1. Ice Skating on Parker's Piece
My first pick of activities in Cambridge at Christmas is to go ice skating at ‘The North Pole’, otherwise known as Parker’s Piece. The square of parkland becomes Cambridge’s own winter wonderland, free to enter and open until 5th January, so there’s lots of time for some winter fun. There are rides and stalls for both adults and children, as well as an alpine-style bar. The main attraction, however, is the clear-roofed ice rink which means you can enjoy views of Cambridge without having to worry about what the weather is doing. Slots are 45 minutes every hour, on the hour, and prices start at £10.50 per child and £12.50 per adult, including skate-hire.
2. Have a Sunday Roast in a Cosy Pub
When you’re done skating in the cold, a Sunday Roast in a traditional English pub is the perfect way to warm up! In England, it’s common to have one big meal on a Sunday afternoon; a ‘roast dinner’, so called as it typically consists of roasted meat – chicken, pork, beef or lamb, with roast potatoes and cooked vegetables. On Christmas Day, we eat a roast dinner too, but this time the meat is usually turkey and it comes with ‘all the trimmings’, which include stuffing, gravy, red cabbage, sometimes cauliflower cheese, and of course, the all-important ‘pigs in blankets’ – chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon which are usually everyone’s favourite bit of the meal! If you want to try this English tradition for yourself, you could eat a Christmas Dinner at a pub or restaurant. Pubs all around Cambridge will be serving up their own versions of the Christmas meal in December; I recommend The Granta, a lovely pub which overlooks the river. A Sunday Roast here is priced at around £10.99 so it won’t break the bank, and after lunch, if you like, you can hire a punt from Granta Punts just below it. The meat at The Granta is on a rotation so it changes every week - If you would prefer to eat beef, I’d suggest The St John’s Chophouse for a roast that won’t disappoint. It’s a 17th Century brick house with exposed beams and wood fireplaces, so it makes the perfect setting for a great Instagram shot too! They also do a vegan nut roast if you’re a non-meat-eater. Remember, it’s not a real English Christmas Dinner unless you get to pull a cracker, as shown in the photo below!
3. Go on a Wintry Walk to Grantchester
Another afternoon in Cambridge this Christmas could be spent taking a wintry walk to Grantchester village. It takes a little under an hour to walk from central Cambridge and it’s a rural village with pastoral scenery perfect for whiling away a few hours. The natural setting is gorgeous to stroll through, and, if you get cold, you can warm up with a hot chocolate in The Red Lion Pub. Grantchester is the setting of the popular British TV show by the same name, so you could look out for some of the sets, like the village church. If you visit in the summer you might even see the actors filming around Cambridge!
4. See a Christmas Pantomime
Fun for all the family would be a trip to see a Christmas pantomime at one of Cambridge’s theatres. This is another English tradition that is popular for those with young children. This year at the ADC theatre, situated next to our school, are putting on ‘Red Riding Hood’. It’s running from 27th November to 7th December, with tickets starting at £11. If you don’t catch that one, from 28th November to 11th January you can watch ‘Cinderella’ at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Tickets for this one are a little more pricey, starting at £17.
5. Mince Pies!
If you’re hungry for a snack amongst all the Christmassy activities, then a mince pie is a good place to start. The mince pie is possibly the most famous Christmas dessert in England, and you will find them in coffee shops all over Cambridge. These are sometimes met with confusion due to being made with ‘mincemeat’, but don’t worry! There is not actually any meat at all in a mince pie, instead, it is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, in a pastry case. If you like them, you should ask for a recipe to take home where you can practise making your own!
6. Christmas Shopping
If you want to do some Christmas shopping while you’re here in Cambridge, you could try visiting the market in the market square. This goes on all year, but vendors will be selling Christmassy products throughout December so make sure to look for some bargains! If you want to do some more upmarket shopping, the quaint shops in the cobbled streets near our premises – Rose Crescent, Trinity Street and Green Street – are filled with luxury items perfect for surprising someone special with at Christmas. And, you can walk underneath the twinkling Christmas lights as you shop!
