Thursday, September 30, 2010

Walking Tour: Cambridge Past and Present (Part 1)

I have been in Cambridge for three whole days now. The experience thus far: walking and shopping. On Tuesday I strode out confidently into the city dressed in a short-sleeve top, thin jacket, jeans, and flip-flops. Interestingly enough, there are NO other pairs of flip-flops in the entire city save for one man who is an OSU alum and understands the flip-flops-in-the-dead-of-winter fashion style. My close-toed shoe supply is woefully short at the moment, but I have crossed my fingers in hopes that my boxes of clothes arrive from the US soon. Also because I refuse to pay over $50 for a pair of shoes (can I get an amen from the ladies?). BUT, I finally got fed up with the whole situation after yet another blister popped up on my feet, and I went in search of sneakers suitable for walking many miles. I ended up with these, which were 70% off (ha!):

Every job starts with the right tools: if I'm going to be walking all over creation this year, I should have the appropriate footwear.
My original plan for Thursday was to travel to Ely, which is a small town about 15 minutes from Cambridge. Reportedly, there is a beautiful cathedral and a stained glass museum (so says my guidebook :p). My OSU alum friend told me that the cathedral is free on Sundays, otherwise it's about $10. Well heck - I'll hang tight for a few days and buy a latte to drink on the train instead! So stay tuned for that trip later...

In lieu of Ely, I hopped onto and looked up self-guided walking tours. Turns out, there are quite a few tours available with different themes. Each have handy maps and audio tracks for free that one can download to an iPod and listen to while walking around the city. There are four available here and another eight available here. I chose this one, which took me to these locations. If you're interested, you should be able to hear the same audio I did by clicking on the pictures in the previous link. But, I will do my best to give you the nutshell, along with pictures.

Stop #1: Great St. Mary's Church

This church was built in the 1400's, and for a while all the university students were required to attend services at least 6 times a year and live within the sound of the bells. Although that standard has been relaxed, the church is still considered the university church.

What is NOT shown is the gift shop area to the left of me, which unfortunately ruins the church feel somewhat. As do the gravemarker floor stones that the pews sit on top of - who wants to worship with THAT under them?

Beautiful stained glass windows, but unfortunately the light was not cooperating with me.
Stop #2: Senate House

This is where important university governing bodies meet and is also the site of my eventual graduation. Along with being a beautiful building, it was one of the first to utilize the iron fence idea. Fortunately, the fence made it through both world wars when most others were torn down to supply iron to the army. My OSU alum friend took me to the labs he works in the other day and pointed to the senate house roof through a top-floor window. 

"Do you know that building yet?" he queried. I replied, "no, I haven't had a chance to see it." He shrugged and said matter-of-factly, "you will soon." True enough...

My apologies for the tourist who would not move. Perhaps he was trying to find the Senate House too and couldn't see it for the trees..err...fence in front of him.

Stop #3: Gate of Honour (yes, "honour." Don't ask - it's an England thing)

Directly to the right of the Senate House is Gonville and Caius College.  For graduation, students from that college walk through the Gate of Honour, across the lane that runs down the right side of the Senate House, and onto the lawn of the Senate House. There are actually three gates in the college: the Gate of Humility (which is the entrance and the first one new students enter), the Gate of Virtue (which is on campus so that students pass through it often), and then the Gate of Honour (which leads to graduation).

Cambridge builders like sundials a lot - I'm not sure why.

Apparently there is also a Gate of Necessity, which leads to the bathrooms. I don't believe it is as ornate as this one is :)
Stop #4: King's Chapel

King's Chapel would be on my must-see list for those visiting Cambridge. Student status got me in for free - yay for keeping ears open for travel tips. King's College is by far the most renowned and stunning example of gothic architecture in Cambridge. Also, King's College was commissioned by King Henry VI (hence the name, heh).

Between stops 2 and 3 I slipped into a coffee shop and grabbed a mocha to sip during the rest of the walk. Life is just so much more enjoyable with a coffee or tea in hand :). However, I was halted at the entrance to the chapel by the nice doorman (everyone is very nice here, actually): "um, excuse me, but we can't allow drinks inside."

Having expected that requirement, I asked, "can I leave it ouside?"

He gestured to a small table near the door that already held several other coffee cups and drinks and said, "yes, if you think you can remember which one is yours. We seem to be opening up our own cafe over here..."

I left my drink, but when I walked back to the entrance door to leave, a sign said "no exit." Oh. The exit is on the other side of the chapel and spits you out onto the interior greens of King's College. Well that's handy, unless of course you had a DRINK! Ah well - I walked ALL the way around the college again and figured I was burning the mocha calories off...

The chapel was built four stories high when no other building during that time ever went past two or three.

The chapel is incredibly large - note the people as a scale reference.

1 comment:

  1. Correction: the tourist website is