By week four of my first ever term at Cambridge I felt claustrophobic. Wandering through the city was certainly a thrill compared to my tiny hometown, but i yearned for a day to myself, and to be able to reflect on my new life without feeling guilty about not working.
Admittedly, I didn’t really know the geography of the south east, and London seemed expensive. But after a cursory Google, I set my heart on Ely. Booking a train online for the following week was almost certainly unnecessary, but recommended if only for the psychological treat of having something to look forward to. At less than four pounds, too, even the tightest budget, with a bit of forward planning, could burst the bubble quite easily.
Maybe this is something to do with watching The Railway Children too many times as a child, but there seems (at least to me) to be something exciting about being on a train, and watching city turn to fields. The trip took about half an hour, but was so refreshing- here were normal people, with normal lives, who weren’t going to remind me of the reading I needed to do or the essays that remained unwritten. Allowing myself time just to stare out of the window and think (or, in my case, think wistfully about Bernard Cribbins), was such a luxury.
Ely is the perfect size for a wander- a map isn’t necessary, and an afternoon will certainly allow you to see everything. The main ‘attraction’ is the cathedral- which, even if the £12 entry fee seems too expensive, is lovely simply to gaze at. The charm of Ely, for me, rests in the fact it is relatively lacking in noteworthy places to visit. I sat in a cafe for an hour; browsed the bookshops and the market. Hardly thrilling, but allowing myself a full day of relaxing (that wasn’t just a guilty Netflix binge).
Late in the afternoon, I was joined by friends who’d cycled the twenty miles to meet me. On a summer day, taking a picnic out into the countryside would be lovely, but we settled for a homely pub and enjoyed the evening. Escaping the bubble to Ely was wonderful, in that it gave me an opportunity to explore without guilt. In Cambridge, there is always a library close by, and therefore there’s a sense we should be in it, revising. Whilst you’re out of the bubble, however, there’s a license to explore as much as possible. A trip to Ely would be thoroughly recommended!