Friday, 10 July 2015

It's beginning to feel a lot like summer

This weekend marked the first time I've ever had an overnight stay in Cambridge! As a teen I made regular visits for shopping and am still often drawn for Christmas shopping as the centre always looks so twinkly and pretty during the festive season! With so many green spaces and the river, I do also love Cambridge in the summertime as I hark back to days spent picnicking and punting.
Having usually had to make a dash for the last train (or at least one later than the hoards of commuters), I've seen very little of Cambridge in the evenings beyond gigs at Cambridge Junction. I must confess I was therefore a little worried we'd get bored with two full days and an evening to fill, but I'm glad to say I was wrong.

On Friday evening we managed to jump on an earlier train than planned. Usually running late or arriving literally at the last second, I think we'd both decided to be a little more organised and found ourselves being a lot more organised. We don't do things by halves... There just in time for said earlier train, we did unfortunately miss out on a seat. However, when the train split at Royston (seriously, since when was this a thing?), we managed to find somewhere to sit down and tuck into leftovers from Wednesday night's feast at the Big Easy Lobstershack in Covent Garden. Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese and brisket that even when cold melted in the mouth; yum!

The length of the Cambridge journey always takes me by surprise and before we knew it, we'd arrived! We then had the shortest walk to our hotel where we dropped our bags before venturing out to locate a supermarket for nibbles and drinks to tide us over for our stay.

Our venture was quick but took us back over the train tracks which is a bit novel for me who usually treads the same route to, between and back from the shops to the station and home. It's always interesting to see a slightly different part of a place that seems so familiar!

Following a quiet night in at the hotel, we were up bright and early to make the most of the day of sunshine!

Now our hotel was fine, providing the basic comforts, but it was certainly no more than basic. Thus, breakfast was more than entertaining... in true tea-snob style I requested an Earl Grey (after all, a 'selection' of teas and coffees with breakfast had been promised) but was told they had none. 1☆ rating from me. Next, the gentleman next to us asked for Marmite with his toast but instead was presented with syrup as that was the only alternative to jam they had. 1☆ rating from him. A moment later another lady wondered whether they have gluten free bread but of course they do not. 1☆ rating from her. Then last but not least, a couple order Full English without various bits and bobs (per their request). When it comes out, to the lady's horror it is lacking in mushrooms, which she did not request to be omitted from her plate. Upon asking where they are she is told that they... have none. -1☆ rating from her.

Tummies tickled, we were off! Decided it was a good idea to go punting first thing to a) avoid the heat of the day and b) to make the most of our empty hands before they were potentially filled with shopping bags.

My rule, if the touter's wearing a 'proper' punting hat, they have my custom. So we booked a ride with a totally authentic looking punter that was leaving in a matter of minutes; perfect timing!

It is my personal opinion that boat tours give the best perspective! It's so relaxing to bob along water in the sunshine whilst zoning in and out to someone telling you amusing anecdotes. If that said someone telling you anecdotes happens to be topless, tanned & tattooed then it's probably a blessing if you're facing away to allow full focus. Anyway, swiftly moving on, punting was, as always, lots of fun! I could quite happily spend an eternity on a boat.

Half 11 and it was obviously time for our first pub stop. We sat on the riverfront with tequila and ginger beer, observing the art of punting; dog passengers, falls into the river and even the 'professionals' losing their sticks (?) to the reeds below. Tummies rumbled and we knew it was time for lunch.

When in Cambridge, have a picnic! Still home to a large M&S foodhall, we went in and gathered tasty treats to eat on Jesus Green. Like everyone else, we searched for a tree providing mottled shade. Finally finding one (they were in high demand), we settled down to enjoy our food and a rest; heat is hard work!

I think we could have stayed there, drifting in and out of consciousness forever, but we knew we fancied a bit of shopping and we weren't in London where everywhere would be open until 10pm, so we tore ourselves away from our comfy spot!

In Cambridge, it's hard to simply shop. Beautiful buildings forming the centre make for huge distraction, so I may have stopped for a million photos as we ambled along. The other distraction came in the form of a more than comprehensive list of pubs to visit as we had a whole weekend, so of course we had to pop in and out of those as we found them.

Despite distraction, I do love the easy-to-choose nature of smaller shops. London (and Oxford Street in particular) almost offers too much and you never know where to begin! However, it has to be said, that a Cambridge shop is a successful shop! So we returned to the hotel laden with bags and very ready for another nap!

Incredibly fortunately, a friend of mine was staying in Cambridge over the same weekend and as she had gone to university in the city (jealous? Me?), she knew all the best pubs for good food, beers, board games and atmosphere! So on Saturday evening, we ventured to one close by our hotel. Just like the Fat Cat (Norwich reference), it provided a real good old man feel, excellent pork scratchings and a lovely outdoor area for sitting in the summer.

The following morning, check-out was at 11 o'clock, so we decided to have a lie-in to balance out our early start the previous morning! Disappointed by breakfast the day before, we hoped to find somewhere alternative on our way into the city for a final wander and shop.

Feeling a little under-dressed in my flip-flops and sleeveless top for the rain that had decided to make an appearance, I was pleased when we soon found a popular little French café serving a whole host of tasty breakfast treats! Stomachs more than satisfied by Eggs Benedict and a Bratwurst Baguette washed down with proper tea, we were ready for the day!

Laden with just a few more bags than we'd arrived with, we headed back to the station at a relaxed pace to get whatever train we co-ordinated with. Unfortunately, the train going through to Kings Cross was weaving all round the houses, but it turned out that was of no consequence as I spent pretty much the entire journey asleep!

I know I've been living in London for almost two years now, but I still don't often get a proper sense of it as home. However, this time when returning from Cambridge I was really looking forward to being home! It was a brief stop though, just time for a cup of tea and to say hello to the cats before we then headed straight back out to Barbican for a very wonderful concert featuring one of my own little ones; SO proud (and super jealous as his performance was conducted by none other than Sir Simon Rattle)!

A hugely summery weekend! Only one full week left before we break up for the holiday (I'm not counting the three extra days plonked on the end) and I can already tell that despite having next to no plans, it's going to be a good one!