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It's been a long but relatively relaxing day. Breakfast was the usual muesli for me. M. chose Special K from the cereal section. She had egg on toast, while I had eggs and bacon.
Then it was hitting the road on the A14 and A1 north to Peterborough to meet Mike. The meeting was for 12:00 and we got into town about 10:20, so we stopped off in the centre of Peterborough for a coffee and some time to relax and write this diary (yesterday's events needed finishing off). We found a park not far from the cathedral and the main shopping drag, and walked to a French cafe there. We left a bit after 11:00 and first bought a new tube of toothpaste to replace the one we'd just finished, then walked back to the car via the large Peterborough Cathedral. This was very impressive from the outside, but a Sunday service was in progress inside, so we didn't venture in.
We left the centre of Peterborough a bit after 11:30 to try to navigate our way to the designated meeting spot in the suburb of Werrington to the north. This proved to be... entertaining due to a particularly clever bit of road engineering, in which the exit from the motorway that appeared to be the one we wanted from the map was blocked - and we actually had to take the exit before that to get on to the road we wanted - which of course we didn't figure out until after we'd gone past it (despite Mike's driving directions, which were perfectly accurate, but so unbelievable because of the apparent ridiculousness of the road design that we'd stupidly ignored them).
The meeting place turned out to be Mike's house, not as we had expected a pub or restaurant called The Millhouse. His house used to be an actual millhouse and the windmill still existed out in their backyard! The original millstone had been set into the ground and incorporated into a path leading from their back door. Mike told us that people used to (in previous centuries) buy bread from their windows - the mill and original part of the house had been built some time in the 1800s.
After a rest and some water to drink, Mike, his wife Anne, and their 9 year old son James took us for a walk to a nearby village called Marholm, which was across a railway line and about 2 miles away. The sun was hot, beating down out of a sky mostly blue but with fluffy white cumulus clouds dotting it like huge aerial sheep. There was no shade on the walk and we were happy to eventually arrive at Marholm and the Fitzwilliam Arms pub, which was the goal for lunch. Outside this pub stands a large topiary of a stylised figure of a man holding a cigar in one hand and a pint of beer in the other. This is known locally as the "Green Man" and is apparently the biggest sight in Marholm.
In the cool shade of the pub, we ordered an open chicken pie for me, which was chicken, ham, and cheddar cheese in a pie with a hole in the centre of the crust, served with chips and peas, and a cauliflower and cheese pastie for M., which came with a salad. The meals were excellent and filling. Mike and co. had salad-based meals so could fit in some dessert, but we couldn't. The pub was very popular, with dozens of tables both inside and outside, facing on to a field containing black sheep. We'd had to wait several minutes in a queue to order our meals.
After this pleasant meal, during which we discussed much stuff, Mike led us back to his house via a different route, this time taking a public footpath through some fields instead of along the roads. We passed a field of wheat, or possibly barley (none of us knew enough to identify it). While stopped to take some photos of the waves of grain, a large partridge took flight from a hidden spot only about a metre from where I was standing. It was extraordinary, but I was too startled by the sudden noise and flurry of motion to get my camera ready before it had vanished into the distance.
We walked back across a different bridge over the railway line, this one being steel and very wobbly when people walked an bounced on it. Near the bridge was a modern warehouse style building that Mike said was some sort of super-secret data storage facility for some bank or other. We arrived back at the Millhouse and rested for a bit, taking advantage of Mike's Internet connection to check and send a few e-mails quickly. Mike gave us a tour of his house, which was charmingly quirky, with bits added on to the original structure over the decades in a haphazard fashion. The result is that no two walls are parallel, and throughout the entire house no two rooms are on the same level - there are steps between each set of adjoining areas.
By 17:00, we'd wiled away much of the afternoon and had to leave to get back to our accommodation with time for dinner. We said our goodbyes and took to the road. Navigating our way back out of Peterborough and south towards Cambridge was entertaining, with two lightning decisions being needed on various roundabouts, both of which we managed successfully on not much more than sheer instinct.
We were at Cambridge by 18:00 and still full from our lunches so we decided to make the most of the evening light by stopping in the centre of the city itself to see some of the sights by the fading sun. Being a Sunday evening, we figure it wouldn't be too hard to get a park somewhere. And indeed we found free on-street parking on the north side of the River Cam just a short walk from the centre of town and the university buildings.
