United Kingdom: A Weekend in Cambridge
Is Cambridge 60 miles or 60 light-years from London? To embark on the trip from Leicester Square (Piccadilly Line to Kings Cross, Great Northern Route towards Kings Lynn) is to hurdle oneself into a veritable time warp, all the way back to the august era of the noble university city.
Oxford may be older and on the verge of a UNESCO nod but give us England’s wellborn academic runner-up anytime. Though about as far from the City as the Harry Potter mise en scÃ¨ne and erudite home of Rhodes scholars, Cambridge has a different mien altogether and one, in our humble opinion, that emits far more charm.
The backdrop of Cambridge, like Oxford, is duly chockablock with sublime period architecture. What truly marks Cambridge as a bone fide treasure, however, has more to do with intagibles. The compact city of 125,000 has vim and vitality, from punt fleets on the River Cam to the brain trust of Silicon Fen, lively pub palavers to the esoteric manoeuvres of students in the throes of age-old institutional rituals. It all makes for a memorable weekend away from London.
The University of Cambridge has 31 colleges all told, from Peterhouse (est. 1284) to Robinson (est. 1977). King’s, Queens’, Clare, Trinity and St John’s charge admission while a few others deny entry altogether (some tourists disrupt the zen of study hall, apparently). From the Old Court and Mathematical Bridge of Queens’ College to the impressive chapel at Emmanuel College, the university campus is full of ooh aah paragons of architecture.
Cambridge’s ensemble of ecclesiastical gems represent the most venerable monuments of the past. To wit, Great St Mary’s Church, a Gothic masterpiece built between 1478 and 1519, is relatively new. The Saxon tower of the Church of St Bene’t, on the other hand, dates to 1025. Little St Mary’s Church and the Round Church round out the rest of the must-sees.
Historic halls of academia tend to amass odds and ends over time, some of which make for suitable exposition. Cambridge is no exception, of course. While impossible to visit all over a measly weekend, strive to see the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard and vow to return for the Cambridge & County Folk Museum, Cambridge Museum of Technology, Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge University Library, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Museum of Classical Archaeology, New Hall Art Collection, Scott Polar Museum, Sedgwick Museum and Whipple Museum of the History of Science.
Where to stay: