Cambridgeshire September 06, 2014


There comes a time when, even though it was still winter, we had to make the decision to start taking chances on outdoor activities, even if we would still have to wear our heavy coats. Just a week after Valentine’s Day we packed into the car and headed south towards Cambridge for a few days of sightseeing and tourism. As it turned out, our risk-taking was rewarded with blue skies and sunshine.

We didn’t have any grand plans, so we did what we usually did and spent a lot of time on our feet, walking around and looking at things. We visited the ancient market town of Mildenhall, but it didn’t have much going on in the open air market when we got arrived, so we retreated to a playground for a little while before proceeding towards Cambridge itself. Jenny humored my desire to see the famous Goldie boathouse, home of the Cambridge University Boat Club, which is outside of town and a little bit hard to get to, especially since we first had to find parking. It would have been nice if we had seen the varsity blue boat out on the water, preparing for the Boat Race, but it wasn’t really the right time of day. The kids and I did enjoy watching from the vantage point of a bridge above the river while one or two boats of juniors launched and rowed under us. After that, we headed into Cambridge proper, to see the beautiful architecture of the colleges of the university. We found a more lively open air market to explore, were grateful that McDonald’s bathrooms are always free, and found a funny sculpture to pose with.

At some point, I had decided that it would be fun to rent a boat and take the family punting. Jenny encouraged the idea because it’s the quintissential Cambridge activity. Unfortunately, when we got to the rental dock we were told that the winds were too high to let us operate a boat ourselves, although they were still offering guided punt tours. Since that’s both less fun and more expensive, we decided not to do it; I hope that we didn’t pass up our only opportunity to punt, but I think it was a safe risk to take. Instead, Elena and I tried to find our way to the Mathematical Bridge by wandering through the college that it belongs to, but couldn’t find any open doors or free passageways in the right direction after the first courtyard. Luckily, we had better luck finding the way back to the car, because we were all tired and ready to get back to the hotel.

On our way home the next day, we decided to find an activity that would be more kid-centric, and we found a well-reviewed farm park that didn’t seem to be too far out of the way. It was a big hit. Roman and Elena were immediately drawn to the bouncy pillow, even though it was the first time they had seen something quite like that; most of the time giant inflatables playthings have walls. It was really fun to watch Elena and Roman bounce; they were helping each other stand up when they fell down and generally getting along very well. We eventually pulled them away from that so we could see the farm half of the farm park. There were small animals in one little house, mostly rabbits, along with larger ones, horses and sheep, in a barn. But the most impressive specimens were the pigs, in a fenced in area further away, past a pond where the ducks were too fat and happy to be interested in our offerings. The alpha pig was so impressively big, dirty, and grotesque; it was the essence of pig-ness. Unlike the ducks, it was willing to fight with its sty mates for every last nugget of pig food we dropped behind the fence. After that, we joined the rest of the guests at the hen house, where Elena and Roman each got to reach in and pull out freshly laid eggs. After a few rounds on the slides and swings, then a final session on the bouncy pillow, we said goodbye to the farm park and returned home, after a nice trip with something for everyone.

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