UK Road Trip

September 18, 2014 —Cambridge

Today is our last day in London on this 22 day road trip, and like most of our days, it is warm and lovely.  We bought train tickets to Cambridge online last night for the four of us, and we decided to go to King’s Cross station before breakfast to catch our train.  We took the underground and had no problem finding the machine to print out our tickets.  Breakfast consisted of some not very tasty egg dishes at a nearby station restaurant.  The train for Cambridge was on time and we left at 9:44.  It was only about 45 minutes to the pretty university town of Cambridge.  We took a cab to the meeting point of the free walking tour, which was right by a fudge shop that was giving free samples (we came back and bought some after the tour).  Our guide was a young student from New Jersey who was just starting the PhD program in education.  CJ gave us some history of Cambridge and the many buildings that date from medieval times.  He also told us how all the separate colleges work—you live and eat at one college, but students at all the colleges have classes together.   The tour started at King’s College, and then we went to see the interesting clock that Stephen Hawking worked on (he was one of the famous Cambridge students, along with Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Robert Frost and Prince Charles).  Our next stop was outside the Cavendish Laboratory, where in 1953 three scientists discovered the structure of DNA.  Many Nobel prize winners have been educated at Cambridge, and there seems to be a healthy competition between Cambridge and Oxford.  Oxford has its share of famous students too, such as Edmund Halley,  William Penn, Oscar Wilde, Edwin Hubble,  T.S.  Eliot,  J.R.R.  Tolkien, and Dr.  Seuss.  CJ then took us on a tour of Pembroke College, which has lots of lovely old buildings and pretty landscaping.  He said there’s a rumor that Pembroke stole a Michelin chef from another college and that the students there eat pretty well.  We also went into the chapel at Pembroke that was designed by Christopher Wren very early in his career.  Next we walked across the Cam river and saw punting in boats of all sizes.  You could rent one if you wanted to do the punting yourself.  We saw the unusual bridge called the Mathematical Bridge and it’s rumored to have been designed by Isaac Newton, but it’s not true.  We walked along behind King’s College and its huge chapel.  We had lunch at the Michaelmas Cafe, then went back to tour the chapel.  Henry VIII decided the dimensions of the chapel and also specified that the choir was to be made up of 16 poor boys.  Except for a few years in the 1550s and 1650s, the choir has been singing services continuously for 500 years.The chapel is enormous and has a lot of beautiful stained glass.  When England was being bombed in WWII, they quickly took the windows apart and stored them until the war was over.  It took about 7 years to reassemble the stained glass because no one documented the windows when they were disassembled.  The face of the Virgin Mary in one window was missing, so they used the one of her mother Anne for Mary with baby Jesus and made a copy of it for Anne's window.  CJ, who we ran into back in the chapel, told us about the window and said that it’s maybe the only time you'll see the young Mary depicted as an older woman.  Henry VIII was instrumental in building the college and his image is in several places—early in his reign (thin) and later in his reign (heavy).   An old apple tree (said to be Newton’s apple tree) is right outside Newton’s residence at King’s College.  The campus is more picturesque than Oxford, but we hadn’t taken a tour of Oxford to see inside the gates and the beautiful colleges there.  Around 3:00 we took a cab back to the train station for our trip back to London.  The train arrived at King’s Cross station about 4:00 and we took the underground back to the hotel.  On the second train (on the Central Line), we were stopped for 10-15 minutes in a very hot car and found out later that someone had collapsed in another car.  We walked back to the hotel and rested awhile before going out to eat at the Swan Pub nearby.  Barbara was having some head problems so we chose the nearby restaurant and had some pretty good food.   Back in the hotel we organized our stuff and pretty much packed.  We’re ready to go home.

Kings College, CambridgeLabel 1

Corpus Clock - Cambridge

Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (DNA sequencing)

Pembroke College dining hall - Cambridge

Pembroke College, Cambridge

Pembroke College - chapel designed by Christopher Wren

Mathematical Bridge - Cambridge

King's College, Cambridge


Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge

Trinity College, Cambridge - a heavier Henry VIII

Isaac Newton’s residence - Cambridge (apple tree in front)

King's Chapel - Cambridge

King's Chapel - Cambridge

King's Chapel - Cambridge (Rubens painting)

King's Chapel - Cambridge

King's Chapel - Cambridge (an old Mary)

© Jay 2020