Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cambridge, day two

Woke up in Cambridge to a spectacularly beautiful day, all blue sky and sunshine. I was so beguilded by it, I went out to the town without the puffy jacket. I would have occasion to regret that optomistic decision.
We walked from the lovely B and B (and a huge breakfast where Niccolo outdid himself on the eating) and into the town. Too quaint and picture perfect for words. Lots of young men in colour coded scarfs rushed to classes, with floppy fringes and serious looks. Lots of bikes with large wicker baskets attached. And us, the tourist brigade. We were at a bit of a loss early on - the colleges appeared to be closed and Niccolo and I were suffering from the cold (he also eshewed his jacket for the sunshine). And then we were approached by some young men who offered us a turn in a punt and a tour of the back of the colleges on the River Cam. They also promised us rugs. I couldn't pay fast enough.
Into the punt we went and Niccolo and I went under rugs quick smart. We had a young man punt us about and tell us about the college and the snotty rivalry and much besides. The best story involved Prince Charles who went to Trinity Collge and was assigned a body guard. As the guard was with PC for the whole degree, he learnt a bit and asked, at the end of the whole thing, if he too could take the exams. It was agreed he could and, while Charles received a 2.2, the body guard got a 2.1. The palace was annoyed; the body guard was sacked. Charles was sent to sit the exams again to raise his marks. History did not report on whether he was successful. Even Niccolo laughed at that.
It's good to see that England can mess up her history with the best of them. Against all these gorgeous colleges from centuries past, were two modern colleges from the 60s which were so ugly that it was hard to explain how a permit was ever granted. Not quite brutalism, but pretty damn close. I think they might have now been classifed (why?) so there is no removing them. Perhaps some ivy might do the trick.
I can see the appeal of a university town. It is a whole space dedicated to learning; the cafes were filled with nerds working on computers and writing down secret formulas on the back of napkins. Earnest - that is what they all were. Literally patched elbows. And not much of a hint of irony.
We left Cambridge for Canterbury and our last stop in England before making our way to France. We arrived late and grumpy. We had booked a place called the Woolpack Inn. We were, frankly, expecting not very much. But it turned out to be a bit of a find. An old pub (circa 1490) with old rooms out the back. We were across the courtyard from the pub in room 15 and it was warm and clean and we seriously considered not leaving. But leave we must, to inflict more churches on the children. This time, however, we were stymied. The cathedral was closed due to graduations (yes, I know, it didn't make much sense to me either). But the church forecourt and all around was fat with graduates and bright faces and photographers trailing like good cheer. We ate japanese (what were we thinking??). It wasn't good. It was called Wagamama and I think it is a franchise. The bowls of ramen were huge, never a good sign in my opinion of good food. In this case, it was completely correct.
Paris had to get back to the hotel. He was so tired he was having trouble actually finishing his food. I was quite worried.
We put the kids into bed (well, into the bed in front of the TV) and Myles and I went back to the pub to have one last experience of the English pub experience. Open fire, beer in pints and terrible music on the sound system are the hall marks of the English pub and this one did not disappoint. We found two comfy chairs beside the fire and we settled in with our beer and a long chat. Two hours of a long chat. The joy of this holiday is often about the time we have to talk and laugh. So wonderful.
Back to our rooms and a long sleep before the trek to France.
Farewell England. We loved you very much.

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