Oxbridge

Trip Start Aug 12, 2011
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Trip End Jan 31, 2012


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, September 30, 2011

We were met at the airport by the eternally excellent and ebullient James McN. This sped things up no end and meant not straining ourselves unduly battling frustrations born of the London rail services. We paused out of King's Cross station for an Irish pub meal and Guiness/cider and to acquire some refreshments for the Cambridge leg. It was late when we finally arrived, and after grappling with the after hours security box that contained our key we crashed out.
Amazingly for october in the UK, the sun shone and it was perfect weather, meaning we had wasted valuable pack space for warm clothes. We wandered up to Ken and Sue´s riverside terrace for a late breakfast and the time flew by. Sue had clearly been very busy with her green thumb. In addition to a pear tree, they had fruit trees and berries in about the size of our backyard in Melbourne. Their place is waterside right where the boat race comes past, and the training crews in season (except that the coaches ride alongside on bikes, not outboards, because the river is so narrow). Sue convinced us that "The Orchard" where Rupert Brooke and others languished under fruit trees and composed poetry ( 'If I should die think only this of me..."), was the place to be on such a day, so we walked into town past river barges and out the other side of town. It is easy to forget how close farmland is there, and in fact we passed lots of cattle next to the river but also students (mostly) enjoying the last of their break before term started.
The next day we took an extended bus trip over to Oxford, and had the full tour of Jamie´s stomping ground including Pembroke college (particularly beautiful) and afternoon champagne in the Christchuch meadows with some of Jamie´s pals. We saw `The Turf´ where Bob Hawke famously sculled his yard glass, the Bodelian library and finally dinner at the Head of The River before catching a bus back to Cambridge.
Our pace did not falter! In the morning Mim´s friend Geneveive came up from London for the day. We felt we hadn´t quite done Cambridge justice yet, especially since our guide was from "the other place" and particularly biased. Punting is the done thing, and so punting we went. We felt it only appropriate to have champagne and strawberries on board. Jamie graciously volunteered to be first punter, but he forewarned us that punting is something not included in your tuition at college and he could not be held accountable. Nonsense, how hard can it be, was the general feeling. Having narrowly avoiding ending up in the water on several occasions and doing the splits one foot on shore and one on boat we agreed it was far harder than it ought to be, and that it was a fickle and outmoded means of transportation. English regimental precision and organization does not extend to the waterways of Cambridge and we spent an hour jostling with undergraduates out for their first punt. That night saw us at an MCR (or college) party and seeing what the Cambridge dance scene has to offer.
There was no call for an early start the next day. We needed to be in peak form to see Ralph Fiennes perform in Shakespeare´s The Tempest at the Royal Haymarket that evening. We were able to catch up with some friends from Perth now living in London for the show. Alll agreed that Ralph put in a stellar performance as Prospero and enjoyed the excellent stage craft of a top notch theatre company, particularly because it is an unusual play and hard to pull off well. On our final morning we were called to the Dean's office (Jamie's Dad) like a couple of naughty undergraduates. The Dean's wife had also pointed us in he direction of an excellent 2nd hand bookshop which we headed to with alacrity and promptly added a couple kilos to our packs.
Next stop, Rio de Janeiro!
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