7. Watch a Christmas Film
If the weather is dampening your mood, try visiting the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse to watch a Christmas film! The Arts is an independent cinema very popular with Cambridge residents, and it shows not only upcoming, but seasonal films. This year they’re playing the new and very much anticipated ‘Last Christmas’. Going to The Arts is a much more personal experience than going to a multiplex cinema, and in doing so you’re supporting a small business.
8. Winter Lights at Anglesey Abbey
If you’re looking for something striking and memorable to do in winter in Cambridge, I’d recommend booking to go to ‘Winter Lights’ at the National Trust estate Anglesey Abbey. The National Trust describe it as ‘a magical mix of light, colour, sound and nature’. The enchanting walk through the lights goes on for a mile, so it’s not too long if you’re bringing children. The lights are on for three weekends starting with the 29th November, and tickets must be booked. If you are interested, check the National Trust website for more information.
9. Christmas Carols
To get in the Christmas mood, you could attend a carol service. The most famous of all is the service that takes place every year on Christmas Eve in Kings College Chapel, arguably the most impressive building in Cambridge. If you want to attend, however, you will need a warm coat, and some patience! There are first come first served tickets, so any member of the public can attend, but while the service starts at 3pm, the gates to the college open between 6.30pm and 7.00, and you will need to be in the queue by this time if you want the chance of seat. If you’re unsuccessful, you can stick around until the doors open at 1.30pm and try for one of the 500 standing room tickets.
10. Have a Snowball Fight on Midsummer Common
This one is weather dependent, but, if we are lucky enough to have snow in Cambridge this Christmas, then a visit to Midsummer Common, a huge expanse of parkland, to have a snowball fight with friends and family would be a guaranteed way to have some fun in the freezing cold!
Merry Christmas from all of us here at ABC Languages Cambridge!
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager
My research for this blog led me to the three pillars of sustainable tourism. These are:
In order to make your trip to learn a new language truly sustainable, you should aim to assess it with each of these pillars in mind. This might sound like it's going to be tricky, but in this blog post I'm going to break it down for you and highlight three main areas where you could make your language travel more sustainable and eco-friendly.
If you are coming from outside Europe or flying is really the only option, there are still ways to make your onward travel more sustainable! The UK is well connected by railway – try taking the train from the airport to your destination, and for other trips during your visit. Taking the train from Cambridge to London is quicker, cheaper and easier than going by car, and much better for the environment! As well as adapting your longer distance travel, it’s important to think about how you’re going to get around where you are staying. If you come to our school, we are based in central Cambridge, making us very easy to get to by public transport, or, if you are already staying in the centre, by walking. We like to encourage all our students to limit their use of cars and taxis as there is really no need for them in Cambridge, not to mention it is impossible to find a parking space! Of course, as well as taking the service buses to get to and from the school and your accommodation, the best way to discover Cambridge is by bicycle! Cambridge is full of cyclists and racks to put your bike on while you’re in class or exploring the city centre. Not only is cycling one of the most eco-friendly ways to get around, with virtually no carbon footprint, it also keeps you fit! There are plenty of bicycle shops in Cambridge where you can hire a bicycle for the duration of your stay. This will be a lot cheaper than taking taxis, and if you hire them from a local business instead of a chain of shops you will be supporting the local economy as well. We can suggest the best bicycle hire shops in Cambridge, so let us know if you want to hire a bicycle to use during your stay.
Homestay is great not only because it is cheaper than staying in a hotel or private apartment, but because by paying for homestay you are directly helping local people and their businesses. It is also a socially sustainable option. Locals might see tourism in a negative light because it results in overcrowding and different standards of behaviour to what they are used to. If you were to participate in an exchange of traditions by staying in a homestay this would help to get them involved in the tourism industry, break down stereotypes and encourage your hosts to see a more positive side to tourism in the city. Living with local people also has the benefit of expanding your English outside the classroom, with native speakers. In our homestay you can eat your evening meal with your host, creating plenty of time to speak English in a relaxed setting while also learning about English food! You could also teach them some of your own language, as sustainable tourism should be a balance of receiving and giving.
