A few weeks ago, my friend Kate and I went to Cambridge for a long weekend. We were staying in a hotel about 20 minutes walk from the City Centre.
Anyone who knows me will know that I had researched everything to nth degree: where the best Indian restaurant was, where we could go for Sunday lunch, and what we could do when we were there, etc.
We arranged to arrive within about half an hour of each other, and to have lunch near the station. It just so happens that there is a hostelry just outside the station, The Station Tavern. Like so many pubs in Cambridge, it’s a Young’s pub, in case you are interested in the ale.
We had a good lunch, complete with a couple of bottles of wine, then got a taxi to the hotel. One of the best things about Cambridge station, if you ever travel there, is that there is a large taxi rank, probably because the station sits outside the main town. Walking would be fine if you didn’t have suitcases in tow.
Obviously, our first job was to settle ourselves into the hotel. Like most people, I like a bit of local knowledge when I go somewhere new, so I asked the receptionist about the Indian restaurant. Fortunately, she agreed with my own research…
I won’t bore you with all the details of the next few hours, just rest assured that our first evening was spent catching up and checking that the Prosecco sold in Cambridge was of the same quality as elsewhere. J
Saturday was a different matter. We had pre-booked a walking tour and a punt tour. I have never punted before and thank the good Lord that I decided not to try it on this trip, but I am getting ahead of myself.
We walked into the City, which was very pleasant, except for the number of bicycles. I feel it would be rather undignified to die having been run over by a cyclist. We had plenty of time, so had a mooch around for a while, before finding a little bar in the market square where we had drinks before our tours. It just so happened it was graduation day for a large number of students, and it was lovely to see them all dressed up. I remember the feeling well and was inwardly celebrating with them.
Our tours were run by the same company, Cambridge Alumni Tours, the meeting point was outside of King’s College, in Kings Parade. Our walking guide, Maria, walked us around the streets of Cambridge, the tour having a university-theme. Cambridge itself, or at least, a settlement in that location, has been around since the Bronze Age. It was given city-status in 1951.
Cambridge, as well as being the home of the university, is the county town of Cambridgeshire. There has been a settlement of sorts here since the Romans and before, although it seems it may have been completely abandoned after the Romans left. Not for long though, the Vikings saw to that and when William the Conqueror had established himself, he built himself a castle in Cambridge.
The University was founded in 1209. Oxford had an older university, but there was some trouble between the people of the town and the students, resulting in some deaths of students. Not a happy situation and some of the Uni academics left and went to Cambridge, and set up store there.
Another charming fact about Cambridge is the Black Death (or the Great Plague) that hit the town in 1349. The town north of the river was almost completely wiped out. In common with many towns along the east coast, Cambridge was heavily involved with the RAF during the Second World War and became its regional headquarters. Fortunately, the town survived without serious damage and relatively few deaths. In 1944, Trinity College was home to a [then secret] meeting of military heads which started planning the Allied invasion of Europe. Cambridge was eventually granted city status in 1951 – normally, there has to be a cathedral in order to become a city, and Cambridge doesn’t have one.
Back to the present…. There are different colleges in Cambridge: King’s, Queen’s, Magellan, and more. Some beautiful building and wonderful stories about their history. The whole uni set up is quite complicated and I don’t intend to go into detail here, there are other places that can do it far more justice than I can.
After a short break, we went on the punt, which travelled a short distance along the Cam. In that part of the river, it is not deep, maybe two feet. Our punt driver (?) and guide was Tim, a lovely young man who was very informative and huge fun. He was also extremely attractive, but since I am old enough to be his grandmother, I won’t labour that point.
That evening was curry night, yay. We walked to the Pipasha, which was about 20 minutes from out hotel. It was a lovely little restaurant, very friendly waiters with a great sense of humour and good food. Kate had Chichen Rezalla and I had Chicken Vindaloo, as well as some sides. I would definitely go there again if I were in the area.
Sunday was a bit more relaxed. We strolled into Cambridge for Sunday lunch, back to King’s Parade, to the restaurant the chap at the Alumni Tours had recommended, which, again, just happened to be one of the places I’d already put on the list: The Cambridge Chop House.
Most of their meat is locally sourced, and they do deals with vineyards so they serve wine by the gallon rather than in bottles (only joking, but they do serve it in big, economically priced jugs).
A lovely lunch – I had the soup of the day, which was sweet potato and tomato, That is an excellent combination, must try making it. Kate had a quinoa salad with pomegranate and a lovely dressing of orange and fennel. Mine was absolutely gorgeous and Kate loved hers. We both had belly pork roast for the main, with roasties, cabbage with peas and onions. It was very good and the restaurant deserves all the positive reviews it gets.
Very happy and very full, we returned to our hotel. No snacks that evening, but more Prosecco and TV.
We left the next day, glad to have had a good weekend but sad to part. And getting ready for the next time…
© Susan Shirley 2019