Day 11: Cambridge, London


Day 11 Photos (73)  

Breakfast was in the upper hall dining room.  Listened to all sorts of languages at long trestle tables, most surprised by the large contingent of folks speaking Finnish. We chatted with a couple who enlightened us. Turns out that a young friend of theirs was graduating as the first Finn to earn a doctorate from Cambridge and 60 of her fellow Finns had arrived for this auspicious event. Then we learned that our new Finnish friends were involved with the annual Sibelius Competitions in Helsinki. The man was actually the vice-chair and this year they were looking at several hundred contestants. We had a silly moment when we offered them a free download card and the wife thought she heard us say “Rap” not “Folk.” She shook her head and seemed offended and he tried to give it back. We persisted a little and when they realized we were simple folksingers, they relented and accepted the gift.   

On the other side was a Frenchwoman at the college for a seminar in Private International Law, in her case focusing on the legal rights and realities of children caught in custodial or other situations when the parents are in two different countries. A very different field from international corporate or business law. She practiced in all the EU countries.

We set out to explore the architecture of Cambridge and settled upon a closer look at King’s College. The normal chapel entrance was closed due to filming (a not-infrequent occurrence at popular sites around the country). This was for an episode of Grantchester, the BBC production.  But we were able to access it by a side door and marvel at the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world. This is the college that took the efforts of 4 kings and 90 years to complete so there’s a lot to see and understand. A veritable museum has been established along one side of the main aisle, in the area that would have originally been private worship chapels and memorial vaults. Excellent graphics and text to explain the historical significance and structural beauty of the place. We took in as much as we could including Anne Bolyn’s initials carved to accompany Henry VIII’s on a magnificent wooden “screen” that leads into the quire—her initials certainly date his contribution!

One bit of trivia we learned from a docent about a special area of the quire section. For centuries most congregants stood throughout hours-long church services, but the back row of the quire on each side of the aisle was equipped with an extra ledge about 3’ tall. On this ledge an aged and deserving (and no doubt rich) gentleman could perch his bottom for some relief to his legs and still appear to be standing.  You can see the slightly concave depressions made from years of wearing away the wood. 

Several hours were still ours before we had to hop a train back to London, so we kept on wandering, passing Cambridge University Press unobtrusively sited on a corner with a slew of bikes in racks out front. Buskers were performing every few blocks, mostly college-age kids. Down a side street from the University Press we came upon a spectacular Norman Round Church. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 1130, was built to emulate its counterpart in Jerusalem. Just a little more recent than St. Benet’s, it is one of only 4 round churches in England. The stone faces and their placement among the successive arches is stunning. I snapped photos of two of the explanatory posters before someone told me it was forbidden. Oops…

Back to Wagamama for another scrumptious meal and then I twisted Hank’s arm to go punting on the River Cam, a truly tourist-y thing to do. But the most fun happened while I was in the loo down by the punting docks. I heard a lot of squealing and heavily accented,  “Oh, no, there’s a queue! I can’t hold it!” I opened my stall door to find 10 or so 20-something lady pirates wielding fierce-looking swords and squirming about. I quipped, “You’re pirates! You shouldn’t HAVE to wait!” They hooted at that, one thing led to another and we ended up taking a selfie in the loo all together. Peak moment. Met them later as we were walking to the train station and the whoops and hugs started up again. Delightful pirates.

Punting afforded us a view of the River Cam and the back end (very grand) of several famous colleges, including King’s College, Trinity, and St. John’s (the latter two fierce rivals), as well as several impressive if small, bridges. The punting itself, especially on a Saturday, was pretty much like playing bumper cars, and sometimes a pole would get stuck in the mud, literally. Nothing to do but wait for a passing punt to effect a rescue. Our punter was a pro and kept us at a safe distance from amateurs, but it was lively.

Picking up our luggage from the porter’s lodge back at Christ’s College, we hoofed it quite a few more blocks than we had imagined to the train station, with plenty of time to board. We had picked up some gourmet pork pies at the farmer’s market and enjoyed these on the train—very swank accommodations with drop-down tables and cushy seats. Thoroughly relaxing way to travel. Had to transfer to the overground and walk from London Fields station back to home-base and our welcoming young family. Fun with them all before a bath and story time. 

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