The Cambridge May Ball fireworks were such a magical experience, and if you ever have the opportunity to be in Cambridge in June (not May), I’d highly recommend it! We had a few days in Cambridge, but Cambridge is also an ideal day trip from London (which I’ve also done!). It’s a university city, with lovely old buildings and gardens.
We hired bikes and cycled along the river and through cow pastures to Grantchester, to the Orchard Tea Garden. This was such a cute, hidden find, and I loved reading about the history of the tea garden while taking tea and scones. It’s an apple orchard with plenty of chairs strewn around in a relaxed atmosphere. There’s a cafe selling the simple English treats – tea, scones, clotted cream and jam. Students from Cambridge have traditionally taken tea in the orchard, including Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking, and also significant people from around the world – DH Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie, George Bernard Shaw.
The Bloomsbury Group – a group of writers and artists in London in the 20th century – would meet for tea in the orchard. EM Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Virginia Woolf were just part of this group that met for tea here. It felt completely English and lovely. On the website of the Orchard Tea Garden they list significant visitors, and you can tell that just about every influential writer has visited here at some point – it seems like the perfect pilgrimage spot for writers.
We were in Cambridge for the May Ball, the celebration each college has in June when exams are done. The tickets for the ball range into the hundreds, and they always have a surprise musical guest. This year it was Charli XCX. They dress in their formal attire for the college ball, watch fireworks, dance, and stay up until sunrise. If you’re in Cambridge during this time you can witness it all!
We booked for punting during the fireworks. With a few other people we piled into a punting boat, and were punted along the river. Then, with hundreds of other boats, we stopped in the water between the colleges and the backs (that’s the private lawns owned by each college, where they hosted their balls). From here we had comfortable front row seats to see the fireworks display. We took strawberries, a packet of crisps and prosecco. It was honestly such a magical evening.