Despite growing up 30 mites from Cambridge, my passion for the city had never stretched much further than supporting its colleges over Oxford's when watching University Challenge. So, my sister and I headed to the newly renovated University Anns hotel for a girls' weekend. Beginning life in 1834 as a coaching inn, the city's oldest hotel has recently undergone a two-year, £80 million refurbishment, quickly establishing itself as one of the city's top hotels and food hotspots. Inside, the decor is quintessentially English but chic and eclectic, with subtle nods to the city's history and literary background without looking corny. For example, look out for the wallpaper in Parker's Bar, designed to look like the inside of a book, and carpets along the corridors that resemble a college tie. The polite male staff wear uniforms inspired by Sir Winston Churchill, who founded Churchill College in 1960. Those after a more in-depth history lesson will enjoy the hotel tour at 6pm every evening.
There are 192 rooms, including 12 suites named after notable Cambridge folk and filled with their books. We were staying in the Virginia Woolf suite, which also had a huge bathroom with rolltop bath, double-facing TVs and a complimentary drinks trolley. Located on the corner of Parker's Piece, a grass common where the rules of modern-day football were established in 1848, it's an easy 10-minute amble into the city centre, or you can borrow one of the hotel's Cambridge Blue bicycles and join the hordes of students making their way around on two wheels. But undeniably the best way to travel is by punt. Book a chauffeured one for not only an informative history lesson, but also a much lower risk of falling into the River Cam.
Afterwards, we headed back to The Library at University Arms where my sister and I soon forgot any thoughts of her pre-nuptials diet when we saw the afternoon tea. It included lots of delicious unique additions, each with a little story behind them - sausage rolls made with meat from nearby Newmarket, an apple mousse inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, and a Duke of cambridge tart, with a traditional filling of candieo' lemon and orange peel.
Luckily we saved room for dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Parker's Tavern, where head chef Tristan Welch has created a menu full of great British cuisine. On the recommendation of several members of staff, I ordered the truffle risotto followed by the brown buttered sole, then the cambridge burnt cream, a heavenly deconstructed creme brillee. Everything was sublime.
We left very well rested and fed, and with a lot learnt about the city- even just from within the hotel walls.