Monday, 26 November 2012

A Shopping Experience in Cambridge, UK

Most people have heard of Cambridge University but don't know that the University is a series of colleges.  There is Trinity, St. Johns, Kings College and quite a few others colleges that make up the Cambridge University system.

Going into a city in England is very different than in the States.  Since living over here I find my way of shopping has changed significantly.  There are many many things I love about the European way of living...but then there are the odd times when I miss the speed and simplicity of the way it is done in the US.

Parking is very hard to find in the city and it extremely expensive so in order to go into Cambridge you must first find a park and ride station to park your car.  Luckily there are several surrounding the city so you can enter the city from any direction without difficulty.

While you don't pay to park your car at these stations you do pay to ride the bus into town.  This is not very expensive, and children under 16 ride free.

Most cities in England and Europe have a pedestrian shopping district.  Unlike the States there are many speciality stores which makes shopping a bit more fun.
The mode of transportation with in the city is bicycle and the you will find them locked up everywhere.  Another thing that is different here are that bicycles have the right of way in the city.

In Cambridge there is a city market every day of the week and the stalls change frequently so it is always fun to look around.  On weekends in different parts of the city they will also have specialty markets.

Lots of very interesting and unique things to see.  This is a modern clock that is across from Kings College Chapel.  It always has lots of visitors looking at it.

You can always find interesting and historical places tuck away in the hustle bustle of the city.  This is the oldest  church in Cambridge and dates back to the Anglo Saxon period.  It actually is one of the few buildings in England from the pre-Norman period.
Kings College, first picture is the courtyard of the college and the bottom picture is the back of the buildings facing the River Cam

The River Cam flows through the city and you will see punters taking tourist and locals for a ride (if you are really ambitious your can hire just the boat and be your own punter).   There are several bridges over the river to allow pedestrian walk ways. 

Around every corner you will see a interesting beautiful sight.

In the summer months it is not unusual to see and hear about kids jumping off the bridges to splash unsuspecting tourist in a punt boat!
Another part of the shopping experience is the many many places where you can stop to have a cup of tea and a dessert in the outdoor cafe's along the shopping area.  (this picture was taken in the summer time)  In the colder months restaurants will often have out door heaters in their court yards to help combat the cold.

So how has my shopping changed since living in the UK....

1.  Shopping is now an experience to be enjoyed.  I can't just run into a store and pick up something, it is something I need to allow several hours to do.

2.  I don't pick up unnecessary purchases along my route as I will have to carry it around until I get back to the bus and then my car.

3.  I love the sitting in an outdoor cafe and just watch the people go by and have a cup of tea and a yummy treat!

4.  I enjoy the history of the city, the scenery and the specialty shops

5.  I have learned to slow down and to really think about what I am buying and decide if I really need it.

**Note there are a few locations here where you can shop in an mall, but I find I avoid them now**

What do I sometimes miss about shopping in the states:

1.  Shopping after 6 pm,  most stores close by 5 or 5:30 

2.  Driving up to a store and parking right outside to run in and get the one thing I need is something I occasionally miss.

3.  I miss large craft and fabric stores like Michael's and Joannes.    I also miss Radio shack.  Finding things for some of our school work can be challenging, so I do a lot more on line ordering.

In less than a year we will be heading back to the states and I will miss many things about the European lifestyle and the shopping experience will be one of them!


  1. Cambridge is fun. Our eldest is at university there so we have had a few visits recently. Definitely a walking or cycling sort of place.

  2. Lovely photo's! We had a day trip here last week, must get around to blogging about it. I thought the park and ride was great and much cheaper than town centre parking but have to admit I got really lost finding the bus back so it was a little stressful!

  3. I miss the craft stores and long hours too.

  4. Do they have stores like Target in England? Here, such stores tend to be more in smaller cities, not the main ones. So while we have Targets in the smaller city to the north and south of us, there is not one in Seattle proper (that I know of anyway). Shopping in Seattle proper is a lot like what you describe. You can park in city more easily than you describe though. We went this weekend and it was only $6 since it was a weekend. It is a nightmare to navigate though. Too bad bicycles don't have the right-of-way here, too many bicyclists get killed all the time. At the same time, too many bicyclists are also obnoxious, so I honestly can't imagine what they'd be like if they had the right-of-way. I'd love some pedestrian only areas. When we were in Seattle, it took so much longer to get around, because we had to wait at all the cross walks. I personally find the specialty shops a bit intimidating though. They seem to have much more attentive (read pushy) staff, so I don't like to go in unless I know what I want to buy ahead of time. All in all, online ordering is my favorite method of shopping.

  5. I so enjoyed reading this adventure. I guess I picture England as quaint. I would love the atmosphere for sure. There is a little town in Washington named Leavenworth. We loved visiting it. It is made up of small German shops. It is awesome at Christmas time. I loved the pictures and would love the river boat trip. Now in Salt Lake City a lot of people take the Trax in due to not having a lot of parking available. It is fun to take it into the city.