Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cambridge says "No"

Keeping with the academic theme from last week, we made a quick day trip to the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge spares no expense to make their "NO" signs clear and abundant.  If you wanted to smoke, loiter, park, get change, pay with a debit card, leave a bicycle against certain surfaces, walk on grass, be a visitor in certain areas, or moor your punt, you're gonna have a bad time.

That said, no one ever makes a sign that says "NO ___" as a preventative measure.  Usually it's only after whoever's paying the bills gets sufficiently annoyed by the antics of others to invest in a sign.  While a sign never stopped anyone from doing anything, it's the vague threat of a violator getting in trouble if caught that hopefully prevents further annoyance.  Cambridge was backing up their signs with plenty of security guards and CCTV surveillance.

The fun started at the park-n-ride, where we were tempted with a discount price from ticket machines which took only coins in pound, 50p, and 20p denominations.  Of course I had none of those.  I have noticed that my UK friends have an uncanny ability to produce exact change all the time.  Back home I'd go without currency for weeks, and when I do have a stack of pound coins, they seem disappear in groups of 3 (but oddly pints appear at the same time...).  Since the park-n-ride fined us 60 pence for not having exact change in the right denominations, I passive-aggressively gave the bus driver my five-er note and dumped a thick stack of pennies into her palm.

Ahh, it wouldn't be a proper weekend trip without a good parking story, so anyway, on to the actual activities.

Comparing Cambridge to Oxford, I would say that Cambridge has more of the university feel I'm used to.  The academic campuses were spread out with lots of green spaces, and the nearby shops and restaurants had that eccentric college feel that I'd get when I'd visit Kerry at Indiana University.  Of course, even though Cambridge is younger than Oxford, it has a couple hundred more years of history than any other school I'm familiar with.  Oh and there were more bicycles here than I've ever seen in one place in my life.

A narrow lane lined with old flats

Punts are boats you push along the canal with a long pole (works in shallow water only)

King's College was the real standout in terms of architecture
Side view of King's college, with the chapel on the right

More amazing architecture, manicured lawns, and picturesque bridges. Get the idea yet?

We had a nice stroll along the Backs - a greenway along the canal with a footpath, but kept running into dead ends on the campus grounds - gates to prevent visitors from trespassing We kept having to weave back out to the street, and couldn't get too close to the buildings.  They were impressive, however.  That said, the best way to see the buildings and enjoy the scenery would be by punt - 30 pounds for about an hour, and they offer a guide who can give you some facts and figures.  We passed.

The bridge was gated to prevent visitors from storming the yard and causing a ruckus. Got to keep a 400 meter distance; can't be disturbing the students, you know

Early blooms cheered us up for spring!

Requisite tudor-style building in the town

Farmer's market detour - we never pass up an opportunity to look around one of these

Stopped in a university bookstore - new English translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica for 600 pounds (almost $1000!)

The bookstore was a fun stop.  So many interesting titles covering economics, anthropology, zoology, physics, and politics.  All this knowledge at my fingertips makes me feel like a slob when I go home and watch an episode of Parks and Recreation (via Hulu using a virtual private network to get US progamming).

To try to make up for our 15 minute hyper tour of Pitt Rivers at Oxford, we gave ourselves 2 hours to go to free museums at Cambridge.  But there's no comparison.

After Pitt Rivers, Cambridge's Anthropology museum was a bit sparse...*shrugs*
We made it through that museum pretty quickly, so we moved on to the highly rated Fitzwilliam art museum.
Fitzwilliam art museum's exquisite roof - taken before Kerry saw the sign that said no pictures.

I would say this is worth going to, similar to the National Gallery, these old paintings must be growing on me.  The modern art was decent as well (not like the quack Tate modern).  We had some tasty chinese food at Charlie Chan's, and warmed up with some jasmine tea.  I like it done properly with the tea leaves just floating freely in the kettle, no pouches.

I forgot to take pictures of us so here's one on the bus back to the parking lot. We got front row seats on the upper deck, which was more fun than you might think.

Well that's a brief recap of a short visit to a nice college town.  2.5 day weekend coming up with a road trip to Brussels! Time to charge the camera battery.

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