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London, day 6: 18 September 2006

Started: 2006-09-24 16:29:44

Submitted: 2006-09-24 16:44:11

Visibility: World-readable


2020 BST 17 September 2006

Piccadilly Line to King's Cross: 18 minute journey.

Trains from King's Cross to Cambridge: depart at :15, :45; duration: 47 minutes.

Trains returning from Cambridge to King's Cross: depart at :15, :45; duration: 49 minutes.

Bus to Cambridge city centre: City 1; departs centre every 10 minutes until 1850, then 1910, 1930, half-hourly until midnight.

1940 BST 19 September 2006

Yesterday I got to see all the things in Cambridge that I didn't get to see last summer.

Kiesa and I took the tube (Piccadilly Line) to King's Cross Station, then caught the train (operated by First Capitol Connect) to Cambridge. (Had we been 2 minutes later, we could have bought a late-day travelcard (starting after 0930) and probably caught the 1015 train, arriving at Cambridge at 1100.) On the way, I read Singularity Sky, a paperback I purchased to entertain me on the the trip and the flight. Kiesa tore through the four paperbacks she bought for the trip. (She had trouble finding more books; details to follow. No doubt at length.)

Kings College Chapel
Kings College Chapel

Caught the bus into the city centre (£1 each) and started following the first walking tour in the Cambridge and Oxford tour book I bought at the Boulder Bookstore. First stop was Great St. Mary's church, the university church (£2) with great views of Kings College Chapel and the rest of Cambridge. My tour book provided great insights into the church and its history. Having a cheat sheet with the reigns of England's monarch at the back of the book was especially helpful, since so much of English history is wrapped up in its kings and queens.

Next: Kings College, starting with the chapel. If one sees only one thing in Cambridge, it should be the chapel... and I didn't make it in time to see it last year. The ceiling was amazing -- I know why they call it "perpendicular Gothic". No pictures allowed, though, so no record other than text. (Not that it stopped others, though.)

River Cam
River Cam

We walked out the back of the chapel to the Cam, saw the cows maintained by the college, and looped back to Trinity College.

Cambridge: Kings College Chapel, Cows, and the Cam
Cambridge: Kings College Chapel, Cows, and the Cam

Before seeing Trinity College (the largest in Cambridge), we searched for toilets and lunch. (The british are a bit more honest with their facility needs; they ask for toilets or, occasionally, a WC, not any of the euphemism we Americans come up with like "restrooms".) We located public toilets in the nearby shopping plaza, next to the library and a chocolate store where Kiesa indulged herself with a minty dessert. We ate pasties from the Great Cornwall Pasty Company -- not entirely unlike handheld British samosas. (Visualize savory pie fillings inside a hand-held pastry about the size of an average sandwich.)

Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge
Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge

We visited Trinity College and got in for free since the till wouldn't take our money. We showed up too late to get into the Wren Library (elevated above ground level to protect the books), but I did manage to take numerous pictures, usually of the same subject, with multiple exposure settings. (I know enough about my camera to be dangerous.)

Henry VIII above college entry
Henry VIII above college entry

Next was St. John's College, which featured a specific tour route that included the no-photography-allowed chapel and a view of the Bridge of Sighs, a replica of a prison bridge in Venice. Students walk across this bridge after learning their exam scores, which induces sighs.

Bridge of Sighs
Bridge of Sighs

We ended up on the far side of the Cam and looped back via the Magdalene Bridge, site of the very first bridge over the River Cam -- which became known as Cambridge. While crossing the street, I let myself get talked into a punt tour for £10 each, which I thought would be fun, even as Kiesa pointed out it was a non-trivial amount of money. Our punter and guide was a German student now living in Cambridge; his accent was half German, half British, which made sense only after I knew what it was.

Victorian brick building on the River Cam
Victorian brick building on the River Cam
River Cam
River Cam

We took the same route my tour took last summer, along the backs of the colleges, giving a new view to what we had seen already. On the way back, I got to try my hand at punting, which was harder than it looks. I eventually got the hang of it and managed to propel us in the right direction without tipping the boat or falling in.

Mathematical Bridge
Mathematical Bridge
Jerwood Library, Trinity Hall
Jerwood Library, Trinity Hall

After the tour, we walked down the Cam and looped back to the city centre. By that time, it was half five (er, 1730 localtime); everything was winding down. We located a vegetarian restaurant mentioned in my tour book, but it was closed on Monday, so we headed back to the bus stop and caught the bus to the train station.

If I had been feeling "responsible" or something, I would have recorded the day's adventures on the way back, but I followed Kiesa's lead and read instead.

At King's Cross Station, we caught the tube to Piccadilly Circus and searched for food. (I joked that the deep-level tube cars have a special personal bubble compression field that allows so many people to sit in so small a space. It's another invention from the famous Brunel family of engineers.) We ended up at Leicester Square, at the Korean and Indian restaurants we at at earlier, and ended up eating at Pizza Hut, which felt dirty and disrespectful of British international culture, but it was cheap and familiar.

Kiesa wanted to hunt down Waterstone's, a large bookstore in London, and thought it was near Westminster tube stop, so we headed to Westminster and wandered down Victoria Street before giving up and returning to the nearest tube stop, St. James's Park. On the way, we passed a building marked New Scotland Yard, guarded by a trio of bobbies, one carrying a submachine gun with the expanding stock pulled out. I hadn't seen anything like that much firepower on the streets of London; it was a bit surprising.

Tube trips today:

  1. Gloucester Road via Piccadilly to King's Cross.
  2. King's Cross via Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus.
  3. Leicester Square via Northern to Embankment; via District to Westminster.
  4. St. James's Park via District to Gloucester Road.

For more photos from Cambridge, see Photos on 2006-09-18.

The world is run by idiots because they're more efficient than hamsters.