Studying on Saturdays

One of the challenging things about the past month has been finding my own routine. During the week, it's been pretty easy: get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and head out to the library for the day, taking breaks for meals, classes and lectures. But at the weekend, I like to do something different. My theory is that if you work hard enough during the week, you can afford to take the weekend a bit slower - just how it is meant to be, really.

So, how does that translate for me? 

I usually end up working for part of Saturday, and then head out in the evening to the college bar or to a play at the local theatre.  One good thing is that every weekend has been different so far; I had my mum to stay last weekend, and we watched the fireworks together; but I've also spent one Saturday evening in my pyjamas watching Miss Congeniality, mug of hot chocolate in hand.

One way to make Saturdays feel a bit different is to spend some time in town. I tend to go into town as soon as I wake up in order to avoid the tourists, taking my laptop with me so that I can work over a coffee. I head back to college at around midday, stopping via Sainsbury's or the local market to stock up on fruit and vegetables for the week.

Here's the list of where I've been to so far: 

Marks and Spencers' Café
M+S doesn't win any points for atmosphere, but their maple-pecan plaits are delicious, as are their almond croissants.  It's on the first floor, so is removed from the hustle and bustle of the streets down below, and you can watch the goings-on in Market Square from the window. If you go in the morning it will be relatively quiet, apart from a few elderly couples, so you're sure to get a seat. It's relatively big, too, which means you can stay there for a few hours without being asked to move on. 

Indigo Coffee Shop
This is perhaps one of the tiniest café's I've ever been to, and one of the cutest. It's definitely more of a place to visit with friends, though; I've heard talk of a "no-laptops" policy, and to be honest, there's not very much room at all inside. Food and drink is reasonably priced; they sell many varieties of pukka tea, and a "dirty chai" latte - chai latte with a shot of coffee, on my list of 'drinks to try'. You can have panini, toasties and soup here, as well as cake or little cubes of brownies. The lack of background music and the proximity of tables to each other means that conversation travels quite easily, though, it's not the best place to go to if you get distracted by others. 

I'll admit that I didn't try to study here; I went here for breakfast with Mum, and then for coffee and Chelsea bun with my college family. Fitzbillies is a Cambridge institution, and it lives up to that reputation, filling up immediately almost as soon as it opens - on Saturday mornings, anyway. Food and drink is priced to reflect this, though a Chelsea Bun to take away will only set you back two pounds or so. 

Stickybeaks Café
I have fond memories of visiting Stickybeaks when I went to Cambridge last December for my interview, and I decided to relive the experience a few Saturdays ago, taking my half-finished French essay and hungry stomach with me. My cappuccino was light and sweet (not in a sugary way, but in a non-bitter way); my almond swirl, though tasty, was a bit dry. It's not quite as small as Indigo, but isn't big either, so it could be a push to find a seat, particularly on Saturdays. I also made the mistake of sitting in the window and ended up getting distracted by all the people walking past. I've heard it's good for lunch, though, so I may pay another trip. 

I never, ever thought I'd be writing about Starbucks on this blog. In fact, I never thought I'd write anything complimentary about it at all. But I have to say, if you're looking for a quiet(-ish) place in which to work, with food and drink readily available, it's hard to beat. It was slightly busier than Marks and Spencers', but most of the customers primarily bought drinks to take away, so finding a quieter place to work was no problem. I didn't feel as if I needed to give my table up either. Their Earl Grey tea is light and refreshing, and their fruit toast filled a gap on a cold, rainy morning. 

Jamaica Blue
This café in the centre of the Lion Yard shopping centre is unusual in that you can't order at the till; you have to order from your table. This gives it a slightly more upmarket feel, but on the other hand it means that you can't see what you're ordering! I chose a blueberry scone, which came lavishly spread with lemon curd and cream - a real treat. I got a bit of a shock at the bill, though. I also had to wait for about ten minutes before anyone even came over to take my order, though that may be because I just chose the seat myself, rather than waiting to be taken to a table. It was busy on Saturday, and with the waiters/staff members about, I don't think you'd be able to stay here for too long. It would be a nice place to take a break from a shopping day, though.

So, what's the verdict? All of these places have their merits; and as much as I love the idea of supporting local businesses, the independent cafés are often small and very busy, so they're not the best place if you need to spend a few hours writing an essay. The cake and coffee quality may be better there, but if you're looking to prioritise your studies.... My advice is: save the independents like Indigo for a trip with friends, and don't be too disdainful of chains. Like me, you may find that they surprise you!