Yesterday, Bob wanted to visit our friend in the hospital (see previous post), so we packed up and headed to Cambridge. We've been there 3 times before but still don't know our way around at all. Bob got step by step directions from google maps from our house to the hospital, and it's a good thing because the exit from the highway isn't marked with the "H" sign we get in the states (or any other). We left home about 9:30, after a breakfast of butter roll and eggs, and went to the hospital first. Paid 1.80 GBP to park for up to one hour, and found our way in and up to the 7th floor. The sign on the ward door said 2 visitors per bed, so I stayed in the hall with the children while Bob went in (there were a few chairs and a vending machine, but I wouldn't call it a waiting room). They were pretty good, and took turns using the toilets by the elevators. Bob was informed that visiting hours are officially 3-8pm, but it would be okay if he only stayed a little while. He was in probably 20-30 minutes, and then we made our way back out. Downstairs is a mini mall, with two restaurants, a book store, and a clothing store. I thought we might get a map in the book store and save having to find the tourist information center downtown, so we went in there. After walking to the back with our eyes closed to avoid the nudey magazines in full view, Bob looked at a few maps, but didn't find exactly what we wanted, so we went out another way.
We decided, based on past experiences, to take the "park and ride" option - go back toward the main road and park in a large lot, then ride the bus into town. It was 4.40GBP for all of us, as the children are free. In the bus station we picked up a free street map. I'm glad we didn't buy one. Turns out the bus stops at the hospital, so we could have avoided the parking fee if we'd known. Oh well. There wasn't really a list of bus stops, so we weren't entirely sure where to get off the bus, but it came up to another station, and everybody seemed to be getting off, so we did, too. I think we made a good call - we were pretty close to the downtown area.
We made some progress toward understanding the city's layout. Yea! We found the camera store with no trouble, and Bob bought a lens cover to replace the one he lost on the subway tracks in London last time. We looked at tripods, and found one that looked like it would work, but it seemed like we could get a better price online, so we didn't buy it. We were starting to get hungry, so didn't stop at the book stores or the kitchen store. :-( Walked back toward the main pedestrian area, and through the market. I bought a new headcovering for 2GBP. There were a couple of hot dog stands, a noodle bar, and 3 fruit stands, but nowhere to sit. (It was raining on and off all morning.) So we kept going. We walked through a big mall-like area, but all it had was a coffee shop.
Well, the map was sponsored by Chili's, and it was marked on the map, so we headed that way. Walked across a park and onto another mall, which the map said had Chili's in it. Walked through the mall; no sign of Chili's, but we saw signs for a food court! There was a pricey Italian place, a Burger King, a coffee shop, and a cheap pizza place. The food court (as the rest of the town) was very crowded. As we were trying to figure out how to get the stroller over to the one empty table we saw, a family left from a table on the outside of the seating area, so I went to hold it while the stroller and high chairs went out and around. (Hard to describe, not sure why I'm trying.) We collapsed gratefully and decided what to eat. Burgers! I feel kinda dumb going out in England and eating at an American fast food chain, but it really was our best option. I ordered - two bacon cheese Angus burgers, and 5 kid's meals. No free refills. There wasn't a scrap of food left, but I think we got full. It was about 2:30 when we ate.
Feeling much better, except that Bob was getting stabbing pains through his eye, we walked around the mall a little bit more. There is a store where everything is 1GBP, so we went in there. Found some cookies that looked good. After a good 30 minutes in line, we were out of there. A man was playing classical guitar in the open area of the mall, and we decided to buy one of his CDs. Got "The spirit of Scotland" for 10GBP.
The children were pretty tired (Ella was asleep in the stroller) so we decided to head on toward home. The bus stopped outside the mall, so it was a short walk, and a bit of a ride back to the car park. As we boarded the bus, we saw the Chili's - in the building next door to the mall. It was 4:30 when we got back to the car, and we drove home in good time. As we came out of the mall we saw that the sun was out now, so the children got to play outside when we got home. Somehow walking tires them out, but running energizes them. I don't get it.
We got our exercise, and are starting to figure out the city. Another trip or two and we will be giving people directions. :-) I think I like Cambridge. One day we might even make it over to the river and see the part that shows up in all the books on England.