As this was our last week in Cambridge before we move to the Midlands, I thought it would be nice to do a short tour around some of the sights of Cambridge, to show the boys and take some pictures. There are so many lovely things to see, and living in a place often means we take for granted what’s on our doorstep – I’ve heard it said that you can tell a Cambridge resident if they walk/cycle up King’s Parade and don’t turn their head towards the rather large and beautiful building that is King’s Chapel – and although I try and admire our surroundings, it’s definitely true for me that I often forget. Some of the places where we stopped to look at something and take a picture are the common sights where all the tourists stop, and others are places that have significance for me or us as a family. So take a seat and hold on tight for this whistle-stop tour around the beautiful city of Cambridge…
First up are actually some pictures from our walk home from some friends’ house last Sunday – we stopped at the flats where Tom and I used to live just before Andrew was born, and then we headed across the common that we have walked through several times on the way home, including past the Cambridge United Football Stadium in which the floodlights fascinate Andrew. He never got to go to a game when we lived here (though Granny and Grandad went to watch one not long after he was born), so maybe one day we’ll come back and he can watch a game with the rather large crowd of local loyal supporters that the team attracts considering it’s non-league.
Now onto the central tour. We started by walking down Downing Street. Yes Cambridge has a Downing Street too, not just London! I don’t think anyone that famous lives here at the moment though. We passed the Downing site (bottom right picture), which is where I used to work and where lots of Cambridge University scientific research has taken and is taking place. Further down the road, which then becomes Pembroke Street, we passed on our left the college where Uncle Matt studied (top right picture), and a lovely German cafe on the right. At the end of the road we crossed over at the pedestrian crossing right outside the famous Fitzbillies cafe – this started many years ago as a bakery, which became famous for its amazing Chelsea buns, and when it had to close down in the recent economic crisis, some new owners bought it and carried on the tradition of Chelesa buns and other yummy cakes. Across the road we went past the Pitt Building (bottom central picture), home of Cambridge University Press. I worked for CUP for a short while, though I was based at its out of town offices near the station, but heard some of the history of the press and about the central building. Then we turned right down Mill Lane, where various university buildings are located, including the infamous Board of Graduate Studies (as it used to be called when I did my graduate studies in Cambridge, it now has a new name, it’s the bottom left picture) – or ‘the BoGs’ for short, which many a student felt was an appropriate title when it came to the administration of their Masters and PhD courses and theses.
At the bottom of Mill Lane (not to be confused with Mill Road by the way, as I’ve heard happen) is a very Cambridge sight: punts on the river. If you’re not familiar with the term, a punt is a long, thin boat which is propelled through the water by someone standing at one end and pushing on the river bed with a long pole (the Cam isn’t very deep), a bit like a Venetian gondolier. There wasn’t much happening at the punt station on a cold December’s day, but there was a guy touting for business as they usually do. We used to get asked by these touts all the time when we first moved here if we wanted to go punting, but now we must give off an air of ‘we live here’ as we walk past them because we’re rarely asked any more.
It was at this point that I remembered that my new phone can take photos at the front, so I managed to snap a few with Joel who was on my back in the sling. Behind us as we stopped and looked at the punts was the river heading towards Granchester and the meadows that surround it (bottom right picture). That makes a lovely walk, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do everything, so we didn’t head any further out of town along the river. I have good memories of walks to Granchester in the summer, and sitting outside in the famous Orchard tea rooms.
We then headed up Laundress Lane, luckily we had no carriage or horse with us (top central picture), and came to the bridge which gives a good view of the so-called mathematical bridge in Queens’ College. Andrew was fascinated by the maths bridge, and wanted to walk across it, but I had to tell him that unfortunately only people inside the college get to walk across it, though we did once when visiting the college to look around for a possible venue for our wedding reception.
After I persuaded Andrew to stop looking at the bridge, we scooted round the back of Queens’ College and started our walk along ‘the backs’ – a lovely walk in which you get to see the back of a few colleges that are set beside the river, the most famous of which being King’s College with its chapel the size of a cathedral. We will always remember King’s because that’s where Daddy worked for 3 years before getting a new job in Birmingham to take us back to the Midlands. We have good memories of various events like the staff Christmas party, the family fun days, and going for lunch with Daddy in the Great Hall. Just at the start of the backs walk we found a metal plan of all the central Cambridge colleges, which Andrew was keen to look at and I pointed out a few that were special, like King’s and Downing (my college as a student). He was also interested in the various college gates that we walked past, probably because they are very grand.
Then we got to the point where the path along the backs crosses the lane that goes up to the University Library. This is where I spent a fair amount of time looking for books and occasionally reading them (if I couldn’t take them home or to my office) when I was a Masters and PhD student, and I will always remember the maze of book shelves and just how jam packed it was, even with many floors and long corridors – and it’s even home to a copy of my PhD thesis. We decided not to walk up to the library itself, but you can just about see the tower through the trees in between the left set of traffic lights and the white lamp post in the left picture below. Instead we headed back into the centre with Trinity College on our right – the central picture below shows the Wren library in the college.
Up a steep bridge and back over the Cam we went, stopping at the top to wave to a sole punt whose passengers were brave to head out on the water on such a cold day. And then we saw an empty punt moored by the bridge on the other side.
After walking through some old lanes – Andrew loved walking on the cobble stones, or ‘bobble stones’ as he called them – we came out into the central streets by the Senate House. This old building is where all students graduate in a very Cambridge-style ceremony, most of which is still to this day in Latin. I’ve been in there once for each degree ceremony, once in summer and once on a freezing cold winter’s day when it wasn’t much warmer inside than out. In fact Andrew has been in there once – as a bump for my PhD graduation! It was at this point in our tour that Andrew announced that he needed the toilet, so we raced to the shopping centre which is where I could think of the nearest toilets.
Once out of the toilets. we stopped to look at one of Andrew’s favourite sights in Cambridge – the big ‘potato’! This is his name for the large rock with a maze of lines carved into it which stands outside in a courtyard by one of the shopping centres (bottom right photo below). It also happens to be outside one of his favourite places to have lunch – Carluccio’s restaurant where he is in pasta heaven (bottom left photo – you can also see the Corn Exchange in the background). We then walked out into the market square, and stopped by a sculpture that was recently placed outside the Guildhall on one side of the square (top left photo below). It is a tribute to someone whose name I can’t remember who was famous in the city for doing street entertainment here until he died. Just a bit further round from the market and we walked past our church, Holy Trinity, which is where we got married and where we have been most Sundays for the past 7 years since living in Cambridge.
After all this walking around, we’d worked up an appetite, so stopped at our favourite cafe for having lunch at when it’s just the 3 of us – Living Stones. The reason we like it is the play area, which has a play house complete with kitchen and fireplace (hence Andrew’s name for the cafe – ‘The Cafe House’). The boys are kept nicely entertained whilst we wait for the food, which is very good value and they do children’s portions of everything on the menu. Andrew always goes for beans on toast, and Joel often has a jacket potato and cheese. A friend, who was coming out of the cafe as we were going in, kindly took the photo below for us outside.
There was just enough time before heading home for a nap for Andrew to play on the park in town. Joel was very tired so didn’t get out for a play. This particular play area is probably Andrew’s favourite and has been great for him and Joel from about 9 months to nearly 3 years.
So that was our little tour of the city that we’ve called home for the past 7 years and where the boys were born. They probably won’t remember it in a few years time, but I’m glad we have lots of photos to show them in the future where they lived as babies and toddlers. We’re sad to go, because we love living here, but we’re also sure that we’ll have many more good times and memories to make in our next home city.