If it hadn't been for the weather, we could've visited Oxford, too, but it didn't cooperate. You still might wonder why I would choose Cambridge over Oxford. After all, I love crime fiction... wouldn't Inspector Morse be the greater draw?
Actually a copper did make the deciding vote, but he was a television copper: Detective Sergeant James Hathaway of the British ITV program, Lewis. Hathaway was educated in Cambridge, so I gave my vote to him instead of Morse.
As anyone who's traveled in the UK can tell you, exploring its cities is not always a time for rejoicing. The streets tend to be very narrow. Cars are usually parked on one side or the other (or both), putting their side mirrors in mortal danger. Car parks (parking lots) can be few and far between. Oh... and the traffic can be horrendous. There were settlements in the Cambridge area as long as 3,500 years ago, and the University of Cambridge (one of the top five universities in the world) was founded in 1209. When places have been settled that many centuries before the combustion engine, they're really not going to be perfect for vehicular travel.
|Map showing our route around Cambridge|
|Denis's perch on the top of the bus. It was COLD!|
|Think how beautiful this park will be in spring and summer!|
The Cambridge streets are not on any sort of grid system. (We folks in the US are very spoiled in most cases.) And those narrow, twisting streets are jam-packed with traffic. The bus driver was incredibly skilled in getting through this traffic. At one point he aimed his unwieldy steed through a gap that left no more than four inches to spare on either side of the bus. Wow! (Not only was he skilled, he was a very nice man, too.)
Now, I'm going to be quiet for a while and let you see some of the sights uninterrupted.
|Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs|
|Cambridge War Memorial|
|The Round Church, built in 1130 AD|
|Gate detail, Christ's College, Cambridge|
|Punts on the River Cam|
|One of many old houses that caught our eye|
The travelogue through my headphones was informative. Cambridge has a population of about 111, 000. There are approximately 14,000 students-- and 35,000 bicycles. But it was time to get off the bus and walk the streets of the city center. I was hunting for the Waterstone's bookshop in Cambridge!
|Walking in Cambridge|
It wasn 't until Denis and I got off the bus and started walking that I began to feel like an old fart, swimming against a heaving tide of bright young things chattering, laughing, texting. The closer we got to all the shops, the busier the streets became-- until I had to stop gawping at the old buildings surrounding me and start paying attention to where I was going so I wouldn't be mown down.
|Hardy's Sweetshop across from the Round Church|
The multi-level Waterstone's was a slice of heaven. We ate lunch in their café, and once we were warmed and rejuvenated, we began to look around. I found two books I couldn't live without, as well as three bookmarks, and a notepad to give as a gift. Then I wandered the Architecture and Crafts section, and I saw book after book after glorious book that I would love to have yet didn't have the space for in my luggage. Denis took out his phone and took photos of the ones that made me drool the most so I would have titles and authors to order them once we returned to Phoenix.
Once we'd had our fill of shopping and wandering, we hopped back on the bus for the ride back to the Park and Ride. I looked at the mistletoe hanging off the trees as we passed Churchill College. I'd gotten chills at Jesus College where one of my favorite poets studied (the aforementioned Coleridge), but when we passed Churchill College and I listened to the travelogue telling me that I was where the atom was split for the first time, that I was where DNA was discovered... I got a lump in my throat. Being in the presence of greatness does that to me. I only hoped that most of those 14,000 students realize how truly fortunate they are-- and that they will strive for future greatness.
|King's College, Cambridge|
We'd been scoured clean by the ferociously cold wind, elbowed aside a time or two by the bright young things, and awed by the ancient buildings and the feeling of the power of knowledge all around us. It was a brilliant day made possible by a red doubledecker bus.
Where will my travel tales take you to next? You'll have to wait and see!