With the rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge being what it is, I couldn’t very well not take a day trip to Cambridge…in the interest of science, of course.
I’ll start off by saying I was roughly 75% less impressed with Cambridge than I was with Oxford. I think this disappointment stems from the fact that Oxford is proud of their courses in English language and literature, geography, and modern languages. Cambridge prides themselves on their mathematics and sciences. As a liberal arts major with a minor in English and working on a Master’s in Film, one certainly seems to appeal more so than the other (and I desperately feel that the tours reflected that as well.)
Additionally, it has come to my attention that my tour guide at Oxford was infinitely superior to just about any and all other tour guides. I’ve reached this conclusion by taking someone else’s tour. Womp wah.
Consequently, I wasn’t all that impressed with the city of Cambridge. I did, however, do as all good tourists should. That is to say, I took the tour; I shot the photos; I ate the food; I went home.
The dawn of my first solo outing arrived, and I layered in warm clothes in anticipation for the upcoming journey. I wound up at the train station in Cambridge, roughly a 25 minute walk from the center of the city. I got my bearings and started walking towards where the tour began.
On my way, I walked past Our Lady and the English Martyrs, a stunning Catholic church surrounded by several modern buildings. It truly stuck out like a sore thumb. I crossed the street to discover that the church was hosting an Etsy fair. I was determined to come back when I wasn’t on a time crunch.
From there we walked down the street to Corpus Christi College whereupon we viewed a clock that doesn’t tell the correct time by an artist who did such on purpose. The design and incorrectness of the clock is supposed to represent the fluidity of time.
From there we walked in a big circle. We walked past the College where James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA (and the bar where they went to celebrate that fact.) We ended up at St. Catherine’s College which had a beautiful facade and a courtyard whereupon one of the members of the tour got snipped at for standing on the grass.
From here, we doubled back around behind the building and were taken to Queens’ College. Note the apostrophe. It’s one of the most famous and controversial apostrophes in the English language, apparently. Queens’ College is named thusly because it was actually funded by more than one queen; first in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI (the founder of King’s College), and secondly in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV.
Story says that at one point, a student applied and was rejected from Queens’ College. When he demanded to know why he had been turned away, they went back through his admissions essay and the only reason that they could give him is because he had spelled it as Queen’s rather than the proper way. (Oops! Always double and triple check your grammar/spelling/punctuation, folks!)
From there, we crossed the River Cam (get it? There was once a bridge…over Cam….this is why the city is called Cambridge…) and walked along its bank. Lots of pretty trees and fields. The tail end of Fall seemed to set the tone of the day. The chill was quite brisk.
We walked to one of the few public bridges, Garret Hostel Lane Bridge, and crossed back over the river, where we found this lovely modern-looking library. At least, I think it was a library? I just liked the building. Here, have a picture!
We had one last stop on our tour, Trinity College, apparently the wealthiest of the lot.
When it was initially sculpted, King Henry VIII was holding a sword. Not so anymore. There are many stories as to what happened to the sword. There are many stories as to why he’s now holding a chair leg. The one that the tour guide shared with us is that at some point in the 1980’s, a window cleaner looked down and noticed that there was nothing in the King’s hands. As a prank, he decided to find something that would fit in the fist and low-and-behold, what should he find but a broken chair.
“I went up the staircase and found an old broken chair which the bedders had put out on the landing. So, I took a leg off and leaned out the window with my friend holding onto me and plonked it in the hand.”
Apparently, Peter Binge of the Chesterton Window Cleaning Company finds it “quite funny” that the leg hasn’t been removed.
From there, our tour was ended, so I wandered the city center a bit more. I stumbled upon an artisan fair wherein I purchased a gift or two. I wandered into a gloriously warm bookstore to fulfill the sole purpose of regaining feeling in my extremities.
In my wanderings I felt that Cambridge couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a small town or a touristy-modern town.
At this point, I felt I was wasting time till I headed back to the train station, so I wandered a bit of a ways outside the center of the city to find sustenance. I happened upon, (oh, you’ll LOVE this,) Clowns Cafe. It showcased a £10 Set Menu in the window, so I wandered in. Now, this place doesn’t have a website (and I didn’t take any pictures – you’re welcome) but imagine an Italian restaurant covered in drawings and paintings of all manners of clown…right down to the apron that the waitress was wearing.
Luckily, the food was cheap…because the concept was just a tad strange. I wound up getting salad, ravioli, chocolate-orange cake, and hot chocolate (okay, it was cold, leave me alone…) for just £10. It was glorious. You can’t even get ravioli on its own in London for that price (trust me. I’ve looked.)
From there, I wandered back towards the Etsy fair to take a look around. It was a smidge lacking. Very cramped. Not much to look at. I had roughly two hours before my train, but I was cold. And arguably miserable. The sun had started to go down. I was uninspired.
I made my way back to the train station and caught an early train back to London.
And that was my glorious, solo day-trip to Cambridge.
If you’re considering visiting one, stick to Oxford. Take the free walking tour run by Footprints Tours. Ask for Luke (cause he’s awesome.)