36 hours in Cambridge

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Photo: Christiana Bishop
Photo: Christiana Bishop
Photo: Christiana Bishop

According to the Economic Impact of Tourist report, every year over five million tourists visit Cambridge, and it is understandable why the historic town is such a tourist hotspot. The 800-year- old University provides a beautiful aesthetic that has been mostly unchanged since the 13th century. The city stays true to the historic traditions and pace set by the University. The constant stream of young students creates the ageless appearance of Cambridge residents and is reflected in the city’s ability to pocket every strand of the community and offer something interesting and vibrant to each of them, successfully interweaving the traditional ‘town’ and ‘gown’ distinctions that are perhaps more apparent in other university towns. However, I do feel there is more to Cambridge than the traditional tourist attractions, such as floating down the River Cam in a Scudamore punt or lunch at the frequently reviewed Fitzbillies café. Although the latter’s Chelsea buns are famous for a reason! Therefore, here is a small guide to 36 hours in an alternative Cambridge.

Friday

6pm, Cambridge Blue: After arriving into Cambridge head over to the Cambridge Blue on Gydwir Street for a local ale. Not only does the Cambridge Blue boast a huge selection of international beer (stocking over 110 imported types), but it is also respected for its commitment to locally brewed beers from the surrounding Cambridge area. Owned by two local residents the pub is brimming with Cambridge charm, making it a trendy community local that not only serves Romsey residents but also some local ‘hipsters.’

8pm, The Sea Tree: After your ale I recommend wandering further down Mill Road for a low-key supper at (in my humble opinion) the best fish- and-chip restaurant in Cambridge and one that regularly features highly in national top-ten ratings. Owned by the Farrells, this family-run business prides itself on friendly service and commitment to buying sustainable fish from East Anglia. For those wanting a lighter supper, the Sea Tree also offers alternative fish such as mackerel and calamari and a healthy version of the traditional chips. Truly delicious!

Saturday

10am, Kettles Yard Cambridge: Having grown up in Cambridge, you may think that eighteen years’ worth of school trips to the historic sites around the city has diminished my enthusiasm for its cultural heritage. However, Kettles Yard on Castle Hill I could visit again and again. It was originally the home of Jim and Helen Ede, who before moving to Cambridge had both worked in curatorship, Jim working latterly as curator of the Tate Gallery in London. Over the span of their careers the Edes had amassed a large collection of work, such as paintings from Joan Miro, Christopher Wood and sculptures of Barbara Hepworth. Together, the Edes curated their final masterpiece – their home – transforming their dwelling into a gallery in itself. The original positioning of each piece of artwork, which includes ceramics and natural objects, has been left untouched since they were alive. The unchanged harmonic atmosphere that these works creates truly reflects the skill of the Edes curatorship.

In recent times there has been a growing popularity of Scandinavian interior design that celebrates the simplicity of white walls, pale woods and natural stone. This popularity brings into focus the progressive nature of the Edes design vision and the modernity that Kettles Yard still represents today, even though it has been decades since its creation in 1954. My advice would be to try and visit early in the morning, as not only does this avoid the crowds, allowing you to experience the serenity of the house, but it also allows you to witness the flooding of natural light that brings to life the art piece that is their home.

1pm, Lunch at Afternoon Tease: After perusing the Miros of Kettles Yard have a wander down to Kings Street to have lunch at the delicious and tucked-away Afternoon Tease. After supplying local eateries with her scrumptious homemade goods, baker and blogger Jo Kruncynaska fulfilled her dream of opening her own café in 2014. As the menu changes daily, lunch is always fresh and innovative, and the coffee beans are locally produced from Mill Road’s Hot Numbers roastery.

3pm, Exploring Cobbled Stoned Streets: Cambridge hosts a wide range of wonderful high street shops, from the soft cashmere of Brora to the beautifying cosmetics of Space NK. However, Cambridge is also a hub for local independent businesses, which all offer unique brands, here are two of my favorites:

First, Catesby’s: A beautiful homewares shop tucked away on Green Street, Catesby’s sells original home ceramics and necessities for a tranquil living space. Local residents Jonathan and Neil own Catesby’s and they are valued for their commitment to sourcing products locally in addition to around the world, from elegant ceramics to striking home furnishings. The shop also includes in its upstairs area a charming café, where you can sit and peacefully watch the bustle of Green Street below.

And second, Arthur Shepherd: Arguably, one of the most quintessential Cambridge shops, Arthur Shepherd is a family owned business selling high quality clothing, stocking a wide variety of beautiful wares, from tailored dinner suits to Scottish knitwear. Opening over a century ago in its present position at 32 Trinity Street, the shop retains a charming atmosphere of a gentleman’s outfitters of a time gone by while simultaneously embracing the modern, as reflected by its display of Le Chameau boots. Arthur Shepherd has become a landmark in itself next door to Trinity College and has been photographed frequently as a representation of the epitome of all things Cambridge. Therefore, even if you were not in need of new flat cap or dinner suit I would still recommend a visit.

8pm, Dinner at Smokeworks: After your wander I recommend taking a short walk to Free St Lane to visit a restaurant that was recently included in the Telegraph’s top ten BBQ restaurants. Smokeworks recently opened and is famed for its delicious ‘powerhouse plates,’ where they smoke, pull, brine and season their own barbecued food. If you go with friends, sharing platters are delicious and suit the Southern ethos that the restaurant emulates.

Sunday

11am, Brunch at the Espresso Library: Sunday mornings are best for brunch, and there is nowhere better in Cambridge that Espresso Library, which is housed in the newly renovated Cambridge Fire Station. The Espresso Library is an innovative café cum art gallery, cycle shop, bar and event space that hosts poetry nights and live music. Set up by John Gull and Malgo Dzierugo, the husband-and-wife team wished to create a space that reflected their passions, combining arts, music, coffee and food all drawn from the local Cambridge community. The main intention for creating such a diverse use of space was to unify the distinctive creative communities in Cambridge and facilitate a space in which these talents could be showcased and flourish together. I recommend ordering the avocado on sourdough and their strong Americano – the best way to start your Sunday!

12:30pm, All Saints Church, Cambridge: Slightly off the tourist trail is a little cultural secret for art lovers. All Saints Church on Jesus Lane was built by Arts and Crafts architect G. F. Bodley, and the stained glass windows within were designed collaboratively with William Morris. This incredible showcase of Morris’ work is advertised in such an understated way that many are unaware of its existence, which as a plus as this means there are normally no crowds to block one’s view. The perfect, peaceful finale for your weekend in an alternative Cambridge.

 

 

 

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