Well I can hardly believe that 2018 has gone so fast and Christmas is nearly here. I’ll be taking a break until the New Year but to the people who have been so much part of the blog and its success during its first full year of existence, I just wanted to say thank you …..
….. to everybody who has read, liked, shared, got in touch and commented on posts. I love writing about what’s new in this city and I love hearing from you too. Many thousands of people from 73 (yes, 73!!) countries have tuned in to the blog this year and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my words
….. to everybody who’s given me their time as I’ve interviewed them. This city is full of interesting people doing amazing things. It’s a privilege to have met you all and to tell your stories
….. to Alice for inviting me to take New in Cambridge to Velvet Magazine as a monthly column. It’s a great thing to see my words in print and to reach a whole new audience
….. to Lucy and Jack for your technical support. Without you, the blog would look very dull indeed!
….. to my family and friends for their support and encouragement and for being my sounding boards
Wishing everybody a very happy Christmas! See you in the New Year!!
I love this time of year. Cambridge looks more beautiful than ever with the Christmas lights twinkling as dusk falls and I still get that child-like rush of excitement in the run up to the big day. And I firmly believe that you’re never too old for a pantomime. One of my fondest childhood memories is my granny treating us to the panto each year … putting on my best dress, meeting up with my cousins, munching a choc ice in the interval.
I’m sure the ice cream selection, if not the jokes, will be a bit more sophisticated at the two pantomimes running in the city this year. Cambridge Junction brings us Snow White, an original take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, with magic, music and a very shiny red apple. Over at Cambridge Arts Theatre, Aladdin is a classic panto with dazzling costumes and spectacular dance routines. Both productions offer a British Sign Language interpreted performance and a Relaxed performance.
Ballet Central are bringing their adaptation of The Nutcracker to the ADC Theatre from 13 – 15 December with performances at 2.30pm, 4.30pm and 6.30pm. At 45 minutes long, it’s the perfect way to introduce children to this Christmas ballet with its iconic Tchaikovsky score. Enjoy the fantasy and sparkle as Clara’s dreams come alive and she journeys to the Kingdom of Sweets, meeting her Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy along the way.
The North Pole Ice Rink returns to Parker’s Piece for the festive season, with food and drinks available at the cosy undercover Alpine Bar. I hung up my skates long ago after an unfortunate ice rink incident which resulted in a very bruised coccyx but you’ll find me nursing a hot chocolate, maybe a mulled wine, as I watch my family twirl on the ice. Or perhaps I’ll sneak off to have a go on the fairground rides!
For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some yuletide singing. Carol services in the city include Carols at Michaelhouse at 3pm and 4pm on 15 December and a traditional Carols by Candlelight at Great St Mary’s on 23 December at 6.30pm. Possibly the most famous Christmas service of all, The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, is broadcast to millions around the world on Christmas Eve. To get your hands on a ticket, go to the College early on Christmas Eve morning with photo ID. Ticket distribution starts at 7am. Or grab a mince pie, put your feet up and tune in to BBC Radio 4 for the live transmission at 3pm.
Cambridge takes on an air of fiesta in June. Our beautiful green spaces are full of people enjoying the summer sunshine, chatting, picnicking, playing rounders, playing guitars, even practising their circus skills! Ecstatic students celebrate the end of exams at the famous May Balls, with the sound of revelry floating on the night air and amazing firework displays as darkness falls. It’s a time to enjoy life outdoors so I’ve put together some ideas to help you make the most of summer in the city.
What could be nicer on a summer’s day than messing about on the river? You’ll get a spectacular view of the colleges with their historic buildings and beautiful gardens as you glide along the Backs in a punt. Avoid the touts in the city centre and head down to Quayside at Magdalene Bridge where you’ll find several punt hire operators. Established in 1910, Scudamores are open every day from 9am to dusk. Self-hire punts take six people and cost £30 per hour. If you’d rather just sit back and relax, take a 45 minute shared guided tour at £20 per adult. Concessions and private tours are available. The punt chauffeurs are a fount of historical information and while I’ve never heard them sing “O Sole Mio”, they might if you ask nicely!
The Star & Mouse Picture Show is back for a new season, bringing weekend screenings underneath the stars at fabulous venues in and around Cambridge through the summer. This “trinket cinema” creates magical evenings of fairy lights, food and fire pits with live entertainment themed to the film. From 1-3 June, Star & Mouse lands on the riverside at The Double Tree Hilton in Granta Place, Mill Lane, showing “Inception”, “The Goonies” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. Watch the sun go down then as darkness falls, park yourself in a deckchair, put on your wireless headphones and enjoy the film. Advance booking is recommended. Tickets are £12, bookable through www.starandmouse.com
Jesus Green Lido opened in 1923 and still has a reassuringly old school feel with its wooden changing cubicles and its attended Basket Room for safe storage of your possessions as you swim. One of the longest outdoor pools in the country, it’s surrounded by trees so it’s sheltered and private with shade on sunny days and plenty of grassy space for sunbathing and picnics. There’s a dedicated lane for speedy swimmers, a sauna and a little café for drinks and snacks. The Lido is unheated so the water temperature can be bracing but it’s quite acceptable to wear a wetsuit if you’re not the hardy type! You’ll find the Lido opposite Chesterton Road, between Jesus Lock and Victoria Bridge. An adult non member swim costs £4.70. Membership, season tickets and concessions are available.
King’s College is famous worldwide not only for its academic excellence but also for its stunning Chapel and its choir whose Christmas Eve service, “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols”, is broadcast to millions of listeners across the globe. On Sunday 24 June, join The King’s Men (the choral scholars of King’s College) for “Singing on the River”, their final concert of the season. The King’s Men will be on the Cam in punts singing madrigals, part-songs and close harmony while you’ll be relaxing with your picnic on the College’s back lawn which runs down to the river bank. Tickets are £12.50 or £5 for students (under 12’s get in free) from the King’s College Visitor Centre in King’s Parade or from firstname.lastname@example.org
For a cool drink on a warm day plus breath taking 360 degree views over the city, head to the Roof Terrace Bar at The Varsity Hotel in Thompson’s Lane. It’s stylish with comfortable outdoor seating, colourful planting and a dedicated table service rooftop bar offering an extensive gin menu, summer cocktails, wine, bottled beers, champagne and prosecco alongside non alcoholic cocktails and soft drinks. There’s a small barbecue and salad menu too. This is one of my favourite places to sip a gin and tonic (Cambridge Distillery gin, naturally!) while watching the sun set on a summer evening.
This post is The Cambridge Scene column which I write for Eastlife Magazine, a terrific guide to all that’s happening in the east of England. To read more of the June edition, take a look on http://www.eastlife.co.uk