I don't have too many reasons to return to Cambridge, the town in which I studied and worked for a total of seven years, these days, but a reunion lunch in my college yesterday brought a number of my friends back into town. After weeks of sunshine, the heavens opened almost as soon as the train passed under the North Circular, and as I had a little time to spare before lunch, I sought shelter in Hot Numbers' second branch on Trumpington Street.
I visited the original Hot Numbers on Gwdir Street two summers ago and only recently discovered that they had opened up a new location, which also houses their roaster. Both cafés are located slightly south of the city centre, and they are both about 10 minutes' walk from the train station, although in opposite directions. The Trumpington Street branch, which opened last December, is smaller and although it was very busy, I managed to find a place to sit.
They were serving several espresso blends, and a caramelly, nutty filter variety that came, unusually enough, from Vietnam. If you like hand-brewed filter coffee, you are spoiled for choice at Hot Numbers, as they serve pourover, Aeropress and siphon methods, all for £2.50. I would have liked to try the siphon, but was in a bit of a hurry, so stuck to the Aeropress, which was flavoursome and full-bodied — the perfect complement to the grey, rainy morning. Local artworks adorn the walls and there is a friendly, buzzy vibe. The two Hot Numbers cafés are easily the best places to get a good coffee while you're in Cambridge — a town better known for its tea shops and chain restaurants.
After my coffee, I walked into the town centre and into my college. It was nice to catch up with friends and former course-mates, boat-mates and old acquaintances. Eventually, the sun came out and I walked along the backs, admiring the punting pile-ups on the River Cam.
I am more than slightly biased, but I still think my college is the most beautiful, with the almost-symmetrical 19th century New Court (new being a relative term in Cambridge), the pair of bridges over the Cam — Kitchen Bridge and its more famous sister, the Bridge of Sighs — and the red-brick buildings of First, Second and Third Court, the oldest parts of the college.
First years are housed in the apparently award-winning, brutalist 1960s concrete wing of the college, but I had nicer digs in my second and third years. My second-year room is one of the second-floor windows in the top photo. In my third year, my room was located right above the college's grand dining hall, two windows up and one along from the central arch in the second photo. Every time I return to Cambridge, and especially when I visit my old college, I remind myself how lucky I am to have spent so much time in such a beautiful place.