Day Tripping to Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the most well visited cities in England due to its historical ties and values attached to the city, through its educational system, Cambridge University.

Cambridge was the first university established in the UK and wandering through the city, you can  understand why Cambridge holds a superior edge over Oxford. Oxford is filled with a range of nightlife and bustling student scene, whilst Cambridge oozes an intellectual air which one immediately intakes and immerses themselves in, as if gaining brain cells merely by just standing in the city itself. The exquisite architecture hums with stories of ancient tales of revelry and echoes with words of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Meander down cobbled streets, under paved archways and through hidden alleyways, which lead on to grand elegant buildings with expansive manicured gardens. Watch first time punters struggle and slip with the action of punting whilst bleary eyed students routinely gather excited tourists onto boats to whisk them along the river, floating under hanging willows and narrowly avoiding stranded punters, laughing in hilarity at their situation.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

I came to visit Cambridge on a day trip to visit one of my closest friends who moved there for work. Driving from Surrey, we conveniently parked in the park and ride, and took the bust transfer in, avoiding the traffic and expensive car parks.

Using Trinity College as a meeting point, my friends and I were enraptured by the glorious splendour of the building which looked as if a church, rather than an educational establishment. The entrance was heaving with international tourists heavily clad with selfie sticks and donning “I love Cambridge” T-shirts with wide beaming smiles, whilst posing in front of the Tudor influenced structure, which has been noted in many novel and historical artefact.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

Trinity College is a symbol of what the city of Cambridge has to offer; education, wisdom, intellect and knowledge, in a picturesque setting filled with quaint historic buildings nestled next to high street shops. However, the building which is more famously known is, the King’s College Chapel. The King’s College Chapel steals Trinity College’s thunder, it is an extra ordinary example of one of the finest Gothic buildings in England and for many, is a must see on any tourist’s agenda.  Flooding British TV screens every winter, the sight of Trinity College is on every screen with the Cambridge choir capturing the very essence of the festive spirit. Harmonic sounds float up the steep spiral and the wondrous notes work their way through the building, along the narrow wooden aisles and chiming the ornate stained glass windows that beam a kaleidoscope of colours onto the inner walls. Walking through the aisles you are awestruck into silence by its majestic beauty and still nature. When leaving the chapel and stepping into the sunshine, it felt as if re-entering the modern world, with its everyday chaos.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

It is quite easy to spend an afternoon lounging on or along the banks of the lazy river, watching the clouds drift through the sky, or stroll through the historical city, finding hidden gems of architecture, or spending an afternoon dining in a 16th century pub in the sunshine, such as The Eagle– the oldest pub in Cambridge, where we had a hearty lunch in the courtyard. Step inside and the ceiling is covered with war memorabilia and coasters from various ales and lagers from over the years. The pub has an atmospheric buzz to the place and thanks to its large portions and cheap prices, the pub attracts all types of people; tourists, students and locals, creating a hybrid mix of people enjoying the historical character of the pub.

Although, if you find it easier to leave the comfort of a traditional pub more than I do, then head over to the Fitzwilliam Museum– a haven for classic art and historical artefacts from all over the world. The museum is a jumble of goods that will make you wander what an earth they are doing in a museum tucked away in the heart of Cambridge, and nicknamed as “the Fitz”, but being one of the first public art museums in the UK, you can understand the logic behind these actions.

As I said before, my experiences with Cambridge are short lived, merely just a day trip, however, I can see why visitors would want to spend a few days here or even relocate here. With its charming cyclists that zip past you, was well as the buzz of young energy from students that infiltrate  the elegant architecture and historical buildings, Cambridge is quite a catch.

A Look Into Islington

Islington is filled with authentic Victorian houses that possess traditional features such as grand staircases and sweeping stone porches, and have laid host to fabulous writers and revolutionaries such as Mary Wollstonecraft, George Orwell, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Not only is the neighbourhood aesthetically pleasing, but it is a haven for creativity, specifically in the field of arts and crafts. Swopping traditional food commerce at the Islington Farmers Market for boutique shops that are a treasure trove for art supplies, there are a number of shops dedicated to DIY enthusiasts and those wanting to learn various skills through the classes and workshops that are on offer.

Aside from shops offering workshops and classes, there is much more support and praise for the field of arts and crafts in Islington. Head to the Council Arts Centre where one can meet talented working professionals that use various mediums, such as; metal, glass, pottery and textiles, to create contemporary bespoke art. Or to experience a rare art form in the area of theatre, whether it is through watching, being part of the imaginative education programmes or participatory activities for the community, head over to the Little Angel Theatre. The theatre is one of the only three puppet theatres in the UK, and it celebrates the rare art form by developing the puppetry and producing their own shows nationally and internationally, building a reputation for this diverse and interesting style of theatre.

Whilst you are in the neighbourhood of Islington, embrace the football culture that runs deep into London’s veins, by visiting one of the most successful clubs in the world-both financially and through support, Arsenal.  Exploring the Arsenal Museum in the Emirates Stadium ,you join the masses of Londoner’s and internationals that support this acclaimed team, by learning about the history and growth of the heralded football club, as well as a look into the size and volume of the stadium.

If you would like to escape the hustle and bustle of London’s cityscape, embrace the 2.8 hectare nature reserve nestled away in the Gillespie Park Ecology Centre. With its award winning education centre, care and attention is taken towards the various habitats that encompass the surrounding environment and are home to a wealth of wildlife; including 244 species of plants, 94 species of birds and 24 types of butterflies. Allow yourself the time to wander through the woodland and meadow areas, soaking in the atmosphere, and giving time for reflection, peace and quiet from your daily routine.

Islington offers a wide scope in variety of restaurants and Ottolenghi is no exception. Expect brunches that are plentiful and flavoursome, filled with deliciously home baked muffins that resemble the style of our American cousins baking, and alternative breakfasts that are healthy and nutritious. Salads are of abundance and fusion dishes served in the evening, are elegantly composed and taste divine, prior booking is always recommended.  Another firm favourite is the Almeida, where the French cuisine is delightfully intertwined with British inspired dishes and offers organic sophisticated cuisine in a prestige setting, a restaurant reserved for special occasions.

I love the fun colonial explorer themed bar, Hoxley and Porter, which blends vintage attire, printed wallpaper and uniformed staff, to create the ambiance of a traveller from a period long ago, bringing nostalgia to all that visit here. Their incredible inspired West Indian cocktails are filled with made in house liquors and are a notch above the rest. For an acoustic night that will enchant and spell bind you, head to the Union Chapel. The traditional gothic architecture is stunning, as the space uplifts the acoustics of the performers that play here, making the event a more memorable one because of the surroundings you are in, as well as the quality of sound.

 

 

 

A Look Into Camden

For the many that visit Camden, it is purely a place to peruse for odd items, a jumble of strange paraphernalia, eccentric and funky Cyberdog style esque clothing. With ten million visitors a year, popularity for Camden market is ever growing, where a hive of alternative culture is embedded into its very roots, creating a collision of styles in its atmosphere and way of life. But there is much more to Camden than meets the eye.

With the area having its early origins as a suburban town housing a large estate and a service centre for railways and canals, one can see Camden has been regenerated into a lively community atmosphere filled with a varied style of cuisine and live music that accentuates what London is all about.

Visit the Roundhouse, a performing arts venue which originally was built as a railway shed in 1847. Now the site hosts big name artists, dance, circus, stand-up comedy, poetry slam, improvisation sessions and young art sessions to help aid future creatives.  The Roundhouse is widely recognized for its ITunes Festival and Camden beach during the summer months.

A pleasant walk can be had along Regents Canal which leads directly to St Pancras Train Station. It is a setting for the traditional lifeline of trade and industry which ran through London by way of the interlinking canals. Walk in any direction which takes your fancy, heading to Regents Park or the Islington Tunnel in East London, both offer spectacular views and insight into various areas of London. If you do decide to follow the path to St. Pancras, you will not be disappointed by its stunning gothic splendour and authentic history that has enriched the building. The station is filled with public art and decadent restaurants, it is a fantastic place to grab a coffee and people watch, taking in the buzz and ambience of those that are on a journey around you.

Other sights in Camden we recommend are; The British Library, which is the largest library in the world and is also a major research library. It is filled with an extensive range of books, texts and catalogues that will feed the hungry mind of any literature enthusiast or history buff, as well as various exhibits held on that highlight certain literary heroes. In celebration of another literary hero, the Shaw Theatre is in close distance to the library, where one can immerse oneself in performances that are of an unconventional nature.

