Over the next few days, we planned to leave Cambridge and explore some of southern England as a family. We agreed the previous night that the best way to get around was to hire a car until Christmas Eve. After a little bit of online research, we discovered that the best place to go to hire a car was on Newmarket Road, to the north-west of the city. There, there were are number of car hire companies. However, it was a little bit of a walk away. Instead of the less interesting direct route, we took a more scenic route through the centre of town and along the river. There were a couple of interesting things to see out here, in particular the canal boats moored on the riverside and the many boathouses for all of the college rowing teams.
We visited a few car hire venues before we found one with a car available there and then for a decent price, a blue Ford Fiesta. Dad drove us back to the college, quickly picking up the English road rules. We packed away enough belongings to last us a few days, leaving some of the less useful things behind, and set off.
Our first destination, after stopping for fuel, was Bletchley Park, about an hours drive from Cambridge. Bletchley Park is a military base-turned-museum now famous as being the location where the Enigma code was broken during the Second World War. Inside, there were numerous exhibits and displays on the life and work of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, how the Engima machines set code, how the code was flawed, and a replica bomba, the machine used to decipher the code. It was all immensely fascinating, especially to anyone with an interest in history, computers or war.
Beyond the exhibits, there broader Bletchley Park area was exhibited like it was in the war days. We joined onto a guided tour, by a kindly retired chemical engineer who picked me as a Cambridge student by my college scarf. He told us some interesting, if potentially exaggerated, stories about life at Bletchley Park, giving us an insight into the sheer secrecy behind it. His tour went a little slow for Dad, who started to wander a bit, but I was fascinated.
After we finished and had a last-minute coffee before closing time, we headed on to our next destination: Oxford. It was another hours drive, and by the time we arrived, the sun had long set. We had booked into accommodation through AirBnB, the first such time any of us had used the service. After some difficulty finding a park in the tight Oxford streets, we were welcomed into a private house, which was being used as the accommodation. We were hosted by a guy called Jamie, who showed us to our bedroom on the top floor and recommended a Syrian restaurant nearby for dinner. That night, I slept on an airbed in the corner of the room, which wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as it looked.