I spent the day in Cambridge today. I was looking forward to a fun day out of London, but I hate to admit I didn’t love Cambridge. What I did love was my afternoon tea in Grantchester (more about that later). I left my hotel around 8:30 AM and got to King’s Cross Station around 9:15. Plenty of time to buy my ticket and find the correct platform. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but I did manage to snap a couple of photos at Platform 9 ¾. The train ride to Cambridge takes about 45 minutes on the fast train, and then it’s about a 20 minute walk into the city from the station. (You may be noticing a theme of a lot of walking in this trip!)
My first stop was the tourist information office where I was able to get a map and also bought a ticket to go punting later in the day. After that, I headed to King’s College to tour the chapel. I love the King’s College Choir, so the chapel was high on my list of must-dos. Unfortunately, the organ (which is in the middle of the church) is being restored and is covered by scaffolding. The chapel is still beautiful, but the scaffolding was a bit of a distraction. The rest of King’s College was closed due to exams. I knew there wouldn’t be time to see all of the colleges in Cambridge (there are more than 30 of them!) so the only other one I visited was Trinity College. There you can tour the chapel and the library. Many of the colleges are backed up to the River Cam, and walking along the famous “backs” lining the river is one of the more popular things to do in Cambridge. After I saw the back of Trinity College, it was easy to see why it attracts so many people. The riverfront is sublime and surrounded by stunning historical buildings!
Now might be a good time to point out one of the main reasons I didn’t love Cambridge: the people. Also the bicycles. And people riding bicycles. They were everywhere. You couldn’t walk down the sidewalks because of the crowds. And bicycles seem to be the preferred mode of transportation. Even in narrow alleyways and streets, people come zooming around the corners at full speed. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of bikes parked along the streets.
Fortunately, there was one bright spot in the day, and it came in the form of a 4 mile walk to the neighboring village of Grantchester and back. I had read about the Riverside walk online, and also about Grantchester’s unique outdoor tea room. The walk follows the river for part of the way, and then traverses Sheep’s Green and Grantchester Meadow. The village appears at just the right time. There is a small village church, which I stopped in after my tea. The Orchard Tea Room is just that: a picturesque tea room with seating and tables set up around the orchard. You pick up food inside, and then find a place to relax. All of the cakes looked yummy, but of course I opted for a scone with clotted cream and jam. And since I don’t drink tea, hot chocolate was my drink of choice. I lingered in the orchard for about an hour. I was planning to take the bus from the village back to Cambridge, but the next bus wasn’t due for about 30 minutes so II decided to just walk back.
When I got back to the city, I participated in the other big Cambridge attraction, “punting on the Cam”. Punting involves a long narrow boat (a punt) driven by a punter who moves the boat by pushing against the bottom of the river with a pole. The punting trip is about 45 minutes along the Cambridge College Backs. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I was stuck in the middle of the boat, facing backwards, with some other tourists I clearly did not know. You basically sit on cushions on the floor of the boat. In order to see forward, I had to physically turn around and look over the heads of the people in front of me. It was a long 45 minutes. With a better seat, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. My last stop in Cambridge was back at the King’s College Chapel for evensong. Evensong is a sung evening church service offered in many Anglican (and some Roman Catholic) churches. After the service, I found a bus back to the train station for my return to London.