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Cambridge

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com

Are y'all as excited as I am about my upcoming trip? If you missed the announcement, check it out here! I'll have most posts on the planning as I get a little closer, so definitely come back...

Where were we in our London travels before I interrupted to bring you news of my upcoming travels?

Ah, yes. 

We'd just visited Stonehenge at sunset and then rested against Buckingham Palace as we watched the Changing of the Guard

What's next on our jam-packed itinerary?

We're headed out of London to a town called Cambridge that's home to a little institute of higher learning called Cambridge University. You may have heard of it.

I'd visited Oxford twice before this trip, but never Cambridge. I figured it would look similar since both are so well-known and date from about the same time. 

I was so wrong. Oxford is all grey stone and magical alleyways and basically a real life Hogwarts. Cambridge is all waterways and polished stone and swaths of green lawn. Both are awesome, but in completely different ways. 

We started our tour--led by two friends of the family I went with who were studying to get their Ph.D. degrees--just outside the main campus. We headed into the pedestrian-only area, and I immediately began to have fantasies of what it would be like to get my Ph.D. in Literature there. Whatever doctoral dreams I let die at the end of my masters program, I found it here again. 

(Mind you, this was before we had Britton, but I was fully prepared to uproot my husband and dog and move them thousands of miles across the world just so I could read and write some more. When I shared this dream with Landon, he politely let it run its course; I ran out of steam with the idea of going back to school before he ran out of patience.)

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com

Our first stop was just outside of Trinity College, which is (after the Queen) one of England's largest landholders. The fact that a college holds that much land completely amazes me. As does the detail work on the front entrance.

This is me in front of Trinity College, looking all nonchalant. On the inside, though, I was like, "Oh, let me in so I can be super cool. And don't forget to tell me the secret handshake. I KNOW there's a secret handshake!"

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com

And then, we headed inside those gates and saw this beautiful site:

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com
 It's enough to make me want to break out my tortoiseshell glasses and my backpack.

Our guides appealed to the super English nerd in me (English as in literature, though I am definitely an English-as-in-the-country nerd, too) and suggested that we head into Wren Library. There we saw original Winnie the Pooh manuscripts, early editions of Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton's manuscripts, and enough medieval manuscripts to make King Arthur happy. Oh, how I love fancy libraries.

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com

After finishing up our quick walking tour of Cambridge, we headed over to Magdalene College for a very special appointment. On our way, we couldn't help but pass over one of the many bridges in Cambridge. The kids that I was with wanted to heckle the people punting below but I bribed them with my camera so we could keep up with the rest of the party. I will spare you those hundred pictures or so.

Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com
 The oldest three kids, their parents and I headed into Magdalene to meet the Right Reverend Simon Barrington-Ward. (The other teacher had to take the youngest for a walk because he was being bad.) I've met a lot of neat people in my day, but this guy definitely ranks up there. 

Not only is he a former Bishop (of Coventry), he was knighted in the early 2000s. AND (!!) he was close, personal friends with C.S. Lewis and his wife, who used to write to him and visit whenever he could. The two men originally met while they were both at Magdalene, Bishop Simon as the chaplain, and Lewis as a fellow. Bishop Simon got permission to take us into Lewis' old apartment where he lived while he was a fellow at Magdalene. (Lewis eventually went on to teach at Oxford, so you could practically make an entire visit to both universities just based around his life in both places.)

It was incredible to hear Bishop Simon talk about Lewis--his personality, his faith, his writing. Even cooler was sitting and standing in the apartment where Lewis lived as Bishop Simon pointed out where Lewis' desk was, where they ate dinner, where they had certain conversations.

Bishop Simon led us into the chapel, where he pointed out where Lewis always sat (near the front). Apparently, Lewis was a devotee of chapel and could always be found in his spot for each service.

Bishop Simon was very personable and very patient with the children's questions. They'd all read the Chronicles of Narnia by the time we went to England, so they had plenty of queries on inspiration and such.


Cambridge University | CosmosMariners.com
 After a quick round of the Magdalene garden, we had to say goodbye to Bishop Simon. We had one more thing to accomplish before we headed back to London, however:

Punting!

We met back up with the other teacher and the youngest child, and went to rent our own punting boat. Since none of us were brave enough (or dressed appropriately) to try our hand at punting, we rented a boat and a guide and enjoyed a leisurely tour of Cambridge by boat. For England, it was actually pretty warm, and the River Cam was packed with tourists, locals, and students enjoying the early summer heat.

If you're not familiar with punting, it's boating without paddles. Instead, you have this very long stick that you put in the water until it hits the river bed; you push off the bottom of the bed and propel yourself forward. From the number of tourists I saw stuck next to the buildings and under bridges, the process isn't easy.

I, for one, was exhausted from a full day of touring; the kids were deliriously tired, but managed to pull out their last bits of enthusiasm for our boat ride.

All in all, the trip to Cambridge was fun, and I really enjoyed my daydreams about enrolling as a doctoral student. I have to say, not having any homework is pretty fun!

Cambridge University punting | CosmosMariners.com