Any town named Cambridge gets our vote....
Cambridge really did turn out to be better than Oxford, and in so many different and unexpected ways.
We arrived after a short trip down the Choptank River, wound our way through a narrow channel into the harbour and prepared to anchor in a little space marked out as available in the pilot guide. As we did so, we noticed a long length of quay wall, with a yacht alongside and signs on the dockside. Hey, get the binoculars, what do those signs say? Docking limited to 48 hours? Great, that means it's free. Out with the lines and fenders and we were soon tied up alongside a dock for the first time since, oh, St Lucia, I think. In a country where marina berths go for $100 a night for our boat, this was great.
The kids jumped ashore and wouldn't come back. There was a ten foot wide strip of grass running along the dock widening to a small lawn and trees a bit further along and they were soon sitting under the tree playing all sorts of games that didn't involve being afloat. The town turned out to be everything that Oxford was not. It had a main street, a range of shops and restaurants, small museums and, quite simply, stuff to do.
It also had an edge, a clear history of boom and bust, challenges, empty stores on Main Street and a 'wrong side of the tracks'. This is a town with a breadth of community and commercial life. This is the sort of town we like.
We planned to stay for two days, but almost as soon as we were tied up other boats arrived muttering about the forecast. Checking it again, it was clear we were in for a couple of days strong winds from the north, exactly where we wanted to go. We could make a break for it and get away before the wind arrived, but then be stuck in a lonely creek halfway to Baltimore whilst it blew through, or hang out here in a sheltered spot with lots to see or do. A no brainer, really, so we stayed. The 48 hours docking turned out to be irrelevant too, it was clear we could stay pretty much as long as we liked.
The kids were enjoying playing so much that they refused to sight-see for most of our stay, so Gesa got a chance to wander the town and browse, shop, chat and search out a good cup of coffee. She did plenty of the former, making friends with storeholders up and down the main street, but almost failed on the latter until Kate, owner of a lovely little European giftware store, took pity and rustled up a cup of espresso from somewhere. On a later stroll though town, Gesa took me to her store and before Gesa could introduce me, Kate said 'you must be Nick, I've just been checking out your website'. the next evening, she turns up on the dockside on her way home to say goodbye, with a bottle of wine as a gift. Now either Gesa spent a lot more in that store than she's admitted to me, or Cambridge has some of the nicest store owners we've ever met. Actually, it's probably both....
We've got a lot more stories to tell about Cambridge - I'll try to write some - but right now, here in the also beautiful Baltimore, we've been so busy seeing, doing and enjoying that I'm too tired to write much worth reading, so we'll try again later.