Day 10: York, Cambridge


Day 10 Photos (48)

This is where you get a break, dear reader, because on Day 10 I woke up unable to focus my eyes and nauseous, so we skipped the city of York. I was able to travel by noon which gave us just enough time to reach Cambridge before the rental car company closed. Hank had to drive my portion as well as his own—no way was he letting me behind the wheel—but I did keep my camera poised to capture signs of places we weren’t going to go. We passed Grantham (Downton Abbey’s lord was a Grantham) and Robin Hood Airport right near Nottingham and Sherwood Forest. Looking off to the distance, it MIGHT have been what we saw! Lunch was sub-par, at a service area we reached with some degree of urgency as I had been drinking fluids all morning and was near to bursting. Hank, my driving hero!

Just a block or two away from the car place, after driving for over 3 hours (the second day in a row), Hank sped up to avoid a cyclist and we saw the flash of a traffic camera behind us. Still haven’t gotten the ticket charge, so maybe they took pity on the “foreigners.” We got a taxi from the rental place to our night’s accommodation in Christ's College, the home base for Charles Darwin as an undergrad from 1828-1831. We looked in to the grand dining hall on our way past the porter’s lodge and saw the room packed with academic luminaries getting ready to sit for dinner—part of a conference that week. Some colleges supplement income by renting facilities and rooms when the students are on break. Our room was in what they call the second court, in a “new” building…circa 1830.

Out to stretch our legs, we went across the market place and strolled past King's College, a very grand spot in Cambridge which we visited at length the next morning. Then through narrow streets,  In a small side alleyway, we chanced upon St. Benet’s Church and went in just as Evening Prayer was beginning. The only attendees were the Franciscan vicar and the sexton and one other passerby. We couldn’t easily follow in the prayer book, so we mostly shared in the quiet reverence and healing energy present here. Following the service, we spoke with the vicar, Reverend Anne Matthews. Back in the 70’s she spent a year in Minnesota as an exchange student with American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers). Now she is an Anglican Franciscan carrying on the tradition of morning and evening prayers recited every day in this church for centuries. We were led around the small but memorable space and saw the bell pulls, the original Saxon foundation stones, the Norman arches and columns from 1020, and delicate stained glass windows. This is, in fact, the oldest church in the city and county.

Leaving St. Benet's, we passed an elaborate building called The Corn Exchange, currently a venue for the likes of singer/songwriter Richard Thompson.

By this time, we were both ready for a meal, so we headed to an avenue reputed to have a good selection of restaurants. Walked by Wagamama which we’d heard of but never visited, so we indulged and it was so worth it that we went back for lunch the next day. Wonderfully fresh and inventive combinations of Asian-inspired dishes. One of the few places we were asked to tip. We did.

Back at Christ’s College, we found the staircase to Darwin’s room (now occupied by another student), and wandered through the grounds as the day drew to a close. Two memorials to Darwin drew our interest; one a garden containing plants he encountered on the Beagle voyage just after his graduation here. He sits as a young man on the edge of a bench in this garden. A little stroll takes you to a portico with a bust of the elderly Darwin and informative graphics and text about his life. Another garden containing the mulberry tree that John Milton planted here was open at only select times, and we missed seeing it.

For those who are not into all things British, it bears noting that Cambridge University (like Oxford University) is a collection of colleges, each one founded by different benefactors over a span of many centuries. Christ’s College, for example, was founded by the richest woman in English Medieval history, Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII. A few blocks across city center is Trinity College, founded by Henry VIII, who also had a hand in finishing up King’s College, which took 90 years and four kings to complete. There are at least 12 major colleges that make up Cambridge University. It began with rebels from Oxford who set up shop in Cambridge in 1209. So Oxford has more tradition under its belt and Cambridge is considered the “upstart, progressive” university. 

We ended the day in our "college rooms" tasting the elderflower wine from Hadrian's Wall. Lovely. 

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