Saturday, 13 September 2008

A little dream, with a rose bush and slate roof

sunny, mild, beautiful

Finally - a perfect day. Our last here in Cambridge. We were walking back after a pub lunch yesterday (the pub's just down the street from us - Michael had bangers and mash and I had fish and chips) when we found our next home! It's on this tiny road called Orchard Street, and it's enchanting. We both stopped in our tracks and stared.

Now, as you realize, Cambridge has no shortage of staggeringly beautiful and charming streets. But this was a postcard. It's about 5 minutes walk from the colleges, just off a park called Christ's Piece. The road curves very slightly and the cottages are all in a row, connected. Row houses. Made of stone, with slate roofs. They're all alike. And tiny. Each had a front door with a small metal peaked cover. Each has a mullioned window to the left of the door. Each has a small garden out front...most with tall, fragrant, magnicent rose bushes. And each, at the back, has a modest walled garden.

I'd be surprised if, inside, it had even two bedrooms.

Most had names like Rose Cottage, Orchard Cottage etc.

Three, in the very middle of the arc, looked abandonned. Derelict.

Michael and I immediately started dreaming of buying one, and doing it up, and living here three months of the year...in our tiny 'Wind in the Willows' cottage.

None was for sale, but we'll keep checking and hoping. And if it's meant to be one day we'll sleep in our home on Orchard Street.

It's nice to dream. In the meantime, reality is pretty damn good. We visited the Milton exhibit at Christ's college again yesterday - Michael hadn't seen it. It's normally closed to the public, except for a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon...but I emailed the head librarian and she let us in.

Wonderful show. Next year Christ's is putting on an exhibition on another famous alumnus - Darwin.

It was raining and cold so we went to the pub for lunch, then came home. Did more editing on the manuscript. It's 267 pages long (single spaces) and I'm at 215 now. Hope to finish by the time the plane lands in Montreal tomorrow night.

Today we headed to the Garden House Hotel for breakfast - without a doubt the worst meal of our stay. It is now a Double Tree hotel. No one brought us coffee - finally had to ask. The linen was filthy. The buffet had rubber eggs and no plates. Customers piled up and waited and waited for plates. Finally some came, without apology. The container with the sign Fresh Orange Juice was empty. When this was pointed out the waiter went and got some more...pouring orange juice from a grocery store tin.

The coffee was watery.

At one stage a man had to ask a waitress to please serve the two elderly women at the table next to him. They'd been waiting forever and trying to catch someone's eye.

I think the waiters were doing their best, they were just woefully understaffed.

When the bill came it was for 27 pounds. 60 dollars.

The one thing this hotel has going for it is a staggering location. Right on the Cam, in the middle of Cambridge. Michael and I went into the back garden and sat at a table (wet and dirty) right beside the river. People punted by. Kayakers paddled. Across the river people bicycled. In the background were the ancient buildings. Behind us was the hotel - blessedly we don't have eyes in the back of our heads, and so didn't need to look at it. The hotel is what Prince Charles might call a carbunckle on the face of this venerable city. Breath-takingly ugly.

But a great location.

Michael did a really wonderful watercolour of the scene and I did more editing. Such fun to sit there with the man I love - him creating a glorious piece of art and me editing my book.

Then we got chilled so packed up and had a hot chocolate across the way at the University Centre. Then, feeling hungry by then, we walked to the Loch Fyne Oyster restaurant for lunch.

Then home. Through the now sunny and warm streets. We took a small detour and stared once again at our beautiful little cottage.

We catch an 11am bus back to Heathrow, then a flight home to Montreal, arriving about 9pm. Almost certainly won't blog tomorrow, but will try to do one on Monday. Wash day.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

2 comments:

Damyanti said...

I lurk around your blog, primarily because you describe such charming places. Thank you for taking me along on the ride in this post:)

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi Damyanti,

What a lovely photo! Thanks for commenting and for coming along to Cambridge. So glad you enjoyed it.