To celebrate our Cambridge store opening we invited textile designer & photographer, Caren Barry, to take us through a day in her hometown. Wandering further from the typical tourist routes she has given us a guide to the best places to visit...
Our day began with brunch at Novi. Beautiful interiors, delicious locally roasted coffee and locally sourced food - plus botanical cocktails, this coffee house is a place I love to indulge in. Having visited previously for calligraphy and photography workshops, Novi is one of my favourite spots to head to whenever I’m in Cambridge.
After brunch, we wandered further into the city, admiring all the lovely façades of flower-filled windows and botanical adorned doorsteps. We ended up on the beautiful Magdalene Street, filled with more boutiques and independent shops - from the floral display (and my most favoured flower shop) - The Flower House, a quintessentially Cambridge bicycle shop (Bridge Cycles to a new discovery for us), a lovely little record shop - Lost in Vinyl. We paused for a short while on Magdalene Bridge watching all the boats travel along the river and sharing a smile with other tourists revelling in their attempts to punt.
We walked along Bridge Street, St John’s Street and soon found ourselves on Trinity Street. The main street is lined both sides with an array of restaurants, retail shops, boutiques, university buildings and home to the fabulous All Saints Garden Art & Craft Market every Saturday. It’s a lively street and the perfect setting for the new TOAST pop-up store.
I’d visited the pop-up store a few days earlier, and what a treat it was for me after years of coveting their collections of clothing and homewares online. I could have spent forever perusing the rails, with some of my favourites from the TOAST A/W16 collection being the elegant Paisley print shirt dress in the most delicate drapey fabric and such a flattering style on my curvier figure, a cosy and classic fisherman rib sweater (always my preferred choice for layering over dresses during cooler evenings), and last but by no means least a handmade leather saddle bag, the ideal size for carrying essentials on a day out.
The selection of homewares also caught my attention with a little wishlist of their handcrafted ceramics, woollen blankets and the soft, muted colours of the washed linen/cotton bedlinen now happily in my possession - all perfect additions for an Autumn update in our home.
After passing the TOAST store we walked (carefully) up the 123 steps of the medieval turret staircase in Great St. Mary’s Church and rediscovered the beauty of the city from a new perspective, at the top of the tower. The incredible rooftop views of the city were spectacularly displayed as the sun came out and the bells rang to signify the hour.
We then spent time browsing the open market for hats, baskets, artisan breads and flowers. We treated ourselves to a delicious tomato and mozzarella focaccia for our picnic near the river banks later in the day.
Whenever I’m in the city I love to visit Cambridge Contemporary Crafts on Bene’t Street, a delightful little gallery shop filled to the brim with some of my favourite handmade crafts from the UK. Another favourite of mine is The Botanic Gardens - an oasis in the city and haven for nature and wildlife, but also a place for capturing inspiration.
Making a quick stop by Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street - another delicious place to indulge your appetite - we left with some of their artisan coffee and famous Chelsea buns to take away for our picnic. Walking an alternative route to our picnic destination, we traced our way back to King’s Parade and through the side streets of Trinity Lane and Garret Hostel Lane into Fellows’ Garden.
Looking back across the glorious greenery of Coe Fen with its meadow plants and grazing cattle we settled under a lovely tree with a cosy blanket to relax. Sharing our food from the market and planning more day trips for the near future, we felt thoroughly content with the simple pleasures of the day.
Cambridge is a city I have called home for almost 26 years, growing up with memories of picnics with my family in one of the many beautiful parks, accompanied with the usual museum and shopping jaunts. It’s from those visits that a love for simple joys has grown and with that, an unwavering appreciation for the hidden gems this special city undoubtedly holds. A seeker of the everyday beauty, I loved finding such delight in being a tourist in my own city again.
Words & Photography by Caren Barry. You can follow Caren on Instagram @carenbarry.
Caren wears Paisley Print Shirt Dress and Lizzy Saddle Bag in cognac, now available on TOAST.