Cambridge

18 Aug

Sunday

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We were warned not to drive into Cambridge and as the bus stop is close to the caravan site it didn’t seem like too much of a hardship to use public transport. We saw the bus pulling away just as we turned the corner. Typical. Just our luck, we thought. Then we realised we had to wait a whole 10 minutes for the next one! Now, this probably seems really annoying to anyone from southern England reading this, but to us country bumpkins from North Wales and lately of the Greek Islands, this was pretty amazing and worthy of a blog entry in itself! We were totally staggered, then, when on the way back there were two buses we could have caught waiting at the bus stop. We literally didn’t know which to get on to and stood there dithering until one of them pulled away making the decision for us!

Mention Cambridge and the first thing most people will think of is the university whose college buildings dominate the town and are what everyone comes to see. Having come to see these colleges you do, of course, have to see them from their best angle which is acknowledged to be from the river. As you can’t actually walk along the river bank it is necessary to take a punt and either pole it yourself or sit and let someone else do it for you along with a bit of a commentary. As anyone who has seen me getting in and out of a dinghy will understand, I preferred the idea of the larger, more solid looking “chauffeured” variety. And there was absolutely no way I was going to be balancing on the little platform, shoving the boat along the river bed with a 15 foot (5 meter) pole.

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Both options cost, of course, and we were warned that a bit of bargaining was the order of the day. We’re not very good at this so it was only our obvious indecision about whether to go on one at all that knocked the price down. To be honest, it was worth every penny. Apart from the fact that I was stuck in the middle of a row on a rather uncomfortable gap in the cushions, it was a delightful experience.

Then you really have to take a closer look at, at least, one of the colleges. We chose King’s College, one of the oldest and most popular with the tourists mainly because of its famous chapel. This is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (according to an overheard punt commentary) and widely know because of the “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” broadcast live by the BBC on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. For me this is an intrinsic part of the traditional Christmas (now largely abandoned by us, thank goodness) and I associate it with getting “The Dinner” ready.

Even out of term time you still don’t get to see around the inside the college buildings other than the chapel or access to the river bank and for your £7.50 per adult we expected a tour. You do get an information leaflet and there are guides at strategic points you can ask questions of inside the chapel. It is impressive with fabulous carvings and Tudor stained glass windows which have survived remarkably unscathed despite Cambridge being a puritanical Parliamentary stronghold during the civil war and Henry VIII beheading Anne Boleyn whose initials are carved into the huge oak organ screen. That’s a bit like being stuck with the tattooed name of your ex after the divorce! 

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