Monday, 25 February 2008

Day tripper, day tripper yeah

,,Last weekend we drove to Cambridge. From Broxbourne this is just a short hop on to the A10 and then a very cruisy ride for nearly 30 of the 37 miles through the English countryside. Along the way we noticed that we were starting to run low on fuel (possibly a consequence of still not having been paid since we arrived in the country) and began to look around for a petrol station. As the A10 went from being a dual carriageway down to what felt like a country road ambling through hedge-lined lanes we spotted some petrol pumps surrounded by cars and pulled in.

As we looked around us, we realised that all the cars were brand, spanking, new Lotus’ in a variety of wonderful colours. We stared in awe at the remarkable designs and then realised that the petrol pumps were not working. In fact, there was no one in attendance at this place at all. The other thing we noticed was that there was no way out, other than reversing back through all the lovely (and expensive) brand new cars. It helps to clarify the mind somewhat to realise that the gap which you merrily drove through in your little Mazda 323 will result in a rather large bill if you so much as scratch one of the cars on either side.

Much of the rest of the trip was uneventful until we saw the Park & Ride station about 5 miles out of Cambridge itself. On a Saturday morning (with the temperature hovering at a balmy 3 Degrees) there were an extraordinary number of cars in the car park. As we got in to Cambridge itself we discovered why. Like Nottingham (which we had visited the Monday before), Cambridge has set out to discourage drivers from coming into the centre of the city, and with good reason. The streets are very narrow. There is minimal parking, and what there is charges an obscene amount for very little time. As we quickly noticed, most of the locals (largely students we imagined) had pushbikes, which were parked by the hundreds around the streets. As we later attempted to remove our car (doing a u-turn at the end of a street which turned out to be blocked) we discovered that the bollards which had kept appearing in the middle of what would otherwise have been traversable roads were removable. A bus came along from the other direction and they quietly and uncomplainingly descended to ground level until it had passed, then rose to present the impenetrable obstacle that they had been to us earlier. We will go back to Cambridge. But we will park and ride when we do

Cambridge was one of Wayne’s favourite places when he last came to England (only 25 years ago) and the reasons for it being so had remained. It is astonishing to walk through this university city and realise that it has been operating as a University for about 800 years. The Colleges and their chapels are old and lovely, we walked in to the middle of King’s College and admired the perfectly manicured lawns in the midst of buildings that were hundreds of years old. The oldest of the Colleges dates back to the 13th Century and the town that surrounds it contains shops and buildings with architecture capturing the styles of every period between. For those of you that have not been here (or seen pictures) imagine Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books. There were old academic bookshops. Tailors who specialised in academic robes and gowns (there were two such building within a few hundred metres of each other, both dating back a couple of centuries). We half expected to see a shop specialising in wands.

Sadly, because of the parking issues aforementioned, we didn’t have enough time to spend wandering the streets. The fact that it was slightly on the chilly side also meant that Wayne and Meg were frequently asked, ‘When are we going back to the car?’ as well. We didn’t get to walk down to the Mathematical Bridge or the Bridge of Sighs, which traverse the river Cam, and it is almost impossible to see them from the roads along which cars are allowed. We did get to drive alongside the park on the other side of the river, admiring the punts and barges which are using to navigate up and down. As winter is coming to an end the countryside is passing out of the Snowdrop flowering phase (enormous areas covered in tiny white flowers) and into the period for Crocuses and Daffodils which are found wild everywhere (including in our backyard). We even saw our first badger (albeit a dead one by the side of the road).

We still aim to get out somewhere in England, once we have some money, at every possible opportunity. We now have three places (Windsor, Cambridge and Nottingham) to which we want to go back, plus hundreds of others which we have not yet seen. At the moment we plan to head across to France at the end of June because of a ‘World of Warcraft’ Expo (BlizzCon like Comic book Conventions, we imagine) taking place in Paris, which Brock is determined to attend.

Hope you are all well and enjoying things. Thanks to all who have written, we love hearing from you.

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