As you may or may not be aware, Cambridge has been on my list of UK cities to see for some time now. On the Sunday in between Christmas and New Year with both myself and my Mr having a few days off of work, I suggested an impromptu mini road trip up to the picturesque university town, and yes, I know it is actually a city.
Located on the River Cam, its world famous university opened its doors in 1209 and the most famous colleges include King’s with its Gothic chapel, St John’s with its ‘Great Gate’ and Trinity which was founded by King Henry VIII. We left London just before midday and arrived in Cambridge at 1:30pm. Parking in the city is a lot worse than London, with many restrictions in place even on Sundays. It took about 20 minutes of driving around the winding one way systems to locate a space so next time we visit we will find a park and ride as they seem like a frequent and reasonably cheap option.
The first port of call for us was finding food! We picked Smoke Works on Free School Lane in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, this was the most disappointing part of the day for me. Whilst my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his burger, I opted for the same and completely hated it. A boneless chicken thigh burger with smoked applewood cheese, mustard slaw and salsa, the ‘Smokey Clucker Burger’ did not live up to my expectations. Served with two sides, I really do not like coleslaw in huge quantities in my burgers, so when my first bite of this burger was a creamy, cold mess it really put me off the rest of the meal. I also found the thigh meat greasy with the skin grossly sliding over the meat as the food slid down my throat. Yuck. So in the end, I ended up paying for my two sides and a drink and leaving still hungry and picking up noodles from a simple noodle bar later on.
After ‘lunch’ we started to do some exploring. Many of the university museums have exhibitions on things like archaeology, zoology and anthropology which would have been no doubt riveting, however with it being a cold Sunday afternoon we decided to set about the city on foot. With the remains of a Christmas market in the town square we had a browse around there but found the attitude of the people on the stalls quite rude, which was a shame as some of their products were nice.
A standard ‘uni town’ all of the high street shops and a number of pubs and bars snaked their way around the little streets. We Google mapped our way to the Mathematical Bridge, which was originally built in 1749. It is a popular misconception (and I even overheard a tour guide telling a group of tourists this!) that the bridge was designed by Sir Isaac Newton and constructed without any kind of connection joints. Further to this, it is often told that students from the university took the bridge to pieces to learn how it was standing and then could not put it back together without using bolts. Actually, the bridge came to be over twenty years after Newton’s death and even though it has seen two rebuilds, there have always been nuts and bolts keeping it together. Admittedly however, the fixings were less visible on the original bridge which may have resulted in the incapable students’ myth.
Before leaving Cambridge behind, we checked out their mini Winter Wonderland but left after only five minutes as it was very orientated towards children, lacking anything Christmas-markety, in favour of tea-cup rides, dodgem cars and bouncy castles.
Overall, Cambridge was very reminiscent of my home town Durham, with the cobbled streets and similar Gothic architecture. It only feels natural to compare the city to its counterpart Oxford, having visited there last summer. Cambridge had a lot more to offer in my opinion and I will definitely be back, however I did have a better experience in Oxford, given that it was summer, warm and al fresco cocktails were involved!
Have you ever been to Oxford or Cambridge? Which do you prefer?