Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Last Trip of the 'Summer': A Day in Ely

I was very fortunate to find that the English summer stretched well into October, so that I was able to enjoy a few weeks of warmth and sunshine before the grey of autumn completely set in. It was lovely to be back in Canada, but it also rained for most of the three weeks I was back and therefore sunny England, with its bounty of autumn produce, was more than welcome.

To celebrate my return, David and I decided to take a day trip away to Ely. Ely is only fifteen minutes from Cambridge by train, meaning that we don’t need to stick to any sort of schedule when we go there. So we woke leisurely on a bright Saturday morning and wandered in the direction of the train station. We decided to stroll down Burleigh Street, a route we do not usually take, and this decision led to the first articles of plunder for the day: cobb nuts & figs from a street vendor, and coffees from our friend’s coffee shop.

When we arrived in Ely we went straight to the market. It didn’t take long for us to pick up some artisan edibles—treacle tarts, fresh bread, jam, and a freshly cooked donuts (an English specialty). David then spotted a sign for a book sale, so we wandered to a nearby museum to browse the sale. The books weren’t worthwhile, but while we were there we spotted another sign, this time for the Ely AppleFestival.

Someone got in trouble at the museum!
This is probably how David's Olde English Forefathers dressed (complete with gun for shooting and clubbing)
The English do festivals really well. There’s always plenty to see and do, everyone is in a good mood, and the weather usually complies. After browsing at some antique shops along the way, we found the apple festival on a strip of park across from Ely Cathedral. The mummers were out in full force, filling the air with jingles and bangs. The festival itself was mostly a collection of various booths selling all manner of food, drink, and crafts. The largest booth was, of course, the apple booth which had over thirty different types of apple on sale. I bought a variety bag and got to try some of the English varieties that never make it into our local stores. David hit up the cheese booth, which was selling a variety of goat’s milk cheeses, and then there was also hot cider to drink, cold cider to buy, and the toffee apple stand.
Apple Festival
Never before in my life have I had a toffee apple. My mum doesn’t like candied apples, so it was not something we had as children. David rectified this by buying me the largest, most toffee-and-nut coated apple that the stand could sell. I didn’t eat it right then, but when I ate it the next day I can tell you that I saw what I’d been missing all these years!

Shopping and walking had made us hungry, so we stopped for lunch at The Lamb Hotel, which has an excellent pub on the ground floor and is becoming our go-to place for lunch when in Ely. Then we went to Topping & Co bookstore, which led to the spending of serious amounts of cash. Topping & Co is one of the few new bookstores that I will actually spend money in. They source excellent editions of books and usually have signed first editions for sale. You can get complimentary tea or coffee while you browse, there are no sales people hovering around, and the staff are very knowledgeable about the books and their authors. My prize for the day was a signed first edition of the illustrated 100th anniversary Secret Garden. It was signed by the illustrator, of course, as the author clearly did not have the foresight to produce 100-anniversary-copies before her death. True to form, David left with a couple of sacks of signed first editions.

Complimentary tea & coffee
View from the upstairs at Topping & Co.
With such good weather, and such a successful day of shopping, the only thing left to do when we got home was to stack up all our treasures and photograph them for posterity:

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