2019 sped by, and was gone in the blink of an eye. (I’m sure the older I get, the faster time goes.) Chers lecteurs, thank you for taking time out of your day to tune in to the various adventures – on home soil and abroad – I’ve chronicled this past year on La Grenouille Anglaise. Without further ado, here are some of 2019’s most memorable moments.
January | January began with a bang and, rather like a firework, fizzled out quickly. We celebrated Dad’s birthday with a meal at The Boot Inn in Willington (I can highly recommend their ice cream sundaes), and I took the following day off for the big day itself. Laurence and I rounded off the month with a trip to Pint Shop for our anniversary. What happened in between is, to be frank, anyone’s guess.
February | Adventure-wise, things picked up in February with a smattering of local and London-based adventures. A few miles south of Cambridge lie the Gog Magog Hills. Hills is a bit of a stretch – mounds would be more accurate – but The Gog Farm Shop’s sausage rolls called, so we went. Nine days out of ten, Gonville and Caius is closed to the public – but on one sunny Sunday in early February it was open, so in we went for a nosy (in so doing, bringing our tally of colleges visited to fourteen – and counting). We climbed the tower of Great St. Mary’s for a view of the college rooftops (let’s be honest, that’s virtually all there is to Cambridge’s skyline), saw The Cambridge Footlights and had a blast at Twilight at the Museums. We zipped down to the Big Smoke a couple of times: once for a visit to Mithraeum and lunch at Ye Olde Watling for Mum’s birthday; the second time for an interesting but undeniably over-priced Hidden London tour.
March | Months on end sans boulangeries meant a trip to France was long overdue. Vicki was spending four months of her year abroad in France, so Laurence and I dutifully headed over for a long weekend of croissant-munching in Cholet and Nantes. Closer to home, we finally ticked Bread & Meat off our Cambridge bucket list and checked out St. Catharine’s ‘Celebrating the Periodic Table’ exhibition. (Fun fact: 2019 was the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.)
April | Laurence ran the Greater Manchester Marathon; I spent three hours tram-hopping along the line to Altringham to see him at various points along the route. We chomped our way through Red’s True Barbecue’s menu twice whilst in Manchester – once with Dad, once post-marathon – and I have zero regrets about that. If you’re ever within striking distance of a Red’s, go. (And if you’re not, these days you can find their tasty sauces in most major supermarkets.) I spent a couple of days in Exeter for work, and while I wasn’t especially sold on the city, I loved its proximity to Dartmoor National Park. So much so, in fact, that Laurence and I tacked a holiday on and spent five glorious, cream-tea fuelled days hiking across it.
May | Saffron Walden had sat on my list of places to visit in East Anglia ever since I saw a photo of its pastel-coloured, half-timbered buildings splashed across the pages of Cambridge Edition. We spent most of our time there pottering round Bridge End Gardens and admiring the unusual doorknockers (dragons, bumblebees and the like) on the medieval buildings. Towards the end of the month, we returned to God’s Own Country (aka Yorkshire) for what turned out to be a very wet weekend in the Yorkshire Dales. Work-wise, I started a new (fixed-term) role as Associate Commissioning Editor for Study Skills and Linguistics. It’s been a steep learning curve at times, but should stand me in good stead for whatever lies ahead. (Cambridge isn’t part of the long-term life plan.)
June | June kicked off (pun intended) with the Champions League Final. Laurence and I spent the afternoon at Ely’s Etheldreda Craft and Food Fair, and the evening watching the footie with my auntie, uncle and cousins. Vicki gave us an afternoon tea experience the previous Christmas, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone: redeem it at Bardolino in Birmingham (which serves up a non-traditional take on afternoon tea, rather than piles of egg and cress sarnies) and visit Laurence’s sister. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the snazzy Library of Birmingham (which has not one but two rooftop gardens), completing ‘The Fourth Samurai’ escape room and playing with Hannah and James’ adorable cats.
