nothing more than an expanse of shades of grey (probably more than 50) due to the incessant rain suffocating London this week. It’s been at least 22 degrees over the past week with on-and-off rain, so it’s like the humidity has become tangible in the air.
This is in stark contrast to the beautiful weekends that have just passed. One of these weekends was the May Day bank holiday, on which we took the opportunity to make our first trip out of London in the UK. After much listing, researching and shortlisting we decided on one night at Cambridge.
We caught the train from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, which took just over an hour (plus another 40 minutes to get to central from our apartment). The total cost was about £45 – jump on to www.thameslinkrailway.com to check prices and book tickets. If you do book online, make a note of which departure times you have chosen! The night before our trip I realised that the confirmation email didn’t have the times on it, just a booking reference used to collect the tickets from the station. I had a rough idea of the times we’d planned so we arrived at Liverpool Street quite early to collect our tickets (which did have the times on them) and wait for our train. While early to the station, we made the mistake of getting on the train too close to the departure time meaning that all the good (front facing and booth) seats were already taken.
Cambridge station is a moderate walk from the village centre. We caught a cab to the Regent Hotel, dropped our bags off and started exploring.
Lunch was at All Bar One – probably not the most quintessential of Cambridge destinations but we’ve had good experiences at the franchise (franchises are inescapable here, from Pret to pubs to restaurants) and were hungry after our early morning and journey. Unfortunately, the standard must decrease rapidly outside of London! While the food was fine (burger and fries), the toilets were or par with those in the dodgier pubs I’ve visited. Locking door, dry floor, toilet paper – choose only two!
We then walked to the Cam and signed up for a punting tour with Let’s Go Punting. Get your best rejection (my favourite is glazed eyes, closely followed by evil glare) ready to fend off the flock of guys trying to sell you a ride with their punting company. Luckily we’d booked online so weren’t swayed by their advances. After a walk along the river to kill some time, we hopped in our punt (in rows of three with strangers, immediately killing off any hopes of romance) and were off. The guides were all muscles and white teeth (ladies, go on a warm day so you don’t risk jumper weather) and ours delivered some interesting commentary of the colleges, bridges and other buildings that we passed. This ended up being the only tour we did so was useful as a basic introduction.
Unfortunately a majority of the colleges were closed to the public due to exams, so we weren’t able to visit the King’s College Chapel, which is a huge gothic chapel built by King Henry VI (the founder of the college) and contributed to by Kings Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and finally finished by Henry VIII.
In the afternoon we bought some wine, cheese and accompaniments from Sainsbury’s, then sat in the park near our hotel and consumed all of it. The sun was out and our jumpers were off until the darkness set in. There were plenty of people to watch, all enjoying the weather.
The following morning we had brunch at Fitzbillies, the bakery famous for its Chelsea buns. We did try one but it was extremely sweet, much too intense for a morning. We also shared some eggs which were delicious; perfect egg to sauce to salmon to bread ratio and not too salty. If you do drop by, be prepared to wait for a table. We accidentally (luckily) arrived right on opening time so were given a table straight away, however within ten minutes there was quite a line!
After the Chelsea bun we needed a walk so visited Trinity College; apparently Trinity is the richest college at Cambridge. We could only get into the chapel and the quadrangle but they were very impressive. Inside there were statues of famous alumni, including Isaac Newton. On our punt tour, the guide told us that Prince Charles attended the college. On his first day, he stipulated that he must be treated like any other student, after arriving by private helicopter and being admitted to the college with the worst grades in history!
Cambridge is best visited on a day with nice weather and when the colleges are open. I’d love to go back and learn more about the history. Next time: Oxford!
Does anyone have any recommendations for day trips out of London?