A bit of old-school class in Cambridge
A lazy weekend in the city's landmark hotel - the University Arms
According to the handy little map they gave us at the hotel, just over there, behind Carphone Warehouse, is where Ted Hughes first met Sylvia Plath. Down the road is the pub where Watson and Crick announced they had discovered DNA. And round the corner, that's where Byron lived. He kept a bear in his room, don't you know? Cambridge, as you might have gathered, doesn't hide its intellectual light under a bushell. But with a pedigree like this, who can blame them?
The city has been a hotbed of academia for centuries, with a roll-call of literary, scientific, sporting and political alumni as long as your arm. If you wanted to, you could spend a lifetime following in their footsteps, learning about their achievements. But we were only in town for the weekend and to be honest our tastes are a lot-less high-brow and a little more indulgent.
Basically we wanted to wander round aimlessly, go the pub whenever the mood took us, eat loads of really good food, then have a lie-in in a hotel room so luxurious it verged on decadent. Luckily Cambridge is ace for that, too. We stayed at the University Arms, one of the largest and probably best-known of the city's hotels. Overlooking Parker's Piece, the common where in 1848 the first game of football played under the rules as we recognise them today took place, the hotel has recently reopened after a jaw-dropping refurb which reportedly cost upwards of £80m.
And it's absolutely stunning. The transformation is the work of architect John Simpson, best known for his work on both Buckingham and Kensington palaces, and top Swedish interior designer Martin Brudnizki. Inside it's a wood panel-lined love letter to Cambridge done out in matt shades of blue, green and grey. On the walls art deco prints, Edwardian maps, and vintage film posters jostle for space. In the library books by the likes of Cambridge University alumni JG Ballard, Stephen Hawking and like the shelves. If you're anything like us, and by that I mean the kind of people with a minuscule budget and and even smaller eye for design, it's the kind of place you'll try - and fail miserably - to ape the next time you decorate the front room.
Reviewed by Damon Wilkinson