Monday 22 December 2014

Two more trips to Cambridge

Recently I had to visit someone in hospital again, at Addenbrookes in Cambridge, and used the tried and tested off-peak day return train ticket with Plusbus. With my Senior Railcard this was very considerably cheaper than mileage plus parking, and it avoided driving on the dreaded A14 and the traffic in Cambridge.

View from the top deck of a bus at Cambridge rail station
Since my previous visit a year or two earlier, a vast amount of building work has taken place, transforming what had been the goods yard and some commercial and industrial buildings adjacent to the station into a pleasant residential area, with large blocks of flats (presumably many for students) in a decent quality townscape. The bus stops are now located along this street, to the left as you leave the station, and, as before, there is a frequent service to the hospital and I boarded a waiting vehicle and was soon under way along a brand-new street.

As with my last visit I returned from Addenbrookes using a Guided Bus from within the hospital grounds (other buses use a terminal adjacent to the main entrance). This took a while to weave through the grounds dropping an picking up passengers but once on the Busway sped into Cambridge and was soon at the station, neatly in time for the next train to Stamford. 

Timed carefully, this is a very quick and efficient way to and from Addenbrookes Hospital.

Last week we decided to do some of our Christmas shopping in Cambridge and set off bright and early with two off-peak day returns with Plusbus (Saturday, off-peak all day!), this time reduced by a third using our Two Together Railcard! As we were heading for the city centre this time the avoidance of traffic was just as important and although the trains were busy there was enough of space for us to sit together and again a very pleasant journey was enjoyed. The views of Ely from the train never pall. At Cambridge now our trains arrive at the new platform recently opened which takes away Cambridge station's unique arrangement of one very long platform face divided into two sections with points in the middle to allow it to take trains heading in either direction, at the same time. The points are still there and this technique can still be used but there is now much less need for it and train movements in the station are considerably eased by having two further platform faces in operation.

In Cambridge we rediscovered the Michaelhouse café/restaurant at St Michael's church and had both coffee and lunch there. A really good establishment serving "home-made" food of high quality and reasonable cost, and well-placed for the historic centre of Camridge.

When we were ready to return to the station we went to the bus stops and there were about four buses on several different routes all of which were going our way and any of which would have done, so it was time to guess which queue would move the fastest! As it turned out we were on the third bus to leave (not sure what one of the passengers wanted but she seemed to take about 20 minutes to buy her ticket from the driver - probably a gross exaggeration!) but were only a matter of seconds behind the first, and we were dropped nearer the entrance to the station anyway. The moral of this tale is that when there is a frequent enough service it really does not matter which bus you are on.

We love Cambridge. It is one of the few towns whose architecture compares with Stamford's, and it is so easy to get to by train. The shops provide all you could want but cannot buy in Stamford and the bookshops in particular are excellent, as you would expect with a world-class university. In the summer it is a great place just to be, without a reason. To picnic, to punt, to browse the shops or see the buildings, it is well worth investing a little time and money on a day in Cambridge.

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