On a road trip, I have never followed a route without at least one side trip. Cambridge in England was one of those side trips. It was actually a lot off the route but it was the closest ATB#1 and I had been to the famed University and we decided that was a worthy enough reason.
It was a flying visit. We would only be able to spend a few hours, we had done zero research, and only a hazy notion of what to expect. About three hours later, we left a little bit more informed, a lot more curious, and with a new destination added to our "Second Chances" list.
Cambridge is a university complex with 31 different colleges and 150 departments/faculties spread over the small city. Each college has its own statutes, regulations, and buildings. The colleges are where students live, eat, socialize, and small group teaching sessions. The college grounds are generally private and do not allow visitors on the grounds. Some charge a fee for some limited visits. Likely the most well-known is King's College
We wandered about enjoying the buzz on the busy streets around the River Cam. Tourists mixed with students. Souvenir shops and boisterous restaurants were neighbours with book stores and take-out windows. Bicycles seem to be the main choice for transportation in the town.
Cambridge University was founded in 1209. Today the city has about 160,000 residents of which about 30,000 are students. Cambridge is the center of Silicone Fen, an area of a high tech software and bioscience industry similar to the US Silicone Valley in California. We noticed many charming guest houses and quaint bed-and-breakfast places as we walked around.
We took a punting tour. We had a thoroughly entertaining punter who regaled us with information, outlandish tales, and audacious gossip as he took us under many bridges past more than a dozen colleges.
The punting tours are very popular and there were several different companies to choose. For those who plan ahead, you can book online. If you drop in, as we did, there may be a bit of a wait. Expect to pay 20£ per person with a minimum 6 passengers for a 45 minute ride.
Each of the punting companies use a different theme to choose the names of their boats. We rode on the Gruff. Can you figure out the theme of these? (tell me in comments if you get it)
We grabbed some lunch near the Anchor Bar... which was the first bar Pink Floyd played. All the bars and restaurants along the river were packed with customers.
We walked a long route back to our campervan and returned to the road and eventually got back on route. We arrived at our destination later than expected but were absolutely delighted with our side trip. I know we missed so much but I'm going to think of that as a sample. I'll go back for a full serving.
Thanks for meandering with me! I'd love to know your reaction to this post. What do you think: are quick side trips a good idea, or should you wait until you have enough time to do a place well? Let me know what you think in the comments. Share the link with a friend. Become a member to get notified of new content, get access to our members' only forum, and a monthly newsletter!