Food and Drink
Cambridge is a hub of excellent food and drink. We even have our own Michelin star restaurant, Midsummer House. If you’re on a budget, however, there are lots of great places to eat that are also good options for sustainable tourism. Eating at independent Cambridge restaurants or from street food vendors is a great way to support local businesses that will make your trip more economically sustainable, and Cambridge has many of these. If you’re in the mood for a sandwich or pastry, try Norfolk Street Bakery, an artisan independent bakery that now has a second branch conveniently located near the train station. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat dinner, try The Punter; located very close to our school, it is a traditional pub serving classic British dishes, as well as an array of real ales. I also have to recommend Fitzbillies, famous almost exclusively for its ‘Chelsea Buns’ - swirls of cinnamon, icing and dried fruit. It wouldn’t be a visit to Cambridge without trying a bun at Fitzbillies, and as another small local business, they rely heavily on the tourism industry.
If you are looking to eat vegetarian or vegan, there are also some excellent local options. There is increasing evidence that one of the best things we can do for the environment is to reduce the amount of meat in our diet. This is made easy by restaurants like Stem and Glory, an incredibly well-reviewed plant-based restaurant that was runner-up in The Observer monthly food awards. If you’re after something less expensive and quicker to eat, head to the market square, just a five minute walk from our main school, and grab a vegan falafel wrap or a Mediterranean salad from the independent Mediterranean Falafel food stall.
Turning to drink - I have already mentioned The Punter pub, but if you were in search of some more Great British pubs it is worth visiting The Mill, which sits right next to the river, serving craft ales and craft beer, and The Eagle, a historic pub in the centre of Cambridge, famous for being the setting of Watson and Crick’s DNA chats. As well as supporting local businesses and being more sustainable towards the environment, paying a visit to the places I’ve suggested should ensure that you get some delicious food and drink in the heart of Cambridge.
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager
During our popular English language summer school, most of our students opt for our ‘full-day programme’, which includes morning English lessons, lunch, and afternoon activities on our premises and around Cambridge. For the last two years I have been working at ABC Languages during my summer breaks from my undergraduate studies, and in this time I have observed and led a pre-planned summer activity programme, and subsequently taken over the planning and running of the summer school activities. Because I lead the activities myself in my first year working at the summer school, I was able to quickly identify any areas where we could improve on both the design of the activity programmes, and how they were carried out. My main objective for the programmes I designed was that all of our students, (and staff) would have fun in a safe setting. In this blog I’ll be taking you through the process of how and why our activities are planned and showing you why our full-day programme is such an unmissable option, with a sneak peak of what’s to come in summer 2020.
The ‘fun-factor’ of adrenaline-filled activities like these is highly important to me when planning the full-day programme. It is a must for us that the activities we run, both on and off our premises, are stimulating and inspiring, and that we continue to build on the English language that the children are learning in the mornings. The most important thing for me, however, is that they have fun! It is so rewarding to see an activity that I have spent time planning be well-received by the students. With this in mind I have spent time researching even more fun-filled activities which are possible for us in Cambridgeshire. New activities for summer 2020 include a roller disco and ice skating as well as bouncy castles on our very own premises!
Options like inflatable afternoons require a lot of space, and luckily this is something that we have in abundance at our new summer school venue. English is not the only thing that children learn at our summer school when you opt for the full-day programme. As well as the excursions I have already mentioned, our unique experience offers children the opportunity to play new team sports, to climb on purpose-built climbing walls, to swim with their friends, to design and make their own jewellery, and to bake yummy cakes and biscuits, to name but a few of the varied options. All of these things are made possible and so much easier in a large secondary school like the one we will be operating out of next summer. With extensive sports fields, indoor gyms, and specially designed classrooms for activities like cookery, the possibilities for fun are endless. Most anticipated by us is the indoor heated pool that all age groups will have regular use of during the afternoon sport sessions.
The tricky age group of the ‘tweens’ – in between our Early Learner and Teen classes – is something I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get right. Activities for them often seem either ‘too young’ or ‘too old’. They form a gap in the middle that I wanted to focus on for the coming summer. I am anticipating that our new programme specifically designed for this smaller age group of 10-13 years old will really make them feel included and actively engaged in the summer school. It has been drawn up as a programme that is mature enough for quickly growing tweens who feel too grown up for some of our younger activities like messy play and trips to soft-play centres but aren’t quite ready for the more independent and academic aspects of our young adult programme.
