Saturday, October 15, 2016

An American in Cambridge

For almost as long as I can remember, I've been a total Anglophile. (There's a brief period of my life before I knew what England was, and I'm pretty sure I have memories from then.) Growing up, I remember reading loads of books featuring plucky English children (my favorite will always be Ballet Shoes, closely followed by A Little Princess and The Secret Garden). Between those books and the Paddington Bear my father brought me on one of his work trips to London, a lifelong obsession was born, one which only grew stronger when I discovered John Stuart Mill.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might already know that I finally got to live the dream a couple weeks back, when I tagged along with Jeff for a conference in Cambridge! I generally make a point of trying to control my expectations, so as to avoid disappointment, but I was too excited to expect anything less than the most awesome trip ever. Luckily, this is exactly what I got!

World's most excited, unabashed tourist. Thanks to Devinne from Mox and Socks for giving me the most perfect dress to fly halfway around the world in!
First things first: traveling halfway around the world is much more taxing at 31 than it ever was at 20, when I went to Japan. Jeff and I took a redeye to Heathrow, followed by a coach to Cambridge. While I can't say that sleeping in coach is ever comfortable, I was impressed that United gave us two meals, plus free wine/beer, and managed to steal a few hours' sleep on the plane (and ahem, on the bus as well.)

I wasn't quite sure what sort of city Cambridge would be, though I had high hopes that walking around the university would feel like being at Hogwarts, but I was pleasantly surprised when we found ourselves in a smallish but first-rate, cosmopolitan city. Jeff and I remarked over and over that we wished the university neighborhood we live in was half as bustling as Cambridge: there are loads of wonderful restaurants, free museums, shops, green spaces, and people out and about. One of my favorite things that we did, though, was just wandering around the narrow streets and taking in all of the architectural glories that come with the territory for a 600-year-old university.

On the right: the outside of Christ's College, Cambridge.
There were so many cyclists in Cambridge! And gorgeous cobblestone streets up the yin-yang.

It took me a while, but I finally figured out what made the area around the university feel so different: the buildings sit right up against the sidewalk (when there's a sidewalk at all!). That lack of lawns/grass along the roadside is what I've always pictured when I think of European cities.

pinup girl clothing petite ribbons jenny
I saved my new petite Jenny skirt in pink ribbons especially for this trip!
pug pink ribbons jenny skirt
It is impossible to take photos straight against the wall when the sidewalk is narrow, unless you fancy being hit by a bus.

We stayed at the Gonville Hotel, which was a lovely place. If ever your path takes you to Cambridge, I highly recommend that you stay there. Our room rate included breakfast each day, and while I didn't have high hopes after some of the hotel breakfasts Jeff and I had on our cross-country drive to Chicago, I was blown away by the spread they put on! They had the best chocolate croissants I've ever had, loads of meats, cheeses, and fruit, eggs and bacon/lox/sausage, and endless tea.
gonville hotel cambridge
The best chocolate croissant ever, and my guilty pleasure: stewed prunes!
English bacon =/= American bacon. It's somehow porkier!
I introduced Jeff to tea with milk because I am a helper.

Jeff had to spend the first couple days of our trip at the conference, which meant that I spent an entire day shopping on the high street and in charity shops, and another day wandering around Cambridge and taking in their Earth Sciences museum. (Expect a post on the many things I acquired whilst in England, and perhaps another post on how to pack efficiently and drag all the things you bought back to America in two small carryons!)

One of the things I was keenest on was getting a full English breakfast. I don't usually treat myself to a massive meal first thing in the morning, since I love sleeping in more than I love cooking and washing up before work, but I've always been intrigued by a meal that involves eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, and beans. Luckily, I was in just the place to try it out!

senglish breakfast bill's cambridge
I housed this entire platter of food.
flat white

Operation Have a Full English was a resounding success! Any meal that involves mushrooms, two kinds of meat, beans, and eggs before 10am is a meal I can get behind. In general, I was super impressed by the food in England, and totally baffled by where and why it got such a bad rap in the States. Everything we ate whilst there was such a treat!

Given how much we crammed into our time in Cambridge (and how many photos I took/made Jeff take!), there's no way I can fit everything we did into one post, so expect to see a few more Cambridge-themed posts in the near future!

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  1. I can't wait to hear more on your trip! It's so fun to see new places - I am lucky enough to be able to travel for work and see new places every so often! The bikes and streets/shops are so crazy in Europe! It's so cool to see everyone on bikes but at night, I get so overwhelmed having to look both ways for cars and THEN for bikes as well in the bike lanes. That's mostly in Amsterdam but bikes are definitely a big thin in Europe over all. And I just love the shops and the cobblestone streets!

    1. That's so cool that you get to travel often -- I know you were recently in Europe, and the trip looked like so much fun! The number of bikes really surprised me. I had to remind myself that I couldn't walk like a New Yorker with a bad attitude, haha. Cobblestone streets are a thing of beauty!

  2. Yessss I'm excited for more England posts! Cambridge looks like a terribly lovely city, and I can't get over how delicious all that food looks!