Punting the River Cam

Day 3 of Carlsson’s European Vacation

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The university town of Cambridge is a short 20 minute drive from our house and boasts a daily market as well as beautiful architecture. We’d been raving to the Carlsson’s about a particular bread stall so they were excited to see it for themselves. We parked at the Grafton, which we’ve found to be the cheapest option aside from taking a bus into town. This was a hard learned lesson as the first time we visited Cambridge, we racked up a $40+ parking tab. Ouch.

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We did a quick run through the market since we knew we’d pass it again on the way back to the car. Jason and Dustin started scheming about dinner almost immediately at the sight of all the produce – whenever the two of them get together it’s bad news for all our waistlines. After a few obligatory photos in front of King’s College, we did some window shopping on our way to the River Cam. Jason and Melissa made the mistake of leaving Dustin and me in a fudge shop. They were offering up fresh (i.e. warm) toffee fudge samples in an attempt to lure people into the shop. We fell for it hook, line and sinker and emerged a few minutes later with four blocks of fudge. Rocky Road, Salted Caramel, Toffee, and Peanut Butter – seriously, who can resist that kind of temptation?

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Rather than put ourselves into a sugar coma, we decided to have an actual lunch in a proper pub. I never quite know what the protocol is when entering restaurants here. Sometimes there’s a hostess, sometimes there’s a waiter but oftentimes, you just seat yourself and belly up to the bar to place your order. We decided to try The Anchor which sat upon the River Cam. We found out later that this was the site of Pink Floyd’s very first show – a fun little piece of trivia for Dustin to log away, no doubt. It took a while for our food to arrive and Lena was starting to get restless so we resorted to shenanigans in order to avoid a tantrum.

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We did our best to order a variety of meals so we could have a taste of everything. Burgers, salads, sandwiches and even a vegetarian meal made the cut. I have a newfound love for Halloumi cheese and was really happy when Dustin and Melissa liked it as well. After living here for several months now, I’ve decided that England’s reputation for bad food is a giant conspiracy to deter too many tourists from visiting. I’ve yet to eat a bad meal out at a restaurant… but don’t tell anyone.

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Before moving here, a number of people told us to punt the river. I was picturing kicking a ball of some sort (in my mind, punting is a word for kicking) so I was really confused. Come to find out, it has nothing to do with kicking but rather, taking a leisurely boat tour down the river. You can either rent a boat and punt yourself or pay for a guided tour – this option has a much lower probability of falling in. While we were waiting for the tour to begin, Melissa was on the verge of a panic attack watching Lena walk around near the water. She actually had to turn away from the scene because it was stressing her out so much and of course, Dustin just laughed at her. I love how they balance each other out – Melissa is on watch at all times while it’s practically impossible to get Dustin to stress about anything. They’re pretty much my favourite.

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The tour ended up being one of our favorite activities from their entire vacation. The weather was just right, the ride was relaxing, and our tour guide provided us with all sorts of interesting facts and history about Cambridge. He spoke a lot about the rivalry between Trinity and St. John’s; the two richest colleges of Oxbridge. The tension between the two schools runs so deep that Trinity’s clock tower rings twice – once for Trinity and once for St. John’s – a reminder that Trinity beat out St. John’s for the highest clock tower and thus won the “right” to have a chiming clock. This may just be urban legend but it was an entertaining story nonetheless.

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I particularly enjoyed watching people trying to punt their own boats with zero success. There were quite a few groups going in circles or knocking themselves into bridges while trying to hold on to their poles and avoid falling in. It was absolutely hilarious and I could easily spend an entire day being entertained at other’s expense.

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After the tour, I introduced Melissa to Primark – a European version of Forever 21. While the styles at Primark aren’t as extreme as Top Shop, they are still a far cry from what you will see in North Carolina. The 80’s are back in full force here and we decided to try on some crop tops and acid wash jeans just for the fun of it. While we had planned to take a picture, it was all just too horrific and inappropriate so your eyeballs have been spared. Much to our disappointment, the guys didn’t share our enthusiasm for playing dress up and refused to try on the skinny jeans we had picked out for them. It was decided we just aren’t meant to be on the cutting edge of fashion and that’s okay. Having lived through the 80’s once already, we’ve learned our lesson: high-waisted jeans don’t do favors for anyone.

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As I mentioned before, Jason and Dustin had been dreaming up their dinner menu for most of the day. After a trip to Tesco, they started making dinner but kept evading our questions about what we were eating. This immediately made me nervous as Jason and Dustin can’t be trusted when it comes to playing tricks on their wives. The food smelled and looked good but upon tasting it, something was off. They claimed we were eating pork chops but I knew better.

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After a few bites, I had to wave the white flag; I just couldn’t do it. I realized I was eating lamb – a poor mama sheep somewhere was missing her child. And the mint marinade was making me nauseous. Melissa tapped out as well while the guys laughed at us – typical.


Luckily, I’d had the foresight to purchase a months worth of fudge earlier in the day so we didn’t starve.


By | 2017-02-10T17:04:26+00:00 July 3rd, 2013|Days Out, Personal|0 Comments

About the Author:

Wife, mama, graphic designer, and documentary photographer. Never met a piece of chocolate I didn't like. I love celebrating special occasions, exploring new cities through their local cuisine, and kissing my babies incessantly.

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