Monday 2 May 2016

Bridge On The River Cam

Mrs PM and I have a quest to visit some of the great cities and towns in the UK to complement our travels abroad. Two years ago, we visited Oxford and this year we decided that it was the turn of that other great university city; Cambridge.

When I was trying to decide which universities to apply to, both Oxford and Cambridge seemed beyond me because in order to get there, a student would have to acquire the top grade in each subject as well as sitting extra exams, called S-levels (or Scholarship levels) which would have meant extra hours of study.

Oxford and Cambridge only take the best. Sadly I was nowhere near that level and realised this before my school persuaded me to at least try.

Now I found myself in Cambridge, trying to see what I would have missed.

Unlike our journey to Oxford, we caught a train instead of driving so that our journey would be relaxing. Mrs PM used the time admirably – to research an itinerary taking in all of the sights to see. On the other hand, I simply read my book and enjoyed the English countryside accompanied by hard rock music.

Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside the city centre and as soon as we arrived just after lunchtime, we dumped our bags and set off. The walk was pleasant enough, the April sun warming us up enough to be able to stroll without our coats.

The first thing that struck me, like Oxford, was the number of bikes in the city. They were parked everywhere, and many people rode them. As soon as we reached the city, the bikes were ubiquitous, parked in long lines and outnumbering the buses, cars and taxis.

Bike City
Just like Oxford, the city is small compared to Manchester and very accessible by foot. The first day there was an attempt to get our bearings. Mrs PM had been there before with work and had not really looked around the place, so we took a time, wandering around until eventually we found a tourist information office. In these modern times, we had our smartphones to help us with navigation but sometimes, it’s good to have a bit of a plan. With that in mind, we bought a map highlighting a couple of decent walks that we could follow the next day.

As the afternoon crept on, we decided to walk back to the hotel, have a little rest and return in the evening to have a beer and a meal. By then, the weather had turned bad and it had started to pour with rain.

This is bloody typical of England, particularly in April. The weather simply doesn’t understand that it can ruin a day. Thankfully we had umbrellas (always be prepared in the UK with a brolly) and our rather unpleasant walk back to the city proved not to be too traumatic.

We found an Italian restaurant and enjoyed a lovely meal before braving the weather and walking back.

Next day, after a hearty breakfast, we walked back to the city and found the starting point of a walk that would take us around a lot of the colleges. Sadly, the weather refused to change it poured with rain. Mrs PM bravely juggled the map and her brolly.

Despite the weather, there were a lot of people milling around, particularly foreigners being led around in large groups under the guidance of an expert describing the city in their mother tongue. In fact, because we were carrying a map, we were approached a couple of times by potential guides.

Our walk took us in and around a lot of the colleges, including King’s College, Pembroke College and Trinity College as well as around the city to some of more historical buildings. We even had lunch in a famous pub called the Eagle, the place where Francis Crick and James Watson announced that they had discovered the secret of life, their proposal for the structure of DNA.

We strolled across the river Cam, after which the city is named, and watched people punting on the river. We were tempted but the weather was too patchy and the short sharp showers would have meant a good soaking on the river.

I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of the city. Cambridge is similar to Oxford but more compact and has more of a small town feel to it. It is very easy to walk around the place and the colleges are all worth a visit – although some of them were inaccessible to tourists because it was the exam period, which was a shame.

Here are some rainy photos of the city.

Pembroke College

Fancy some sweets (or candy if you are American)?

Ceiling of King's College Chapel

King's College

King's College Chapel 

Bridge on the River Cam

The Round Church (obviously).

Finally, here are a few fun facts about Cambridge.

(1) Lord Byron was told that he couldn’t keep his beloved dog, called Boatswain, in his room at Trinity College. Byron despised this rule so in order to fight back he decided to keep a bear in his room instead because the college did not have a legal basis to force him not to.

(2) The first official game of football was played in Cambridge. The rules, known as the Cambridge rules from 1848, became the basis for the official Football Association rules in 1863.

(3) Some of the most famous alumni from Cambridge include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Stephen Hawking.

(4) The University of Cambridge has over 100 libraries. The Central Library has around 8 million books and is able to request a free copy of every single book published in the UK and Ireland.

(5) Trinity College Cambridge has won more Nobel prizes than the whole of Italy.

I would fully recommend visiting Cambridge. It is a short hop from London (about an hour on the train) and you can easily pop there and back in a day if you are visiting the capital.

In fact, as part of this trip, we decided to pop to London for a short extension to our trip. I’ll let you know about that in a future post.


Grace said...

Wow - breathtaking...

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

Indeed it is. You should pop over for a visit.




Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
There is a lovely story about the River Cam in George Darwin's grand daughter's memoir.
The queen asked what the pieces of paper floating in it were (toilet paper) and was told by a quick witted person 'Notices saying bathing is forbidden'.

River said...

I always thought Cambridge was just one large university in a town of the same name. Now I find it is a collection of three colleges.
i love the Olde Sweet Shoppe and the line up of punts on the river.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

I like that story.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Actually it's more than three - I didn't list them all, just the ones we were allowed to enter.

There are in fact a massive 31 colleges!

And a university that is separate called Anglia Ruskin University (which has campuses in two other nearby towns too).

I think punting on a sunny day would have been ideal!




drb said...

The weather was kind to us when we were there. We punted, or rather Rob did in the Cam river, it was great fun, and a nice scenery. For some reasons, I thought it was called Kent river. I am still confused though regarding the colleges - are they residential colleges or faculties?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I think they are all residential colleges but to be honest I'm not sure. I know somebody who went there and though he was in one college, he did work in others.