This time last week, we were getting ready to travel home after a wonderful couple of days with our good friends Dom & Jo, who moved to Cambridge in August after accepting a place for Dom at the university. We had been meaning to go see them for a couple months, but some crossed wires meant that we were stuck at a stalemate for a while – we were saving up for a hotel room whilst they were simply waiting for us to just go crash with them at their place! Which – incidentally – is lovely. Definitely the best student housing I’ve ever seen – a very sweet, well-proportioned two bedroomed chalet type house. The block they have chosen caters mostly to young families and the houses are arranged on three sides around a playground filled with toys for the children. Perfect! I wish I’d taken a few pictures, but it just didn’t cross my mind at the time.
I loved being there! Cambridge is a city you can’t really get around very well any way other than on bike, boat or your own two feet, and although my pesky PGP meant that I couldn’t wander too far for too long, we spent the afternoon on Thursday walking around various colleges and the town. I was in awe staring at all the beautiful architecture, and the feel of the place was fantastic! I’m not sure if it was Christmas spirit, just how life is there or a combination of the two but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, was very polite, and there was a very friendly and open feel to the place.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that (more or less) everyone is there to try and better themselves – to learn, to grow or to help others do the same. Those visiting know about the city’s heritage and are there to see and learn more of it. The city is well-loved and respected and the people there are proud of it and want to keep it that way.
That’s my two cents, anyway.
I could have cared less that I looked like a gormless tourist, staring wide-eyed at the beautiful, warm sandstone buildings and taking in the intricate details of the architecture and ironwork…
Half of me felt all serious and studious, walking around these colleges filled with history – wondering who had been there before and what they had accomplished. What were their stories? How did they spend their time? What did they become? Did they fulfill their dreams, and did studying here help push them that little bit closer?
And the other half of me (the somewhat more geeky side!) felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie. Ha!
I absolutely love that everyone uses bikes – there are rows and rows of cute, (mostly) vintage looking bicycles with little wicker baskets all over Cambridge. This particular one with the sunflowers made me stop and smile for a second – what a lovely way to add a little extra sunshine to your day! How could you ride a bike like that and not be happy?!
All of the above pictures are from Clare College – the second oldest college in Cambridge, founded in 1326. Its buildings and grounds run along the River Cam, and as I found out after doing a little digging back home, was originally called “University Hall”. In 1338, after running into some financial hardship, the college was refounded thanks to an endowment by Elizabeth de Clare and was renamed “Clare Hall” until 1856, when it gained its current name of “Clare College”.
As well as what I’ve been able to find out, Jo told us a little tidbit about Clare College’s bridge over the River Cam whilst we were there (which, incidentally, is also Cambridge’s oldest bridge, built in 1640):
There are fourteen of these stone balls decorating the bridge, and the story goes that this particular one has a chunk missing because the original builder of the bridge wasn’t paid in full for his work, so he decided to take a segment of it to cover the difference! No idea whether that is true or just one of those myths that perpetuates over time, but it’s a great story nonetheless!
A quick side note here to say – I don’t think everyone was as impressed with Cambridge as Shaun and I were…
Poor little guy. He was fed up to the gills of sitting in his pram, but he didn’t want to walk for long, either… We just couldn’t keep him happy for longer than about five minutes at a time the whole day. All part of his being generally unwell that week, I guess! I should say, though, that he absolutely loved spending time with his “Addie Jo”, “Ulla Num”, “Ali” and “baby Aggies”! For the benefit of those that don’t speak fluent toddler, that’s “Auntie Jo”, “Uncle Dom”, “Caleb” and “baby Isaac”!
Anyway. As well as having a wander around Cambridge, part of the original plan was to go punting along the River Cam on Thursday afternoon in one of these cute little boats -
unfortunately, the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative. The rental place for the punts was closed – there had been a lot of rain over a short period of time, and the river was really high up the banks. Looking at the above picture you can see there isn’t even room to stand on the boats to steer them under the bridges! And as we ventured a little further around the corner, there was another blindingly obvious reason why it wouldn’t have been safe that day -
anyone fancy going for a punt with currents like that churning up the water?
No. Me either.
So instead we went to warm ourselves up and grab a bite to eat in a very sweet little pub by the river, before heading back to the house.
I’m sad to say that by this point I’d run out of steam – it was around 6:30 (I think), and my PGP decided my body had had enough for one day. I went as far as I could, then Shaun and I hovered around the University Library (me feeling somewhat sheepish) whilst Dom & Jo walked the boys the rest of the way back. Dom then very kindly came back to ferry us to the house in the car. We spent the evening bathing the boys, catching up and eating a very yummy chicken stew that Jo had put together in the slow cooker that morning.
On Friday, we had a bit of a lie in (or at least I did! Ha!), ate a fantastic breakfast of baked french toast, syrup, fruit and cream (again, thanks Jo!) and then our little family packed our things back into the car and started our somewhat leisurely trip home around noon. We didn’t end up getting home until about 7PM, but that was OK. We stopped at a shopping centre for an hour or so, stopped again for Burger King (Joshua had been asking for it all week!) and then missed a turning which added a little extra time to our journey.
But we had such a fantastic time!
And as for missing out on the punting – well – we’ll just have to go back and visit again (oh, what a shame!). That is, if they’ll have us!
Thank you for being such wonderful hosts, guys. We had a great time, and it was fantastic to see you again and have a good catch up. There’s very little in this world better than spending quality time with good friends, and you are the best! We love you!!