Day tripping to Cambridge

Over the last few years I’ve been enjoying day trips out of London more and more. After getting my city fix Monday to Friday for almost 7 years now, hopping on a short train somewhere adds a breath of fresh air to the weekend and forces me to take a slower steps and unwind. I’ve had Cambridge on my list for years, it’s only an hour away from London by train so I can’t believe it took until my 31st birthday to get it in the diary. Let’s just say life and other destinations got in my way.

The plans were simple; coffee to fuel the day’s activities, views to snap to my heart’s content, punting for fun and plenty of instagram-worthy scenes to share. We set off at a leisurely pace, eating breakfast at home and hopping on a train from Liverpool Street at about 11am (we were actually meant to go to Kings Cross for the express train but I somehow got the stations mixed up, oops!). We pulled into Cambridge station an hour or so later, ready to explore.

As a coffee lover, I’d done my research on where to head first. I love finding great independent cafes in other cities and when I know there’s somewhere good to go I just can’t settle for convenient chains. I chose Espresso Library out of a small selection of cafes, partly because it was just outside the town centre so more likely to be quiet, mainly because I liked the bright light that streamed in through the floor to ceiling windows I’d seen on pictures I managed to find online.

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(I’ve just noticed those tiny chandelier-style light bulbs ^^ So cool.)

As you probably know cycling in Cambridge is huge so the bicycle theme was a pretty apt one to follow through to its interior design.
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It welcomes a mix of enthusiastic cyclists, locals and the city’s student population (some 24,000 or so!). It was pretty busy for a Saturday afternoon, a happy reminder that London isn’t the only place in the country where people enjoy speciality coffee and that the trend continues to grow beyond the capital bubble.

The coffees were ordered and leisurely enjoyed.

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But once both cups were drained, I was itching to get outside again and reach the heart of the city. I love exploring overseas cities to experience new cultures, but there’s something that’s both exciting and satistfying about visiting a great place in your home country.

I had two things on my must do list, see the view from Great St Mary’s Church and enjoy a spot of punting. The rest we could discover by chance.

Of course I was distracted by the infamous colleges as soon as I passed them.

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We didn’t pay to explore but the price is quite reasonable if you fancied it and had the time. I just hovered at the gate with my camera. I was keen to get to Great St Mary’s Church after seeing Jessi’s pictures and before the threatening rain rumbled through, so we attempted to weave our way around the small streets until we were perched up high in the church tower. Jessi was right, it’s a great place to see the city.

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From the market.

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Right round to Cambridge’s biggest tourist attraction. Did you know that King’s College was founded by Henry VI in 1441? I just love the grandeur and intricate detail that you only seem to get from eras gone by, but I can’t help but be reminded of Hogwarts!

Once we were back on the ground, I quickly started to understand how big cycling is there. There are countless racks of wheels all over the city.

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As a university town on flat land with narrow busy streets, most residents choose a bike over a car. So much so that the Department for Transport chose Cambridge as a Cycling Town in 2008, which means it receives funds from the government for additional facilities. It definitely adds a little quaintness to every corner. Don’t you think?

We carried on exploring narrow streets, hunting out college courtyards to peer in to.

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Before eventually committing to an attempt at punting.

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We hired a lady punt from Cambridge Chauffeur Punts. It looked simple enough but out on a busy river and battling winds, we struggled. After it started to rain, we had to give in and return the boat in favour of a chauffeured tour.

It was possibly the best decision we made all day as by the time we were out on the water again the sun was shining and it was much more relaxing letting someone else do the hard work.

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It also meant we had more time to absorb the ‘Backs’, where the colleges back on to the river, and take in some of the history from our guide.

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One Bridge of Sighs ticked of the list, I just need to get to Venice now!

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Punting dates back to Edwardian times and has always been seen as a pleasurable activity rather than a sport. The boats are flat and made for shallow rivers, they sail along by the punter pushing against the river bed with a pole.

After leaving the river, we had just an hour left of our day trip so we did a whistlestop tour of some more of Cambridge’s famous sandy-stoned streets.

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Fitzbillies is famed for its sticky cinnamon buns but it does a good coffee too.

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One more bicycle snap.

 

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And just one more college.

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I couldn’t resist racing over the closest bridge to get another shot of the punts in action.

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OK, maybe a few more bicycle snaps were needed before we hopped on the train back to London.

Such a lovely relaxing day trip. We didn’t manage to do everything or visit the places I’d been recommended on Twitter (lots of them were closed for a summer holiday 🙁 ). But we were at least left with a few good excuses to go back again. I was convinced by my final photo that it would be perfect in autumn.

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Have you been to Cambridge? Are there any other day trips I should try?

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5 Comments

  1. September 1, 2016 / 12:21 am

    I have been when I visited London three years ago (where has the time gone!) I completely understand the sentiment about wanting to step away from the city, nice chance to refresh before another work week in the heart of the city.

    Glad that you enjoyed your time there!

    nat – dignifiable

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      September 1, 2016 / 9:22 am

      Oh you did well to get there on a trip over here! It’s definitely a good idea to visit places outside London when you’re in the UK. There’s so much to see even living in the country, I don’t think I’ll get to see it all. x

  2. Anita
    September 2, 2016 / 11:31 am

    OMG -I know Cambridge well as I went to sixth form college there, but I can’t believe I’ve never known about Great St Mary’s Church and the view from it -definitely need to do that! My favourite college to go inside to explore is Emmanuel as in the spring they always have gorgeous cute little ducklings in the pond -perfect photo material!
    On a similar theme I’m not sure if you’ve been to Oxford but that’s also ideal for a day trip – 45 mins by train from Paddington and again lots of lovely buildings to wander around -recommend G&D’s for ice cream if you do go!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      September 2, 2016 / 11:56 am

      It’s funny what you find out later on. I’m sure there’s lots about Birmingham I never discovered! I think I’d definitely explore the colleges more on our next visit. Oxford has been recommended to me since. I’ve only been once, many years ago, so it’s definitely back on the list! I’ll make a note of the ice cream place!! 😋