September 17, 2011
Today marks the 50th travel day of our trip. That happened fast! To celebrate, Ryan and I took an afternoon trip to Ely (pronounced “ee-lee”) to explore the town and see the cathedral.
I make it sound like we planned the whole thing, but in reality, Ely happened at random. We got in the car to go to the grocery store, looked at the rainy-turned-sunny skies, and decided to head the opposite direction instead. That’s the joy of travel (with a car)!
Ely is a character-rich city—the second smallest in the UK, in fact—with historic architecture and a beautiful 1080 A.D. cathedral.
The cathedral is quite an impressive one, with intricate gothic features and a tower offering nice views of the city (or so I’ve read; it helps that Norfolk is as flat as a pancake). You can purchase a tour of the building and/or tower inside the cathedral (£6.50/adult for a ground-level tour; £12–13 for ground level and tower tours).
It took us 20 minutes to get to Ely via car, and parking was a breeze—we found a spot in a busy short-term (and free) parking lot in 2 minutes. The cathedral was only a few blocks away, so after a light lunch at a random café (Café Carrington’s, half decent), we ventured through the local shops and along the city’s castle-like walls until we reached the cathedral grounds.
The grounds are open to the public, so we walked the paths for awhile, admiring the unique gothic architecture of the building and snapping a few photos.
Afterward, we found Oliver Cromwell’s house. Like everything else worth seeing, you have to pay for a tour of the place (£4.50/person). We figured the gift shop, located in the front portion of the house—could count just as well.
After that, it was back down Ely’s High Street, past more little shops holding this or that treasure. I found the post office there, too, and was excited—I’ve had checks in need of depositing for 4 weeks now!—but I was met with a locked door and a Closed sign instead. Bummer. Better luck next time.
A few hours in Ely seemed to be more than enough. From start to finish, we spent about 4 hours there (including a 1-hour grocery spree at Ely’s Waitrose), and I felt I’d had plenty of time to get a feel for the city and its short list of sights. We enjoyed that time without spending a dime, too. (We got lucky: parked 4 hours in a 2-hour Waitrose parking lot without a ticket to show for it!)