Part 13: France and England

Then it was our very last day of the trip. We had one final day in England so we decided to take a day trip to Cambridge. My husband had never been there. I had gone in 2003 as part of a high school band and chorus trip. I remember that it was a wondrous place.

My number one thing to do there was punting. Basically a punt is a long wooden boat that you maneuver with a giant wooden pole. The river Cam is fairly shallow so you just push off the bottom. When we were there in 2003, we had seen people punting and were keen to try it. Somehow we ran out of time. Since then, I had always wanted to return and remedy that error.  I also read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, which is a hilarious Victorian book. Yes, it’s about three men in a boat who are taking a vacation on the Thames. I highly recommend it. Even though they were boating down the Thames, I wanted to have a moment of that experience. So part of the plan was to quote some choice lines from the book as well.

We took the train in from King’s Cross, which was really convenient. We walked about 20 minutes from the station into the center of town. It was really neat to see all the different established colleges. Unfortunately, it was the holiday season so many were closed to the public. When we got near King’s College, we met some people offering punting tours. We decided to get the information about conditions, cost, etc. They were really trying to sell a tour to us. They said that it wasn’t really a good time to punt by oneself (of course, their conception of cold weather is a bit different from ours…). Plus the rains were coming so they suggested now was better than later in the day. We were a bit hesitant since I was hoping to have some time to do it ourselves. In order to seal the deal, they gave us a really good deal for us plus the promise that we could try punting for the last 10 minutes of the tour. Sold.

Back of King’s College from River Cam

We wandered with them to the dock and all packed into the boat with 9 other tourists. We were put next to the boatsman so we could have easy access when it came time for our turn. This did mean we would occasionally get sprinkled but I didn’t care. We were finally doing it!

It was magnificent to cruise on the River Cam, seeing the backs of many of the major colleges. We passed under the various bridges, including the Bridge of Sighs. Two theories about its name: one is that it looks like the Venetian Bridge of Sighs. (Sort of). The second is that students had to pass over it to go to their final exams. The tour was fine, not quite as in depth as I would have liked but it was worth doing. We learned that one of the colleges gives giant rooms with chandeliers to its honors upperclassmen. Some rooms even have grand pianos.  We also saw the Mathematical Bridge at Queen’s College. A bridge held together by physics and math (well, I suppose all bridges technically are). Rumors say that it was built without bolts and nails but it does have them.

Mathematical Bridge, Queen’s College

Then it was our time to try punting ourselves. I tried it first. That pole is really heavy. I think I had a decent hand at it. I could turn the boat and move it in a straight line. Then Scott tried it…he managed to bump into a houseboat nearby. 🙂 I did get a line or two of Three Men in a Boat in as I had planned.

Some day, we’ll come back and do some more punting solo. 🙂 I’m so pleased we were able to do it! 

After some lunch, we went to King’s College to check out the famous chapel. It was as beautiful as I remembered it. It’s a really astonishing building. There’s the beautiful stained glass, the carved wooden organ, and the soaring delicate ceiling. There were still some old symbols of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. We wandered a bit on the grounds afterwards, which was nice. It was so pleasant to walk around, even if it was mildly overcast day. (Thankfully the terrible rains held off until we got back to the train). We wandered a bit into various colleges that were open.

King’s College Chapel

We ended the afternoon at the Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s a bit like the British Museum in that it has a lot of pieces from very different eras and places in the world. They have Ancient Greece and Egypt, beautiful Meissen ceramics, Impressionist paintings, and so much more. In the Ancient Egyptian room, they had a case filled with cigar and other similar boxes from the Victorian era. These were used by archeologists to store artifacts. These boxes showed the kind of products archeologists used at the time. Very fascinating.

Another part of the museum had occupation currency from WWII. Basically, it’s the currency issued by the occupying country. There was the Japanese rupee and Japanese peso. Fascinating! I was also pleased that they had a little exhibit on political cartoons; some were extremely naughty. (Apparently scatological humor was in). In the 19th century section, there was a giant room with a balcony overhead. All along the balcony were tiny paintings. You could climb a wrought iron staircase and walk (carefully) along the balcony to see these tiny paintings. Very neat!

Victorian Artifact Storage



If you go to Cambridge, I highly recommend the museum. Oh yeah, it’s free too.

Then it was time to go back to London for a wonderful performance at St. Martins in the Fields on Trafalgar Square. We had seen advertisements for a candle lit concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. So we decided to go to a concert. It was lovely. We sat in the pews surrounded by candles. What a wonderful place to have a concert! They played several pieces from Baroque composers. The second half was the Four Seasons. I realized that I hadn’t really heard the entire piece. I guess I really knew Spring. I adored the Summer movement. Scott was entranced with Winter.

It was a great end to a wonderful trip!
That’s all for now!


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