We left London this morning and took the train to Cambridge. (By the way, it turns out the university town of Cambridge came by its name honestly. The River Cam flows through the town and is spanned by any number of bridges. Mystery solved!) The train was clean, on time and the trip was uneventful, apart from me discovering that I'd let the iPod run down to its dregs.
Now Cambridge is a much smaller town than its flashier college cousin, Oxford. (We'll be there later in the trip.) In fact, pretty much anyone you meet here is here due to the university - one way or another. (And it's been that way for a long while - the university is celebrating its eighth hundredth year in 2009!) The English college term is just finishing up, so students were going up to stout oak doors that had their grades posted and either celebrating or despairing over the results. We joined in two traditional Cambridge events - punting and the May Balls.
Punting on the Cam is a delightful experience. The River Cam is a shallow, gentle river and a "punt" is simply a flat-bottomed boat, as pictured above. Punters use pole to steer the punts and inexperienced (or slightly inebriated) punters lose their poles in the mud. We hired Alex the Punter and got quite a nice tour of the "backs," which are the backs of (some of) the various colleges that make up Cambridge. After all, the place is a "who's who." Trinity College can boast Newton, Byron, Tennyson, Nabokov, and Milne. Christ had Darwin; Jesus College had Coleridge; King's had Rupert Brooke. Clare had Gen. Cornwallis, but they might not talk much about him to American visitors.
We also wandered around land a good bit and stumbled on the May Ball for Corpus Christi College (the other "CCC"). Corpus Christi, by the way, lists among its graduates Sir Francis Drake and Christopher Marlowe. May Balls used to be held in May (imagine that!) and it's all fancy dress, so lots of black tie, prom dresses, ball gowns and even the occasional kilt. Oh, and one mohawk in black tie, which was a first for me!
This has been a lovely day and we used it to recharge our batteries a bit. We needed that - after all, we leave tomorrow via our own car. Let's hope we remember that wacky "drive on the left" rule!