Our restaurants of choice in the area are Belgo, a charming Belgian restaurant where the lobster and moules specials are divine, a perfect treat for dinner, accompanied with their fine wide array of European beers that are on offer and all vary in strength and taste. If wanting a restaurant to satisfy a delicious craving, head to Honest Burgers, where mouth-wateringly good burgers are packed into delightful packages of meat and where it’s not unusual to roll ones sleeves back before starting the meal.

For an authentic British pub experience, head to Worlds End, a pub filled with rich history and where famous writers such as Charles Dickens even enjoyed a tipple here once before. If you would like to experience the fantastic live music that Camden so proudly boasts, head to Jazz Café, where an eclectic mix of artists from the likes of Lana Del Ray to Amy Winehouse have graced the stage. Genres vary from jazz, to hip hop, R n B to soul and funk, providing a vibrant atmosphere and enjoyable experience, for the last 25 years and still continues to do so.

 

A Look Into Shoreditch

Shoreditch is the original hub for creative artistic types that pour their imagination into digital mediums that flourish and thrive with technological advances. It has become an area of unusual restaurants, hip bars, and an overwhelming surge of young Londoners that follow trends casually and title themselves “hipsters”. With influences from Brick Lane and Hackney, Shoreditch is a blend of smells, colours and styles. Combine this with affluent wealth flowing in from the city spurring creativity in artist and fashionistas, next door to authentic East London businesses.

Brick lane Market is the most notorious market of Shoreditch and has stuck to its authentic charm of the place by allowing little regeneration and development. Restaurants that sit on Brick Lane have nestled there for years, relaying the charm and character of the place, as family owned businesses beckon you in to dine with them. Vintage independent stores hang quirky clothes with no pressure to buy, and those that prowl the shops don’t worry about labels but only the unique designs.

Old Spitalfield Market is another market that visitors must experience in the East ends of London.  Traditionally, hawkers have been selling their food commerce for years here; however, the market place has been transformed to a haven of bespoke independent clothing label stalls, genuine antiques and a place to host a wide calibre of events.

Wilton’s Music Hall is a wonderful venue to soak in the natural heritage and history of the East End focusing on one of the many creative platforms that is embedded into the pulse of Shoreditch, music. Wilton’s music hall is the oldest Grand Music Hall in the world, and one can see exemplars of its colourful rich history in the architecture that has remained in its original design. The producing venue has survived two world wars, been forgotten, derelict, and is now a theatre once more, showcasing programmes such as opera; puppetry, classical music, cabaret and dance. One of its real magical elements, besides its importance in theatrical, musical and cultural history, is that the venue uses all of its traditional rooms for the same use. Whilst you pick up a drink during the interval, imagine those who stood before you doing the same thing, centuries ago.

A modern and edgy alternative to view entertainment is a visit to the Electric Cinema. The modern parallel of entertainment and leisure, replaces crumbling aged tradition with plush levels of comfort accompanied by lavish armchairs and fine cashmere blankets- all with a fully licensed bar and café just a few steps away.

The Clove Club is our personal choice for dining. An excellent restaurant to take clients or to wow someone special, this Michelin starred restaurant takes you on a culinary journey which involves multiple courses of flavoursome food created from unique ingredients and sensational combinations. Its gourmet dining is Avant -Garde, and the setting of this restaurant, the former Shoreditch Town Hall, allows every visitor to succumb to the beauty and austerity of the décor. For an earthier restaurant that focuses on taste rather than the visuals, head to the Eyre Brothers. This restaurant combines Iberian flavours and style, with African flair, an exciting and interesting venture filled with an extensive list of Portuguese and Spanish wines.

Used as cafe, Shoreditch picture obtained from Wikicommons
Used as cafe, Shoreditch picture obtained from Wikicommons

Shoreditch is a popular and highly reputable place to explore after dark. Due to its close proximity to the city, its interesting occupants and its individual style, there are a large variety of options to venture into the evenings. Shoreditch is one of the only areas of London where you can move from classy upmarket bars, traditional British pubs, and then on to clubs that have hanging trapeze artists in the air.  One of our favourite places for a drink is The Book Club, where a large range of events and activities are held during the week, and where one can nestle oneself in an alcove within this ironically named watering hole.  For a sophisticated evening, head over to the speakeasy style bar, Nightjar, where live jazz and blues, as well as carefully created cocktails and an array of rare spirits are on offer. If wanting to embrace the quirky trends that emerge and evolve in Shoreditch, head to Bar Kick for an entertaining and unusual start to your night, with a game of table football- so Shoreditch.