As a result of these three activity programmes, we differ from our competitors who generally run one activity programme throughout the summer, irrespective of large age gaps between the students. As well as meaning our activities are more specialised by age, the diversity in our programmes creates smaller groups on the activities, giving every student more individual attention from our staff. As our summer school teachers and teaching assistants double up as our activity team the students spend their afternoons surrounded by the staff they already feel comfortable with, who are also excellently qualified to continue assisting them with their English outside of the classroom.
If you would like to know more about our 2020 summer school please get in touch! We would love to tell you more about our new set-up and the different courses we can offer you...
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager
As we draw nearer to the summer, we have started booking our International Summer School activities for juniors staying with us for morning lessons and afternoon activities.
Some of these activities include pizza making, a bus tour of Cambridge, sports games, science games and punting!
We still have availability for our morning lessons + afternoon activities courses but places are booking up fast! Book now to avoid disappointment!
If you have already booked morning lessons with us but would now like to join in with these fun activities, just let us know and we can book you in!
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions
There are lots of famous people who have studied in Cambridge. Here are just a few notable names that you could follow in the footsteps of while you study English in Cambridge
Stephen Hawking was a famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He obtained a PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics from Gonville and Caius College Cambridge in 1966.
Charles Darwin is well known for his evolutionary theory that all species descend from common ancestors which is outlined in his 1859 book ‘On the Origin of Species’. He obtained a degree in Theology from Christ College in 1831.
Eddie Redmayne is a famous actor who has stared in Les Misérables, the Danish Girl, and Fantastic Beasts. He also plays the role of Stephen Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything. He studied Art at Trinity College in 2003.
Isaac studied at Trinity College in 1661. In 1687, he published his universal gravitation theory. The story of Newton discovering gravity by being struck on the head by an apple falling from an apple tree at Trinity College is a myth, no such tree existed in Cambridge at the time! It was when he visited his mother at home while studying at Cambridge that he observed apples falling off a tree in the garden and this sparked his gravitational theory.
Prince Charles of Wales
Prince Charles is Queen Elizabeth II eldest child who studied anthropology, archaeology and history at Trinity College Cambridge in 1967.
Stephen Fry is best known for being one half of the double act Fry & Laurie in the Footlights, as well as his appearance in Blackadder and hosting the TV Quiz show QI. He is also the audiobook voice for all seven of the Harry Potter Books in the UK. He studied English Literature at Queens College Cambridge.
David Attenborough is an English presenter and natural historian who is famous for his programmes on the BBC such as Planet Earth and Blue Planet. He studied geology and zoology at Clare College Cambridge with a scholarship in 1945.
Emma Thompson, a famous actress, studied English at Newnham College in 1977. She was the first female member of the Footlights where she performed with the likes of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie at the ADC Theatre which is right next to our school!
Tom Hiddleston is an English Actor known for playing the character of Loki in Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World. He has also been the lead in the BBC series The Night Manager and featured in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris film. He studied classics at Pembroke College Cambridge and earned a double first.
Follow in the footsteps of these famous names and explore the colleges and places that they loved while you study English in Cambridge with us!
As we settle into the new year, we have been reminiscing about our favourite moments of 2018. To share some of these moments with you, here are our 10 most liked Instagram photos of 2018:
This post was from our 2018 summer school where students got to encounter birds of prey
One of our many summer school classes
Our summer school students enjoying their trip to Mountfitchet Castle
Punting on the River Cam is a ‘must-do’ summer activity in Cambridge!
This photo was taken by one of our students while studying with us
Full house for Tea and Conversation!
Christmas Lights in Cambridge 2018
The bridge of sighs taken by one of our students
Our Christmas buffet photo got a lot of likes!
And finally, another beautiful student photo – Kings College Chapel from the River Cam
Remember to follow us on Instagram to keep up to date with all our best moments that are yet to come!
