Tuesday, July 08, 2008

June 30, 2008: Cambridge

Our one full day in Cambridge started at the visitor information centre, trying to suss out how best to spend our limited time. Nothing much in the centre took our fancy, but while we were outside debating how to proceed, a kindly old gent wandered over and offered us a one-hour walking tour of the colleges. He moved at a pace that suited our levels of walking enthusiasm, so we agreed and headed off. He was an ex-student, who had studied medicine back in the 1950s and was deeply in thrall to the mystique of the ancient college town - he sounded slightly regretful that students were no longer fined for leaving their colleges without their full academic robes on.

We started out at Kings College, with the famous and ridiculously impressive chapel we'd admired from the outside yesterday. It was even better from the inside - a gorgeous feathered ceiling and some of the most impressive stained glass windows around.

We snuck through the square and out to Cambridge's 'Bridge of Sighs' - the bridge itself wasn't super interesting (except for the slice taken out of one of the decorative spheres by the original builder as revenge for not being paid in full), but the view down the river was pretty spectacular. As were the private college gardens across on the other side.

Next stop was Trinity - the strongest mathetmatical college, and most famous for having been Newton's college way back in the day. His room is the upper set of windows second from the left - it blows my mind that these ancient buildings are still functional - imagine being the poor maths undergrad who gets put in Newton's old room! Too much to live up to.

Our final stop was Trinity Hall - one of the smaller colleges and most famous (in our household at least) for being the place the 7 year old toff was intending to read law at in the 7-up series.

With that we'd reached the end of our tour - good value at 12 pounds, cheaper than the entry fees to each of the colleges would have been on their own. We scrabbled around town for a while trying to settle on a lunch option - unfortunately the most reputable dedicated vego restaurant in town closes on Sunday and Monday, the two days we were there. In the end, we stumbled onto Mouth Music - a little van on the street promising vego food to make our tastebuds sing.

I went for the lunch wrap: felafel with tahini and harissa wrapped up with some greens and carrot. It was outstanding.

Cindy went for more mushroom welligton, and was again impressed.

Powered up with food, I decided to take on the 123 steps of tower of Great St Mary's Church. The church is the university chapel, and has been around since the early 1500s. It really does provide some amazing views - particularly of the King's College Chapel.

After all those stairs I was in need of a drink, so I dragged Cindy over the river to the gorgeous Granta hotel, sitting right on the bank of the Cam.

The main influence on Cindy of the trip so far has been an increased enthusiasm for Pimm's and onion rings, and the Granta happily indulged her with both, while offering us some lovely views across the water.

We followed up with a quick wander through some of the public land around the river (most of the beautiful gardens and bridges are owned by the colleges and are either off-limits entirely or only accessible for moolah).
We ended the evening at another pub, the highly recommended Kingston hotel near the place we were staying. Unfortunately, despite the impressive looking menu, the pub was out of almost all their vegetarian meals, leaving us with just a tomato-y pasta and a cheesy salad to share. Disappointing.


  1. The tour sounds like a great time. That 7-up series is wonderful as well.

  2. mmm, pimms! unfortunately it's really not the weather for it in melbourne at the moment. when it gets warmer again i'll be all over it! college walking tours are great ways to see oxford as well, if you're planning on visiting there.

  3. gorgeous photos - especially the views from St Mary's - it is a different world isn't it! Enough to turn anyone to pimms!

  4. I love the photos. Who said England was all gloomy? :-)

    You and Cindy are really digging into the Pimms. I must get a bottle just to see what the fuss ia about.

    As for staying in Newton's room, that is a hard act to follow. You'd have to do everything Newton did, because it's hard to defy gravity (get it, defy gravity, ok crap joke).

  5. Hi, anonymous commenter! I've been a fan of 7-up for well over a decade, a few phrases from the children have become parroted sayings here. :-)

    Hi Nixwilliams! Having Pimms on an English summer day was a revelation of why it's so good - especially in combination with strawberries. Unfortunately we'll be missing Oxford, we had to choose between the two and Cambridge was more convenient to our onward journey.

    Johanna and Thanh, I must give all credit for the photos from St Mary's to Michael - sadly I was hit with vertigo in the steep, cramped stairwell and have also had to rely on his pictures to see the view. :-( However capturing the Pimms moments was all down to me. :-D