England – Part 8: A Bridge Over the River Cam

After a long drive yesterday, Maurice, Joan, and I arrived in the beautiful city of Cambridge! Marcus (Maurice and Joan’s son) and Elaine live there.

This morning was supposed to be spent on a bus tour with Maurice and Joan, but we soon realized that it was running late all day, so we decided to do our own walking tour of the university. We started by crossing a bridge over the river Cam (hence: Cambridge) and made our way to the round church.

We then worked our way around the colleges (including Jesus, St. John’s, King’s, Queens’, Trinity, and many others). Many of the colleges had their own chapels (which looked more like cathedrals, and choirs could be heard from some as we walked by) and all of the colleges have tons of residence rooms for their students. The campus is so old and beautiful, most of the buildings are probably older than anything in Canada.

Here are few things I’ve noticed about Cambridge: there are bikes EVERYWHERE (mainly because there’s hardly any room for cars), the river goes all over (and people live in houseboats on it), they are very literal with their names here (CamBridge, Round Church, etc.), and everything is within walking distance. That last point is one of my favourite things about this city. A lot of the Cambridge University campus is car-free, so you can easily bike all over, but you can also walk around the cobblestone roads and go to the outdoor market, or a nearby café, or sit near the picturesque river.

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There are also lots of punts on the river. These are boats similar to the gondolas of Venice, except they are made of wood and are not painted black. These are quite the tourist attraction on campus and are a cool way to see the University. I’ve been told the Punt Chauffeurs will tell … embellished … stories about campus.

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We also passed some cool landmarks, such as the corpus clock (the grasshopper was quite ugly though), Michaelhouse (a church that is also a café), and the mathematical bridge (designed by Sir Isaac Newton himself).

We went back to Marcus and Elaine’s for lunch, and warmed up from the cold January day (which was similar to a nice Canadian November day). After that, Marcus and Elaine took me back to campus to show me around their college, St. John’s (which you can only get in [for free] if you are or are with an alumni). This part of the campus was much quieter and also very beautiful. It was much easier for me to take in.

They showed me around the many courtyards, then across a bridge towards more residence halls. In the river, there was a man punting in a suit with a woman (who looked very cold) in the punt wearing a wedding dress. It probably sounded like a romantic idea, but they didn’t really account for the fact that it would be January. But it was still cute.

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After that, we wandered through the ivy-covered halls and grand courtyards (all with beautiful architecture) and across the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is named after the one in Venice, which is also a covered bridge, but the one in Cambridge is different because it doesn’t lead to a prison, it leads to a school (well maybe it feels like a prison around exam time, but that’s besides the point).

We finished the tour of St. John’s by going into the chapel. Inside it looked like most of the seating is for the choirs. The architecture was, again, huge and gorgeous! There was an archdeacon laid to rest who died in 1522! There were also many tributes to St. John’s alumnus, including William Wilberforce (the British abolitionist)!

We continued our wanderings by going to Michaelhouse for cream tea. If you’ve ever been to Hutchison House for tea, it was similar to that. You get a pot of tea, scones, jam, and clotted cream (which has the thickness of butter, but the taste of whipped cream). It was delicious!

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In the evening, back at Marcus and Elaine’s, we celebrated Robert Burns Day a day early by eating haggis and mashed potatoes for dinner. The haggis was good, just don’t look at the ingredients! We had Cranachan for dessert which was delicious! Maybe I’ll start celebrating Burns Day when I get back to Canada!

I have another day in Cambridge tomorrow, but I head off to Copenhagen the day after! I can’t believe my January Europe touring is already almost over, but I’m excited to start the new term!

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