Charles Dickens may have been able to journey with ease between London and Paris, but with travel restrictions still hindering us, staying on this isle is a safer bet.
Cambridge proved to be a perfect destination for a weekend trip with our adult children. Near enough to London to make a one-night stay viable, yet far enough away that you feel as though you have actually gone somewhere, it is full of everything you need on a mini city break – good food, beautiful architecture, fabulous shops, plenty of culture and, of course, volumes of history.
We checked into hotel, which overlooks Parker’s Piece open space where Association Football was famously founded.
The hotel interiors reflect the literary and academic spirit of Cambridge with wood panelling, marble-patterned wallpaper that represents antique book covers, a restaurant in the style of a college dining room and a library awash with books and giant leather sofas.
We had brunch at , a Cambridge institution that was a bicycle shop for 173 years. It is now a quirky café, with saddles and handlebars decorating the walls and bicycle parts made into table lamps.
We ordered mimosas to toast the start of our trip and egg-based brunch-style dishes to set us up for an afternoon in town. We scoured the shops and meandered in the market square before heading back to the hotel for tea and scones in the library and a rest before dinner in the on-site restaurant , under the auspices of chef Tristan Welch.
This is simple but superb British cooking with confit duck, rib of beef and lemon sole with burnt butter among the menu highlights, plus a legendary Cambridge burnt cream – these days better known as crème brûlée.
On Sunday, we met up with Tony, an official Cambridge tour guide, who filled our heads with tales of the town and a few titbits about ‘the other place’ (Oxford is a swear word in these parts). He took us to The Eagle pub, with its ceiling covered in graffiti by the servicemen who hung out there during the Second World War and where Frances Crick and James Watson famously announced the discovery of DNA in 1953. We saw the gold-plated Corpus Clock with a giant grasshopper-like creature that ‘eats’ time, and learned about the antics of students who parked a car on the roof of Senate House in 1958 and others who climbed 80ft to stick Santa hats on the gargoyles of Kings College at Christmas in 2009.
All that history made us hungry. We headed off for a late Sunday roast in front of the log fire at the powder-blue painted in the village of Whittlesford (20 mins drive).
Rooms at University Arms Cambridge from £159, room only.