Advent Windows

It’s December. On the quiet residential streets off Cambridge’s Mill Road, fairy lights twinkle in the windows.

So far, so ordinary.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that these fairy lights frame festive scenes: nine ladies – their skirts delicate paper snowflakes – dancing; children ice-skating, snow swirling around them; a scene from The Nutcracker with the Mouse King holding his sword aloft; reindeer flying above King’s College Chapel.

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Exploring Wimpole Estate

Last week was emotionally draining. A trip to Wimpole Estate was the perfect pick-me-up; the tonic to flat-hunting tedium and work woes.

Ring, ring. Long time, no see, 07:15. We’d been hoping for a lie in, but the mid-morning slots had already filled up. We ended up booking our timed-entry tickets for 09:30-10:00. (Once you’re in, you’re free to stay until closing time.)

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Ready, Steady, Ride: Recent Bike Rides in East Anglia

When I first moved to Cambridge, I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. I wobbled. I panicked. I fell off (more than once). I got back on again.

Fast-forward: it’s March 2020, and exercise is one of only four ‘reasonable excuses’ for leaving the house. Cambridge emptied: first of students, then of cars. Laurence and I couldn’t resist taking to the clear roads on our bikes. We’ve found new routes (some of which have become go-to rides), discovered picturesque villages and spotted adorable baby animals, clocking up 982km in the process.

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Bologna: One of Italy’s Best Kept Secrets

Often overlooked in favour of Northern Italy’s other big hitters (Florence, Milan and Venice, I’m looking at you), Bologna is an underrated gem which, dare I say it, I much preferred to its northerly neighbour, Florence.

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An Armchair Tour of an Archaeological Gem: Ostia Antica

Once upon a time, Ostia was a thriving port city with over fifty thousand inhabitants and a buzzing social scene (a theatre, plus public baths and taverns aplenty). Over time, attention shifted to Portus – a harbour on the north of the River Tiber – and Civitavecchia – a city sixty-odd kilometres to the north-west of Rome. Trade in Ostia slowed, and the city fell into decline.

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When in Rome

Rome took me by surprise, in a good way. I expected it to be busy – and it was, but not excessively so (travelling in shoulder season certainly helped). I expected it to be rainy, because the weather forecast looked dire for the few days we’d be there – but it was balmy. I expected it to expensive – and while I’m sure it can be, I found it wasn’t all that difficult to visit on the cheap.

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Exploring East Anglia: Bakeries, Beaches and Bikes

East Anglia is home to some glorious stretches of sand and shingle. From Hunstanton’s pinky-red cliffs and Blakeney Point’s grey seal colony (if you want to see oodles of adorable seal pups, now’s the time to go) to Cromer’s sandy shores and the colourful beach huts of Southwold, there’s a beach for everyone and every season.

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A Ride on ‘The Slide’

If you tuned in to London 2012, chances are you’ll have caught a glimpse of a cherry-red, spaghetti-like structure in the corner of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a fusion of design and engineering; an icon of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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