London Days 3: A Day in Cambridge

(Kings College, Cambridge)

Getting There

One of our old friends from Taipei, Ken, now lives in Cambridge. Although he offered to come down to London for the day to see us, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to get out of London for the day and explore a new town. We got on the tube at Willesden Green, transferred at Finchly Road, hopped off at Kings Cross station and jumped onto a train. One hour later we were in Cambridge, and Ken was there to meet us.

(Paul and Ken in Cambridge)

(Queenie and Paul in Cambridge)

Once we found Ken we jumped onto a bus and went into the center of the town. The first sight that greeted us when we jumped off the bus was a trickster playing with a soccer ball and asking for money. He could do a great many tricks with a soccer ball and Ken suggested that he joins the premiere league. No doubt he would make a faster buck there!

(Football Busker)

The Old Town and Market

We then walked through the old streets and found some interesting markets selling all kinds of wares. One of the stalls sold a wide variety of sweets and candy. Another sold dried fruits from all over the world. We also met a vendor from Fujian in China who gave Queenie a Chinese newspaper. He was really excited to be able to find someone to speak mandarin to. We did not linger in the market for long as we wanted to explore some of the older buildings and perhaps catch a bite to eat for lunch. Of course, in one part of the town, outside one of the old Churches, were two violinists, busking!

(Hot Dog Stand)


Ancient Buildings

We also went for a walk through some of the schools that allowed visitors to pass through, although some of the areas were closed off in certain areas. The architecture of these ancient University Buildings was astounding and certainly reflects the origins of this university, which does date back quite a few centuries and boasts a large number of Nobel Prize winners. Of course, for us visitors the prestige of the University is not as important as the antiquity of the buildings and the beauty of the town.

(Ken, Paul, Queenie and Mom)

We first walked through King’s college. Perhaps at this point a student of architectural history could tell you many interesting facts about the building. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) we are not and therefore cannot tell you anything significant about the buildings. We can tell you that the so many old and beautifully designed structures take your breath away. There is no describing the feeling of looking at these old buildings. And to think these were designed and built without any modern technology blows the mind.

(Kings College Entrance)

We continued to meander our way through the over touristed streets of Cambridge and, after a bit, built up a large appetite, which was well and good. Ken invited us to lunch in the first pub he ever went to in Cambridge, The Eagle.

(The View in Cambridge)

The Eagle

The Eagle must be Cambridge’s most famous pub. Many a famous academic, including Crick and Watson (the DNA guys) drank a pint or two in the Eagle. In fact one of them sold the final part of the DNA riddle in the pub over a pint (or so it is rumored). Therefore this pub has become quite the hangout for tourists.

(Plaque outside the Eagle)

We trundled in at around 2:00pm and all the tables were full. We were lucky to eventually find a free table inside or else we would have had to sit outside in the cold. Queenie and Mom ordered sausages and Mash and Paul and Ken had the steak ale pie. Both meals were amazing. We caught with Ken and his news and he was anxious to find out about Taipei. He has lived there on and off for more than 10 years and has real affection for the city. We were happy to tell him that Taipei was still around and that all his mates (as far as we could tell) were doing well.

(Mom in the Eagle)

Punting on The Cam

After the big lunch we headed off to the river Cam and the punters boats to be punted along the river. By this time the temperature had dropped significantly. We bought our £10 per person ticket and were herded into a 12-seat boat. The punter assured us that we would not fall into the water and that we were perfectly safe. We were not so sure.

(Paul and Queenie in the Boat)

(Ken and Mom in the Boat)

The punt up the river included a punter that gave an introduction to some of the buildings, the history of some of the colleges and some of the stories and facts and figures of the University. Some of the stories are below:

  • One of the colleges stopped admitting girls in 1988. In protest students wore white armbands to their lectures. To this day, whenever there is a formal dinner, the students will were white armbands to remember the protest of a previous generation.

  • Prince Charles attended Trinity College. His bodyguard attended too. Upon graduating, his bodyguard had done better than Prince Charles.

  • One of the scenes for Harry Potter was filmed at one of the colleges (cannot remember the name).

  • During the World War II there was a tax on glass to discourage the use of windows. This is where the term “daylight robbery” allegedly originated.

  • During World War II a tax was also levied on any newly completed construction. During this time a certain individual erected a bridge over the river Cam for the public. To prevent himself from paying tax he cut out ¼ of one of the spheres of that decorated the bridge handrail to ensure that the bridge was incomplete and to thereby avoid paying the tax.

  • The mathematical bridge was named as such because Isaac Newton designed and built the bridge using geometric principles and not a single bolt or screw. Later engineers tried to understand the design by taking the bridge apart. When the bridge was reconstructed, nails and bolts were needed.
The ride on the boat (punt) was actually very relaxing (and interesting). Just sitting in the boat was very soothing. The punter did all the work. Our punter was fairly young, we guess he is a student and he will be heading off to the US next week for a vacation. We wish him well.

Along the river we actually crashed into a few other boats. Many of those punting had little or no experience and this led to us having quite a few crashes with other boats piling into ours. Some of the punters in the other boats nearly fell into the river. They were really struggling. Although neither of us tried it, we could imagine how difficult punting actually is.

(Some Views from the Boat)

After 30 minutes on the river we were freezing cold and it was time to get off the boat. We immediately headed off to find a coffee shop to drink something warm and eat something to make us feel better. We used this last opportunity to catch up with Ken and the stories of his life in Cambridge.

Ken told us that he will come to Taipei in the near future so we look forward to seeing him then.

Anyway, once again thanks for reading.

We will see you next time
Queenie and Paul

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