Clare Chase’s gripping crime novel A Stranger’s House is out in paperback today and to celebrate Clare is kicking off her blog tour by sharing her ‘perfect day’ in Cambridge – the city where the novel is set. Keep your eye out for a few of these locations when you’re reading the book!
To celebrate the paperback launch of A Stranger’s House, my first Cambridge-set mystery, Choc Lit invited me to share my idea of a perfect day in the city. This is actually quite a tough call – there’s plenty to fill at least a week! However, here are a few highlights. If you ever head over in my direction, you might like to give them a go!
Breakfast at Clowns
Okay, it hasn’t got quite the same ring to it as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it’s where I’d start! Everyone refers to Clowns as a Cambridge institution, and as far as I’m concerned it is, so feel free to believe the hype! It’s a quirky, cosy family-run Italian café on King Street. The coffee’s great and there’s a lovely range of things to eat throughout the day and late into the evening, all very reasonably priced.
It’s everywhere in Cambridge: from the academic departments and colleges, to a range of university-owned museums and galleries. On a sunny day, I’d probably wander round a college or two – but most charge unless you’re a member of the university or a Cambridge resident, so it’s worth picking and choosing. King’s College is hugely impressive of course, but I also love St John’s.
Further out of town, Churchill College is well worth a visit. The main buildings are modern and brutalist – which may or may not be to your taste! – but the grounds have a variety of sculptures – including by Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth – and the chapel has stained glass windows by John Piper. Confession time – I met my husband at a college bop at Churchill, so I will always have a soft spot for it!
The university’s Botanic Gardens are also lovely on a sunny day, and perfect for anyone with young children who want to tear around. There’s a good café there too, so you can refuel.
In wet weather I’d choose Kettle’s Yard – but be warned, it’s currently closed for building work. When it’s open, it consists of a serene and beautiful house full of lovely furniture and decorations, as well as artworks by the likes of Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. It’s far more than a museum though – you’re allowed to go in, sit down and relax with a book! Next to the house is a gallery – very light and bright with high ceilings. Until it reopens, I’d take in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. It’s home to countless curiosities from around the world, including a soaring totem pole. (And a Balinese mask donated by my grandmother!)
After all that walking I’d visit The Eagle pub on Bene’t Street for a rest. It’s famous as the hostelry where Watson and Crick celebrated after working out the structure of DNA, but it’s also home to the RAF bar, with its graffiti-covered ceiling. The words were written using wax, lipstick and charcoal by World War Two airmen. The place is full of atmosphere, with good food and beer too.
After lunch, I’d go punting. When I say, I’d go punting, I actually mean I’d persuade someone else to punt me. The punt is a flat boat, with a pole that you use to push yourself along and then to steer, by angling it like a rudder. I’m damned if I can get it right. If you haven’t got a willing volunteer in your party, you can hire a chauffeur punt, and be regaled with Cambridge history as you relax and let a professional take the strain.
Cambridge is a city, and it’s crammed full of restaurants and all the shops you’d expect. However it’s actually quite a small place, and if you want a county walk, complete with cows, horses and the like, you can head off along the river. One direction will take you towards Ely, the other towards Grantchester. The latter is do-able in a day and you can go and peer at the Old Vicarage, the former home of the poet Rupert Brooke. The village’s Orchard Tea Rooms are also wonderful, with a timeless feel and idyllic gardens.
I’d also make time to simply stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. There are plenty of quirky sights around the city. The centre is quite swanky and pricey but if you want a more alternative feel, try Mill Road.
I’d round off the day with a meal out, and in town, the options are vast. On this occasion, I’ll plump for La Margarita, a lovely Italian restaurant on Bridge Street (as visited by Ruby and Nate my latest Cambridge mystery, One Dark Lie)! But the Fort St George, by the river on Midsummer Common, is also atmospheric – a grade II listed timber-framed building with a cosy interior. When Ruby takes a break from her work in A Stranger’s House she escapes there for chips!
So – that’s my ideal day. If you read A Stranger’s House, I hope you enjoy the descriptions of Cambridge, and if you visit the city, have a wonderful time!
A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase is now out in paperback. For buying options, click HERE.
For more on Clare, follow her on Twitter: @ClareChase_
Visit her website: www.clarechase.com