Crossing over the Cam, we found ourselves in Jesus Green and walked along the riverbank towards the city. The park was full of people enjoying picnics and larking around, and the river full of people punting around on the characteristic small, shallow boats. With the exams just over, no doubt many of the people were university students relaxing into their summer holiday. The scene was one of warm summer leisure and very pleasant. We passed a lock on the river and moved on to an area of buildings where we decided to cross back over Magdalene Street Bridge and walk down to the park area known as The Backs, west of the river, and several of the colleges. From here, the sunset light would make the old college buildings glow.
Unfortunately, what the Lonely Planet failed to explain in its glowing exultation of The Backs is that pretty much all of it is the private property of the colleges and has gates and locks keeping out anyone but college members. We walked forlornly along the street outside gate after gate, with only tantalising glimpses of grass and buildings hidden within, screened by thick stands of trees. At Trinity College we found an open gate and defied the sign saying "No Visitors After 6pm" to walk east along The Avenue - a grand processional between towering poplar trees - until we emerged at a bridge over the Cam. Across the other side were hordes of students frolicking on the grass, with several others plying the river on punts. We took a few photos of the activity in front of the golden stone buildings of the college, and then stole back to the public street to walk down a bit further and see if we could find a good spot from which to view King's College.
We came across another gate offering entry into a similar path, this one curved and deeply shaded by rounder trees. The gate was open and there was no sign saying visitors were not allowed, so we walked in and along the path to the river. Another bridge and similar scenes of student fun greeted us, as well as gorgeous views of King's College and its famous and massive chapel. We thought we could have crossed the college to get into the city centre, but decided not to walk between hordes of students while being so obviously tourists. So we walked back through The Backs to the gate we'd entered, only to find it firmly closed and locked!
After a moment of considering climbing around the gate, but determining that this would require either incredible skill or falling into a muddy stream, we reluctantly turned back to walk through the middle of the college, now acutely aware that we almost certainly never should have been here in the first place. Fortunately, however, we met a family group coming the other way. When we plaintively declared the gate to be locked, the student daughter in the group said that was okay, she had a key. We sheepishly explained that we'd seen the gate open and just poked our noses in quickly, only to find ourselves locked in. The girl seemed very casual about it, saying this sort of thing happened all the time in Cambridge: "That's Cambridge for you!" She gave us directions to the next public crossing of the river and we thanked her profusely.
Making our way there, we crossed near Queens' College, stopping to see the wooden bridge within the college, fancifully said to have been (but not really) built by Isaac Newton himself. Once safely across and into the centre of town, we walked north again past the front faces of some of the major colleges and some of the shops and restaurants of the town. We didn't find much that looked interesting for dinner (we were probably on the wrong street for that) until we reached the Magdalene Bridge again.
Here was the Anatolia Restaurant, purveyor of Turkish cuisine. We sat in the upstairs dining area. The lower floor was completely empty of diners, however that's where the kitchen was and waiters were continually scurrying up and down the stairs with plates of food. M. ordered a vegetable couscous, while I tried the lamb kofta. M. didn't like the veges nearly as much as the couscous we'd had back in Bath, and while my kofta was good, they came with only a mound of rice and a meagre salad - not the inevitable mountain of bread and tahini you get with anything you order from a Middle Eastern restaurant back home. So it wasn't quite as filling as we expected. Add to this the fact that this meal of two simple mains with no extras, side dishes, or starters whatsoever, plus no drinks (we had tap water), cost us over £27 - I'm not quite sure how they managed that. And they didn't take Amex either, the guy sneering at my card and joking (I think it was a joke, but only with the benefit of the doubt) "that card's too good for us". Either way, it was overall the least satisfying meal of the trip so far.
Walking back to the car, we passed an Italian cafe where M. got a mocha and I got a "tub" (not a "cup") of gelati with chocolate, hazelnut, and rum and raisin flavours. It was pretty good. The next step was navigating back out of central Cambridge and back to our hotel at Boxworth. This was not too difficult and we were soon back to wash and sleep and prepare for tomorrow's excitement, where we explore Cambridge some more before heading into London!
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