Thursday, July 7, 2011
A Slice of...Cambridge, UK
I've lived in Cambridge on and off for the past six years, ever since I came here to study Architecture at the university here. Cambridge is about 75 miles north of London, out in a wild flat marshy area of the UK known as the Fens, famous for its farmland and big skies as well as the university city of Cambridge. After I graduated I moved to London for a bit, but I longed to move back, I missed the beautiful city which had become my home. My boyfriend James and I now live on our narrowboat Lucky Duck, right in the centre of town, on the River Cam. We love living afloat and blog about our life on the boat as well!. We often just cruise out of town for the fun of it over a weekend, it's great fun.
We had our names down on the waiting list to get one of the 70 moorings in the centre for nearly three years. Before then, we moored out of town. Now we are here, it is wonderful to be so close to everything that we love about Cambridge. Every morning I look out of my window and see the river and wildlife passing by outside, and think that I am so lucky to live here. We live totally off-grid, with all our electricity coming from a solar panel and occasionally a little generator. Inside the boat we have a little sitting room, a kitchen with everything I need including gas oven, hobs and sink. We have a dinky little bathroom with a shower, chemical loo and sink, and an awesome bedroom with a bed that folds away when we are not using it. So it's just like a little flat really! James and I don't have any babies yet (just a tortoiseshell cat) but if we do, we'd need a bigger boat. I would love to bring any future children up on a live-aboard boat - I know some mums who have so its totally do-able. I love that they would grow up understanding that we have to be careful about the resources we use, and it would also be a wonderful adventure for them!
Anyway, Cambridge! I love this little city, it's just full of quirky little shops and cafes, and although it is small, it feels just right for us. We are lucky that the river community is really friendly and supportive which is nice and there is a great sense of community in general, not just on the river. Both of us row, which is very popular in Cambridge, although James mainly coxes (he's the small, loud one who tells the big rowers what to do!), and we are moored is less than five minutes walk from the boathouse! We train several nights a week and it is great fun, a very sociable sport!
One of our favourite places to go after a hard session on the water is the Fort St George (on the left in the photo), which is an old pub (about 450 years old) right on the river, a few minutes from where we are moored, and just opposite the boathouse. It has changed hands several times since we've lived here, but its wonderful location means we and our rowing friends just keep coming back.
There are loads of beautiful places to go in Cambridge. It is just full of history. The tourists all head for the ancient Gothic King's College Chapel, or the famous Colleges like Trinity and St John's which are absolutely lovely. Every day when I walk through the centre with its glorious medieval buildings, I feel lucky to live here, and try not to take it for granted. Punting along the Backs is another favourite tourist attraction but we like to do things a bit differently. In the winter, powered boats are allowed to navigate here although hardly anyone does. We had great fun when we did it recently, cruising past all the famous sights in our home!
While I love these places, Cambridge has so much more to offer than just the standard tourist attractions. The best places are hidden away: one of the lovliest streets is the tiny terraced Portugal Place. There's the picturesque circular court in Christ's College, and the blossoming cherry trees which line Selwyn College in the Spring. Often James and I just go for walks along the river into the town at night: it is so beautiful then.
On the way back from our night time walks we often head to Clowns cafe, which is open til 11pm. This is a fantastic Italian family-run cafe, and they do the most delicious hot chocolate topped with fresh thick whipped cream, as well as wonderful desserts.
My favourite places to go shopping are the charity shops (aka thrift stores!) - all 7 of them - on Burleigh Street, which is just a few minutes walk from where I work. I tend to visit them in my lunch hour, and most of my wardrobe is thrifted! Also on my way to work is Ark, which is a shop selling the most beautiful things. They have two floors of vintage clothes upstairs and loads of lovely stuff on the ground floor too.