Related: 2018’s Memorable Moments
July | The Tour du Mont Blanc – an epic 170km circuit of the Mont Blanc massif, which traverses France, Italy and Switzerland – had been on my hiking wish list for nigh-on six years, and was well worth the wait (and the weary legs). Snowy peaks? Check. Cosy refuges? Check. Alpine wildlife? Check. Suffice it to say, we had a cracking time. We both turned twenty-five, and marked the occasion with a trip to Glazed Creations for a morning of pottery painting.
August | Grandma and I spent an afternoon deer-spotting and wasp-dodging (pity they’re also partial to ice cream) at Knole Park, a National Trust spot that brings back memories of summer holidays from years gone by. Zip World’s Velocity 2 put the gust into August: Dad, Vicki, Laurence and I whizzed across Penrhyn Quarry at breakneck speed. We rounded the month off with a long weekend in Norwich (featuring a two-wheeled trip to the coast) and a fun-filled weekend in Leeds for Laurence’s work’s annual Sports Day.
September | Whenever I’m away with work, I usually find time for a whistle-stop tour of the local area – and my trip to Geordieland (that’s Newcastle upon Tyne, for the uninitiated) was no exception. I stayed with my friend and her fiancé and, as they both get into work super-early, I had ample time in the mornings for a wander round the city. (Elmer’s Great North Trail was a definite highlight). I went to Bath twice (also for work), and on one trip spent more time travelling there and back than I did in the city. Go figure. Weekends featured a trip to London to ride The Slide (with a city farm visit on the side), a cycle ride to Hot Numbers Roastery in Shepreth and a visit from my friend Abi, which saw us visit the Zoology Museum, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
October | October was a month of two halves: a jam-packed week or so at the start and an uneventful final fortnight. I spent a lovely weekend in Oxford with Abi, Natalie and Angus; I’d forgotten just how cavernous the Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum is. Laurence and I then hopped over to Italy, where we spent five days eating our way round Rome, Florence and Bologna. (More to come on that trip soon!) Volunteering with Girlguiding has given me many memories over the years, and I won’t be forgetting the ‘Clever Cogs Challenge’ event we ran this autumn any time soon! Rainbows, Brownies and Guides from across the district came together for a day of engineering-based activities, making rainbow mocktails, balloon propellers and slime, cleaning up an ‘oil’ spill, building balloon towers and programming a ‘computer’ (in which one girl wears a blindfold and is directed – or misdirected, as some of the girls inadvertently mixed up their lefts and rights – through a maze by her teammates).
November | On Bonfire Night, Laurence and I headed over to Midsummer Common for fireworks; Cambridge City Council can always be counted on for a cracking display. A string of busy weekends followed, with trips to Norwich (where I did my first parkrun), Grandma’s and St. Ives (Cambridgeshire not Cornwall, to see my friend Olivia). My parents’ visit coincided with the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre: four days of festivities, with lots of food and gift stalls spread across the town. We had a lovely meal at The Salisbury Arms with my auntie, uncle and cousins one evening, and also squeezed in a brisk walk round the Botanic Gardens.
December | With a few days’ holiday left to use up, Laurence and I settled on a long weekend in Cornwall. We based ourselves in St. Austell, and from there explored the Eden Project and tramped along the South West Coast Path to Fowey and Mevagissey, both home to delightful tearooms. Back in Cambridge, we swung by the Mill Road Winter Fair – a community-led event which sees local business and charities spill out onto the pavements and green spaces, selling crafts, gifts, food and drink. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample the delights of Steak & Honour – and, by golly, I wish we’d done so sooner! At work, we picked a selection of mince pies from local supermarkets (Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and M&S), rated them for crust, mouth-feel, flavour and appearance and, after five rounds of tasting (one round per supermarket, plus a final round to decide the winner), concluded that M&S standard mince pies were the best ones going. I spent Christmas in Chester with my family, eating turkey in various guises (yum!), playing lots of board games and watching films.
Bonne année chers lecteurs – and here’s to a wonderful 2020!