Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France starts in Cambridge, England on Monday, July 7. I will be traveling with Trek Tours and going directly from Leeds to London to watch the finish. I wanted to see Cambridge again. It has been 31 years since I studied at the Cambridge International Summer School and lived in Selwyn College. So I landed earlier today at Heathrow, took the underground to Kings Cross, and hopped on a train to Cambridge.
When I looked for lodging on Booking.com the dorm room at Christ’s College caught my eye. It is basic, centrally located, and a unique experience for $91 US. Plus I get to eat breakfast in the Great Hall, ie my own Hogwarts moment.
I dropped my bags in my room at 4:00 p.m. and stretched out on my bed for a few minutes. A poor unhappy baby cried almost the entire flight from Los Angeles and so I listened to a lot of Yo Yo Ma and did not get much sleep. I kept falling asleep on the tube and the train, and the temptation was to nap. I also wanted to see Cambridge so I dragged myself into some fresh clothes and walked across the way to Station Cycles (with locations at the Grand Arcade and train station). I rented a crappy bike that did not fit very well and only cost about $10 to rent.
My first order of business was to visit Selwyn College on the other side of the River Cam. I took a wrong turn and soon found myself caught up in gnarly rush hour traffic. Cambridge is chock a block with historic buildings so there is really few options for improving infrastructure. When buses and trucks are on the road there is scarcely any room for bicycles. Eventually I found the quieter streets and bike paths–after I bailed at Regent and Lensfield Streets and walked my bike with other pedestrians through the intersection.
The good news is there are far more bicycles than ever in Cambridge. I have seen so many Bromptons I stopped counting or taking pictures. After about 20 minutes of trial and error navigation and helpful directions called out from a local, I found Selwyn College. It is looking good. They are prosperous enough to refurbish Cripps Hall where I stayed so many years ago. The main college is just as lovely as I remembered it. It “only” dates back to the 1700s so it is made of brick as opposed to the stone of Christ’s or King’s College. A flood of happy memories came back–especially the hours spent talking about life in Maire Henderson’s first floor room in the old buildings.
The Porter at Selwyn was very welcoming. She and I discussed the merits of closing off the main downtown to automobiles. I shared that I only learned to appreciate Selwyn College’s founder when I lived in New Zealand. From there it was easier to find my way back into town. My memory helped me find my favorite paths to King’s College and the ice cream cart that is still parked outside the gates. I rode across the river and stopped to admire the boaters punting down the river.
I remembered Dean Joan (USC Dean of Women) admonishing me for not having a romantic rendezvous on a punt while I was in Cambridge. Lots of different groups punt down the river and one day I will return and have that experience. There are some things better not done solo. My bike naturally found Auntie’s Tea Room where Maire and I spent very little money but a lot of time. We drank so much tea that we would be amped up on caffeine the rest of the day.
I returned the bike before closing and wandered around some more on foot. Stopped in at The Eagle pub for fish and chips and then returned to my room. Once again the siren song of sleep tempted me to rest my eyes for just a moment. Like some enchanted heroine, I napped until voices next door woke me up. I am trying to adjust to this time zone so I roused myself and write this blog to keep myself alert a little longer.
I hope to meet an amazing person each day. Today it was the man who sat across from me on the train. We did not exchange names so I will call him by his stop, Royston. He coordinates transportation logistics for television and movie productions. He was just coming home from a 6 day Downton Abbey shoot. Royston is an avid motorcycle rider who has ridden round the globe (literally) and from Cairo to Cape Town. He originally hailed from Perth, Australia. He worked on the movie Paddington Bear (!) and his hot tip is to buy Paddington Bear toys now because the movie will make them the HOT toy item this Christmas. You heard it here first.