I assume that many Cambridge scholars will probably suffer from a stroke after reading the title, but to be utterly sincere, I don’t really care. If there’s one thing that I learnt on my day trip in Cambridge is that I’m very, very, very dumb. Whether you are having a pint at the pub where some geniuses discovered the structure of the DNA or getting shelter from the rain under one of the weeping willow trees that have inspired one of the most revolutionary Chinese poets of all time, Xu Zhimo, there’s not a single spot in Cambridge that will either take your breath away or make you feel a DD: a dumb duck. Yes, this is the Disney version.
Who are these people? What do they do in their free time? Do they even know who Jay-Z is? Do they know how lucky they are to remain oblivious to the rapper’s level of fidelity? Do they actually have free time? Do they talk at all or have they mastered the art of miming? Are they able to answer vitally important questions, like why is it that a person who plays the piano is called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car cannot be called a racist? Or why do kamikazes wear helmets? Better yet, why is the word “abbreviation” so long?
Punting is the main touristic activity in Cambridge as you get the privilege to view the famous colleges from the boat. On our way to the information centre from the train station, we were stopped by a number of sales people who advertised punting for £20. As we hadn’t done our research properly, we continued on our way to the information centre and asked one of these sales people for directions. After helping us find our way to e-centre, the guy we asked said that he could sell us tickets for £5. As soon as he started talking, I made up my mind to decline his offer, but when he enunciated “5 pounds”, some bulb in my brain started flashing ALERT, I closed my mouth and opened it again to say: “Wait, did you just say F-I-V-E pounds?”
“She knows a good deal when she sees it,” he said about me. Of course I do; once a backpacker, always a backpacker. He asked us not to tell anyone how much we paid for the tickets as everyone else was going to pay £20. #winning. We got this offer from Go Punting, but it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone.
The boat trip was worth every penny. We had a really nice tour guide who made it hard to focus on what he was saying because he was extremely good-looking. My friend actually fancied him and later on revealed that she would like to date an English guy because of Pride and Prejudice. I know what you are thinking. She probably hasn’t watched The Inbetweeners which, to be honest, might be a bit more culturally accurate in this day and age. Sorry babe, you are two centuries too late.
The Night Climbers of Cambridge
The tour guide gave us very interesting information about those famous colleges and the people who attended them, including A. A. Milne – the renowned author of Winnie the Pooh. He showed us the majestic and enormous King’s College Chapel, which is also UK’s biggest chapel and second in Europe. If you look closely at the chapel, you’ll find a set of spikes on its towers and along its walls, which were placed there to dissuade nocturnal climbers. The practice of climbing the colleges and town buildings of Cambridge dates back to the 1930s. During that decade, a book titled The Night Climbers of Cambridge, which chronicled the first climbs, was published. The book is credited with popularising the activity and inspiring the next generation of urban explorers and night climbers.
The tour guide also showed us the “secret garden” from across the wall. This garden is called secret because only professors are allowed to step in it. By the way he described it, you would think he was talking about NASA’s underground tunnel and there are some UFOs on the other side of the wall. The secrecy of the garden sparked my friend’s curiosity and, thereafter, she tried to convince the tour guide to park his boat by the wall so we could climb over the wall and reach this secret garden. Despite my friend’s insistence, he stood his ground. Killjoy!
Part of the entertainment was provided by two Canadians girls on board who brought a bottle of wine along for the ride. And how didn’t we think of that, you ask? I already told you… we are very very stupid.
The Canadian girls came prepared. They also had bread to feed the ducks on the river. As soon as she became aware of the ducks, my friend asked the Canadian girls for some bread to feed them. Are you thinking the same I am? She asked for bread but not for wine. I love my friend but she really needs to sort out her priorities.
Although the guide warned us that feeding a group of ducks could result in the animals jumping on the boat, my friend reached over me and proceeded, nonetheless. In a matter of seconds, a group of ducks attempted to come aboard prompting me to scream at the top of my lungs. Don’t judge me.
Bridges across the river River Cam (At least we know where the name Cambridge comes from)
Apart from getting on the wrong side of animal lovers, we indulged ourselves in the whole scenery. With beautiful bridges reflected on the River Cam which is bordered by historical and impressive buildings on one side and by dreamy weeping willow trees on the other, it’s not hard to imagine why legendary authors and poets drew inspiration from this sublime city. The most famous bridges include the Bridge of Sighs (picture shown above) and the Mathematical bridge, which is a clever arrangement of straight timbers that are assembled in the shape of an arch, hence the name. Clever, just like most people in Cambridge.
The tour guide also gave us the chance to steer his stick. Oh sorry, I mean his pole. Okay, that doesn’t sound any better. I stopped myself from saying “that’s what she said” when my friend grabbed the quant pole and uttered “it’s so big!” But then I burst out laughing after the tour guide confessed: “I like them bigger.” Of course everyone on the punt believed me to be deranged.
When the boat tour ended, my friend confided in me that she really fancied the tour guide and wished I could to get his number for her. Unfortunately, I generally avoid awkward situations whilst sober. I bet she now regrets feeding the ducks instead of getting me booze.
Pubs, markets and all the good stuff
The tour guide also told us the name of the pub where Pink Floyd performed for the first time, which is The Anchor. That was our first stop after punting. I highly recommend it. We sat outdoors by the canal and sipped on some refreshing cider while admiring the scenery.
After strolling around parks and the city centre, we visited the central market which offers handcrafts, knick-knacks and delectable food. We crossed paths with two guys on the street who were having a quiet conversation until one of them said loudly, “I’m not an alien.” Granted, these smart kids really like their science fiction books. Although it rained, some people continued punting. We watched them getting wet from the shelter of a willow tree. One of the people on the punt had a good sense of humour and suddenly uttered in a British accent, “Not to alarm anyone, but I believe we are sinking.” Then the boat ran into a bunch of branches on the river and the same gentleman exclaimed: “I’ve seen better drunk drivers.”
Then we made our way to another famous pub where two geniuses discovered the structure of the DNA. The name of the pub is The Eagle and it dates back to the 16th century, although it was previously called Eagle and Child.
There are also plenty of museums, churches and all that jazz to check out while you are in Cambridge, particularly Ely Cathedral, Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church and Church of St Mary the Great.. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the museums; we went to the pubs instead. They were didactic as it gets.