I took the slow drive from Nottingham to Cambridge during rush hour, already forgetting that most people work for a living. It’ll come as quite a shock when I eventually reenter the rate race, I’m sure.
It was dark when I arrived at my AirBnB and I drove back and forth up and down the road until I found it. Having not seen the outside before, it was a nice surprise to see it was a lovely big house on the outskirts of Cambridge city centre with the all important off-road parking, which I made a pre requisite when booking all accommodation. When I finally found it and parked up, I was a little taken aback to be greeted at the front door by a very tired lady in a big Pikachu onesie. It seems I had woken her up at 6.30pm on a Friday night.
It turns out they had just got back from Cambodia that morning and were severely jet lagged. Assuming I would be happy just to go to bed as well, they bid me goodnight and seemed a little surprised that I had a few hours of being awake left in me and would need to cook dinner and then want to relax in front of the TV. Once I got the keys and a brief tour, I was left to my own devices. Needless to say I made as little noise as possible, so not to disturb them.
The following morning, I woke to a much brighter, happier couple who were full of joy and excited to discuss their Cambodian adventure. Having been there three times myself, we had a lot to chat about. However, it was when they started offering me deep-fried crickets, which they had bought back with them, that I decided this was becoming a very interactive conversation and decided to make my exit to explore the streets of this infamous University City.
Cambridge is famous for its scholars, students and bicycles. Trying to cross the road in Cambridge can often be as concerning as the streets of Vietnam with all the mopeds speeding around you. I applied the same tactic of crossing the road by looking at where I wanted to end up and let the cyclists just make their way around me. It’s evident they don’t like to slow down for anyone. Clearly everyone is running late for lectures.
For any historian or even just a lover of scholastic culture, Cambridge is a great city to wander around and imagine all the famous and successful graduates who walked these streets tens, even hundreds of years previously, such as Edward VII, George VI, Prince Charles and Oliver Cromwell, to name but a few.
Synonymous with the fame of the University is the River Cam and all the punts which traverse the river on a daily basis. Having had a go at punting myself when I was last in Cambridge as an 18-year-old, I thought better of trying it again, especially as it was just me, and decided that if I was to take to the river, I would have one of the many, many punt guides to steer the thing, rather than risk falling in, which I have seen happen a few times in the past!
One of the most visited sites at the Universities many colleges is King’s College Chapel and I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. It really is a grand building and along with the rest of King’s, was founded in 1441 by King Henry VI but not completed until 1544, by Henry VIII. The college is deemed as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture.
King’s is also famous for its male choir and I was fortunate enough to see them sing live in the Chapel and they were pretty phenomenal. The acoustics of the building really enhances the voices of these men, who had been selected for the choir at the age of 8 and had scholarships provided for their entire schooling, so long as they continued with the choir, throughout their academic life.
I spent the entire day just walking around Cambridge and it is so compact, that I was able to see everything in good time and by foot. I strolled around the Fitzwilliam Museum, took a walk along the river and spent a lot of time stationary, gazing up at the many spires and rooftops which frame the skies of this magnificent place. With time slipping away from me, I didn’t get the chance to be punted up the river and decided not to exhaust the city, or myself, any further.
I walked back to the AirBnB and had a bit of a role reversal. I had spent over 12 hours on my feet and by the time I got back at 8pm, I was ready for bed so made my excuses to my very awake and very chipper hosts and made my way to bed.
Sunday morning came around and feeling that I had explored all of Cambridge’s sights and experiences, decided to make a side trip to Ely, as I saw when doing my research that it was well worth a visit, if in the Cambridge area. I thought I’d pop there for an hour, enjoy the cathedral and then head on but I ended up spending half a day here, wishing I had even more time to roam around.
Ely Cathedral is as imposing as it is amazing and the whole town is so attractive, that I can see why it came so highly recommended. Not only is it known for the Anglian Cathedral, which has roots dating back to AD672 when St Etheldreda built an Abbey Church on the site, but it is also where Oliver Cromwell spent a great deal of his life, before he became an MP and was then appointed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, following the Civil War and subsequent beheading of King Charles I, to which he signed the death warrant.
His house is now a museum and I took a look around at his modest surroundings, getting a feel for affluent life in the 1600s. Turns out that eel pie was quite the sort after dish of the time, which they caught fresh from the River Cam. I’m glad that delicacy no longer appears on todays menu. That and the Cambodian crickets I was offered as well!
Oliver Cromwell’s house
After a really enjoyable time in Ely, I set off to Letchworth to catch up with a couple of friends I met while in the Philippines last year. We went for a few drinks on Sunday afternoon for a good chat and a catch up, before I headed back to Suruti’s house and we literally vegged out for the next 36 hours. We had a horror movie fest, ate fish and chips and walked the dog. It was bliss! I have nothing more to add to that part of the trip as it wasn’t photo worthy and it wasn’t exciting but it was a brilliant opportunity to recharge my batteries and cement a burgeoning friendship, which started 8 months previously, during a 5 day sustainable boat trip around the sun drenched Filipino islands of Palawan – one of the worst holidays of my life. Fact.
I left Letchworth and realised I only had 3 days left of this epic road trip and would have soon travelled full circle and then back home. What would be in store for me before arriving back at my parents house? We shall find out in the next blog.