Smelly Socks and alcohol are what I remember from my time in Students dig back in the day. Rooms so drafty I slept with a pair of pants on my head to keep warm during the winter months. Granted I wasn’t paying much back then so have things improved any in the erm (a cough) number of years since?
Christ’s College, an institution dating back over 500 years. Cambridge, the home of the best academic’s minds of the world. A place where some of the most exceptional people have studied and debated, Charles Darwin an obvious one, for Christ’s. These places are for study, for research and usually are shut off to the public for much of the time. Many people admire the gardens of these old Colleges and have done so for years, but the thought of casually staying at one, unheard of until a few years ago.
Staying the night in a Cambridge B&B at Christ’s College is something people have been able to do for about five years now, so Christ’s has pretty much got the basics right now. In fact, the whole experience of staying here was far more enriching than I had ever anticipated!
Let’s start with Check-in
You enter through the Great Gate of the College and head into the Porters Lodge, where the ‘Porters’ meet you. They don’t carry your bags, by the way, no the ‘Porters’ are the guardians of the College, responsible for security, a vast array of other things and my check in it seems.
It’s busy. The porters are busy, but they handle the crowd expertly. Taking time with each visitor or guest and they don’t rush the process. Some are real characters. “Where is Darwins’ room?” the guest in front asks? “He doesn’t stay here anymore” they jokingly reply before pointing out where he stayed in First Court.
It’s my turn, and I instinctively know when not to mess around. The Porter is kind and helpful, explaining where to get breakfast and guide me through a map showing me the best way to get to my room. They show me how my key works and mention not to lose it. “It’s a long way back,” he says, “And I’m not coming up to let you in, you know.” I smile, and I believe him! I know his dry humor wouldn’t be suitable for all, but something tells me he knows when he can use it.
So off I go walking off into the Courts, following the map as instructed. The first thing that hits you as you walk into First Court is the calm. The noise of the City has escaped you, and everything is calm and still. First Court is spectacular. The heart of the original College. Darwin's room, the master’s Lodge, the Chapel and Library all reside here.
As I walk through, I think of all those that have gone before me, though I know that they probably didn’t get here via booking.com like me! Second Court is through the Screens, the passageway that separates the College Hall from the Kitchens, and then you see the proudness of the Fellows Building. It looks immaculate, bathing in Sunlight.
The rooms that are available at Christ’s are mainly at the back of the College, which gives you a grand tour of the College as you travel there. Be prepared though to lug your luggage.
Some rooms, the Executive rooms I believe are closer in Second Court, so you get to enjoy the view of the Fellows Building and gardens far more. The Executive rooms are spacious and comfortable. There aren’t any TVs in the room, but who needs that when you’re staying in a place like this! Anyway, the free wifi is, and I watch iplayer most of the time.
The rooms at the back of the College are also large and the doubles mainly over the road facing out towards King Street. The single en-suite rooms, which probably provide the most value for money, are overlooking the Darwin Garden. Those rooms are compact study rooms, with a built-in shower pod, but are more than adequate for your needs.
The College closes to public visitors at 4.30 most days, so after that, you have the place to yourself and once more as the evening sets in the charm of the courts enchants you as the lamps and lights come on around the College. The main gate closes at 11 pm, but if you ring the bell, the Porters will let you back in.
I had a room in Second Court, and it was very spacious! What do the Students do with all this space? Though the amenities were basic, and the shower room had a utilitarian feel about it, everything was more than satisfactory. A far cry from my student digs and not a draft in sight. My night pants did not need to make a comeback luckily!
After a great night’s sleep, (in the middle of Cambridge’s City Centre) I wake up refreshed and excited to continue my journey in this enchanting environment, so after a nice hot shower, I head over to Upper Hall, for a cup of coffee and my breakfast.
The Breakfast offering is functional but substantial, the service warm and inviting and you get to sit on long rows of tables which have the traditional benches. Quite fun I thought and a set up that stops those painful ques, you sometimes experience at peak times at those more conventional hotels.
With my belly full, my suitcase packed, I was ready to leave, and as I dropped my key back in at the Porters Lodge and got that departing smile, I knew that I would be back!