We’ve just had our Christmas Lunch Buffet where students bought in traditional foods that they would eat at Christmas. This was a great way to celebrate and taste different cultures and traditions from around the world; but what do the Brits traditionally eat at Christmas? Here are our top 10 traditional British Christmas foods:
Traditionally in Britain, herb stuffing is eaten with the turkey at Christmas. This is made up of large amounts of herbs such as rosemary or thyme. The stuffing is served inside the turkey or as a side dish.
4. Pigs in Blankets
Many Brits argue that Christmas dinner is not complete without pigs in blankets! These are small sausages that are wrapped in bacon. Vegetarian versions can be made too using meat free alternatives.
Parsnips are a root vegetable traditionally eaten at Christmas as the winter frost makes them taste slightly sweeter. For Christmas dinner, parsnips are usually baked with garnishes or flavourings such as honey mustard.
Why not try some of these Traditional British Christmas foods this year?
Are you looking for ways to practice your English outside of the classroom while you study English in Cambridge?
Here are some of our top picks for apps and websites that create fun and interactive learning platforms for you to improve your English.
We hope these apps and websites help you improve your language skills while you learn English in Cambridge with us! Don’t forget to regularly read our blog posts and social media pages as this can be a great way to practice your English skills.
If you are interested in booking an English course with us, please click here.
Halloween has been and gone, now the UK is getting ready for the next autumnal celebration: Guy Fawkes Night.
Guy Fawkes Night is also referred to as Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night. It is on the 5th November every year in the UK to remember the day the Gunpowder Plot failed. The Gunpowder Plot was a planned assassination of King James I during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on 5th November 1605.
The Plot failed due to authorities receiving an anonymous letter on 26 October 1605 which was sent to William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle. The letter revealed the plotted assassination of the King on the 5th November. As the authorities were made aware of the Plot, they ordered a search of the House of Lords on the 4th November 1605 and at midnight, they found Guy Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder - enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble. Guy Fawkes was arrested on the spot and the gunpowder explosives were ceased by authorities. Most of those involved in the Plot fled from London as they learned of the Plot's discovery. Several plotters made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester at Holbeche House. Many men were shot and killed.
Once Guy Fawkes was arrested and the news that the Plot had failed reached the public, people celebrated the survival of King James I by lighting bonfires. Over time, people started to celebrate with fireworks too as fireworks were traditionally made with gunpowder. Therefore, the same celebration has different names.
On the 27th January 1606, the eight known plotters who survived, including Guy Fawkes, were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Today, Guy Fawkes Night is still celebrated with fireworks, bonfires and sparklers. There is even a saying of “remember remember the 5th of November” so that we remember the day the Plot failed.
Spring has officially arrived, and Cambridge is looking wonderful – what you can see of it through driving rain and occasional snow showers! Still, at least our students have had their preconceptions about the English weather confirmed………
Spring has officially arrived, and Cambridge is looking wonderful – what you can see of it through driving rain and occasional snow showers! Still, at least our students have had their preconceptions about the English weather confirmed! Here's what it should look like............
What makes this seasonal confusion worse is that here in the office, spring has been and gone, and we are already in July, working on our Summer School. While the Summer School is based around the lessons taken by everyone, the afternoon activities are huge part of the experience for very many of our students, and they take a lot of planning. Office conversation is usually about exams, choosing course books or finding homestay places, but this week it’s been quite different:
‘Does anyone have a risk assessment for owls flying free in the building?’
‘We must find the walking rope for the Early Learners’ outings – and phone the punt company to check they have enough buoyancy aids ’
‘Do the Magicians need any special facilities for their show?
We’re dealing with everything from the mundane (booking coaches and lunches) to the weirdly exotic (where to house some meerkats while they wait to go ‘on stage’) – but it’s definitely a lot more fun than everyday life in a language school! Team members are already volunteering to ‘help’ with the more exciting activities, but we have to be quite strict: if it was allowed, everyone would watch the Magic Show, and there would be no one left to answer the phone or emails!
Although winter seems determined not to give way to spring, and summer’s still a long way off, planning all these lovely activities certainly has a therapeutic effect, and is making us all look forward to 25 June and opening the Summer School doors once again to old and new friends.