Hot St Ives, cool St Albans and so much food

Things are really speeding up on our trip now as we come to the last couple of weeks of being in the UK. In fact, we’re so busy, we’ve had to split this week’s Weekly Edition into two bits.

You’ll find part one on Cheshire and the Lake District here, but either side of our trip up north, we’re visiting St Ives in Cambridgeshire and St Albans in Hertfordshire, hosting family barbecues, eating curry and experiencing the hottest day in British history.

We hope you enjoy part II of our Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Today, we’re in the pretty town of St Ives, not far from Cambridge – and not to be confused with the St Ives in Cornwall. We’re meeting up with my sister for a bite to eat and a look round.

The town’s based around the Great Ouse River and this remarkable bridge. Flowing beneath the bridge, the river looks very welcoming – it’s incredibly hot today.

Up and down the Ouse (pronounced ‘ooze’), cruisers and canal boats go up and down. As we stand admiring the day-to-day of the river, thermometers around the UK are climbing. It’s a real scorcher.

In fact, it’s looking like it’ll be the hottest day on record. And where is that high temperature happening? Right here in St Ives and Cambridge.

We take shelter from the sun in the River Terrace Cafe next to the bridge of St Ives. It’s a shame it’s so hot today. It would be lovely to sit outside and watch the river here. Instead, we’re hiding indoors.

The food at the River Terrace Cafe is worth travelling for. My reuben sandwich is excellent and Christina’s beetroot and goat cheese salad with caramelised walnuts and extra halloumi is lovely too.

My mum has the same as Christina, but my sister orders a cheese and ham sandwich. It sounds simple, but when it comes, we realise just by the thick-sliced sourdough that it’s far from it.

In fact, Christina reckons it’s the best cheese sandwich she’s ever tasted. Praise indeed.

After lunch, we try a stroll around town, but it’s so incredibly hot. We try to stick close to the river hoping the water will keep us a little cool. It’s not working.

We do enjoy the views of the 15th Century bridge though. The building in the middle is in fact a little museum. Once a chapel, it’s one of only four in the country to have this design.

Further into the town, my sister takes us to her favourite cake shop here. Tom’s Cakes is a bit of a local institution and serves up some of the best-looking and tasting cakes we’ve seen.

My pecan pie at the front is absolutely delicious – perfect pastry, generous filling and that maple syrup flavour from the pecans.

Meanwhile, Christina tries to tackle the caramel beauty on the left. Crumbly base, a generous, silky caramel filling and a thick coin of tempered chocolate on top defeat her first attempt. She’ll finish it off on the car ride home though. And then fall deep into a sugar coma.

St Ives really is a pretty town and we wish we had more time to explore. It’s also way to hot to be anywhere by air conditioning today. As we drive home, the temperature in the sun reaches 41ºC.

We get back to our friends’ house and relax next to the fan. Later, clouds come over and the most intense electrical storm hits the whole of the country.

Here’s one photo of many that Christina takes of the lightning. I don’t remember seeing so much fork lightning in the UK when I was a kid. In fact I don’t think I saw any at all until I moved to Australia.

If that’s not a sign of climate change, I don’t know what is.

While the weather’s still warm (it’s looking like we’ll have cooler temps in the days to come) we fulfil our promise of a return visit to the Beehive Pub in Colchester.

We came here a little while ago and enjoyed it so much we’ve decided to do it again. We have to dodge inside when it rains a bit, but thankfully the late summer sun comes out in time for our desserts.

Great ale and food, a classic English beer garden and lovely company. Can’t ask for more.

After quite a bit of organising, we’ve managed to get everyone together for a bit of a family reunion. My aunt and uncle, cousins and kids from my dad’s side have come over for a barbecue.

It’s great to see everyone and there’s far more food than necessary.

My mum and dad, who moved into an enormous motorhome a few year ago, are hosting the day. Initially we thought they’d be downsizing from the family home. We were wrong!

Along with all the barbecue food, our mate Clare has knocked up one of her cheesecake masterpieces. It was Clare who came up with the genius plan of a Tim Tam cheesecake recipe last year.

This year, she’s somehow stepped things up yet another notch with double-dipped choc strawberries on top of this work of art.

It’s lovely to see everyone again. I hope it won’t be too long before we’re all together again.

It’s at this point that Christina and I take off up north to see our friends Nickie and Wez in Cheshire, then on to the Lake District to check out Lake Windermere.

You can read all about our adventures here.

On our way home from Cumbria back down to Essex, we pop in to see our mates Charlotte and Alex in St Albans. It’s a flying visit, but we still managed to get in a spot of dinner at The Meating Room, a very cool little gourmet burger joint in town.

The menu is simple yet satisfying, and the burgers are all really well-made. My St Peter’s comes with a choice of cheese and the option to add anything you like to it. Of course, I go for jalapeno chillis, but this burger doesn’t need anything adding to it.

Christina hits the halloumi (I knew she would), which comes with a thick slice of mushroom and some grilled marinated peppers. It’s a worthy veggie option – one of the three they offer here.

The Meating Room has a good range of soft drinks, including some very tempting milkshakes, and a no-corkage BYO if you want a drink drink.

This is a pretty small and very popular venue, so even mid-week it’s a good idea to call ahead and book.

Down the road, Craft and Cleaver has a healthy array of craft beers on tap, and we work our way through a few of them.

Service here is friendly and the atmosphere is perfect for a catch-up with Charlotte.

Craft and Cleaver has some lovely spaces and the decor is as fun and friendly as its staff.

The food they do here also looks like it’s worth a try. They have a proper barbecue smoker for low and slow cooking. Think ribs, pulled pork and – my favourite – beef brisket.

Back at Charlotte and Alex’s, there’s enough time to have a play with their gorgeous little girl ‘Miss S’ before we’re on the road again heading for Colchester.

To make sure we’ve made true use of our time in the UK, we’re out with Clare and Dave to a local curry house for an Indian meal.

The Bengal Diner in Ardleigh, Essex. We order well and soon have a table full of subcontinental delicacies. Best of all is the tarka daal – just ask Clare.

It’s been an epically excellent and excellently epic week full of fun, friends, family and of course food!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this extra Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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