Monday, April 16, 2018

UK Day 4- Cambridge

This entry has been difficult to write, and it's difficult to explain why.  I know why, but it sounds ludicrous to anyone who's not me, so I'll save the reasons for my personal journal and simply go about the logistics of our third full day in England.  After being up way too late on Saturday (you remember, the night we got separated in central London and walked through urine?) we were up bright and early to catch a train to Cambridge.  

It was by the grace of God that this day was more or less free of misfortune, compared to every other day in England.  I was grateful, because we really needed the break. 

This was my second bucket list item and was non-negotiable.  I'd been corresponding with one of the lead researchers in the Cognition and Brain Science Unit at the University of Cambridge, and he was going to take me on a tour of the unit and let me see their labs.  It really was a dream come true, only second to actually matriculating there.  Its' been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember loving the area of cognition and neural science, to do my PhD at Cambridge, in the very pace where so many of my idols studied.  But alas, it was never in the cards, so I decided I'd settle for at least getting to visit.

Oh, how wrong I was.  Being there only intensified my thirst and I'll spend the rest of my life roaming through a desert with nothing to drink.  Dramatic?  Not to me.  If you spent a day swimming around in my head, you'd understand why it's such a dream of mine.  However, our plans changed last minute and rather than going to Cambridge on Monday as originally decided, we could only squeeze it in on Sunday, and the Brain Science Unit was closed and I didn't get my full tour.  It's probably for the best, though.  I think I'd end up even more depressed than I already am.

So back to the beginning.  We walked the ten minutes to the Tube station and headed to King's Cross.  From there, we took the 9:00 train to Cambridge.  Hailey was sound asleep within five minutes, but the other kids and I loved staring out the window as the London scenery drastically changed to cow fields and brick cottages and barns.  It took almost an hour, and when the train pulled into the station at Cambridge, I almost cried.  Again, read my personal journal if you want to understand why.  There was a spirit about the place that's hard to describe, but I imagined students like Paul Dirac or Jane Goodall or Stephen Hawking stepping off onto that very platform way back in the day as they traveled between home and university.  I'd have listed Charles Darwin here, but his days of travel between Cambridge and Shrewsbury were before the railway came to those parts. 

We had no plans for the day, other than to explore.  We were completely winging it and all we had to do was make it back to the train station to catch the 8:20 train that evening.  We hopped on the first bus that came our way and would later discover that ALL of the double-deckers in the UK are adorned with blue and orange all over the insides, so it was like Garrett was riding along with us everywhere we went.  Ethan, our resident "Too Cool Teenager", acted like he didn't know us most of the day.  We stayed on that bus and did an entire loop around the city before finally getting off.  

The town of Cambridge was absolutely charming.  It was clean, well kept, and had such a safe and secure feel about it.  The houses were small and humble, but the gardens were well tended and very little was out of place.  We were fortunate to catch a beautiful day and we passed so many little parks and primary schools, and several times on the bus I thought to myself that maybe it was possible to uproot our family for a few years and live in this haven of a town.  Too bad some dreams have to remain dreams, though. (No pictures of the village and houses, because that's all video.)

We eventually made it to the city center and started really exploring before heading over to the university.  Apparently St. Andrew was a prominent figure in Cambridge and there were Andrew signs everywhere.  The colleges that make up the university were spread out over several blocks, and we found ourselves inside the Downing College grounds.  Around the whole university, all of the walking paths were still pebbled rather than paved.  I imagined carriages driving over the pebbles. I imagined boots hitting the pebbles.  I loved everything about it.

It took no time for Cody to tell me he understood why I needed to visit.  He was blown away at the beauty and the history that met us at every turn.  

Because we were there on a Sunday, everything was a little slower and quieter than normal, and mass was happening that evening at St. Mary's Cathedral right across from King's College.  When I think of Cambridge in my mind, I picture Kings, and the real-life thing was so much like what I imagined all these years.  Its gothic majesty is unparalleled and although I wanted to run right in and breathe in every part of it, I also wanted to go to the Cambridge Press Bookstore, which was closing early because of the day.  

Even though I couldn't attend there, at least I could buy some books.  And tea.  And pictures and trinkets and all kinds of things to help ease my heart.  

The gates to the King's Chapel courtyard were closed, and I was so disappointed.  But we explored the outside and I took about one hundred pictures, trying to imprint every detail in my memory.  Upon exploring King's Parade Street, a man approached us and asked if we wanted to take a gondola ride down the river.  Of course!  Our guide had grown up in Cambridge and lived there all his life, and we learned a lot from him.  The buildings right along the river bank were remarkable and old and laden with stories, and I didn't want the ride to end.  We passed the very place where Isaac Newton realized his laws of motion and gravitation.  It was completely fantastic in every way.  

I wish I could crop these annoying ladies out of the picture.  Also, I love the positioning of the guide's pole. 

The famous "Math" bridge. 

The back of King's Chapel. 

We went to mass, but Lauren started running a fever and was barely able to keep her head up, so we had to skip out early.  I hated to leave without at least one picture, even though I felt kind of disrespectful to snap a picture during their sacred service.  However, I wanted to remember everything about it.  The choir, the organ, the rosary, the flowers, everything.  

We were hungry, but most places along St. Andrew's Street were already closing.  Another thing we discovered- so many stores and restaurants close very early in England, even in London!  We found a yummy burger place open that overlooked one of the many city parks, and people were out there playing football.  It was the perfect backdrop to dinner, even though at one point Devin started acting like an idiot and knocked his milkshake glass onto the floor, shattering it into bits.

Not sure what this sculpture is, but the kids loved it!

Because Lauren was so sick (and boy, did she get sicker), we didn't walk the whole way back to the train station, which we originally wanted to do.  We walked several blocks before she almost passed out, and when it was time to say goodbye to that spectacular town that I'd spent years dreaming about, I had a giant lump in my throat.  I kept telling Cody, "I'm not ready to say goodbye to this place."  But our departing train told us it was time to go.  

By the way, when we got back to London it was late and we were exhausted after having slept so little the night before and still getting over jet lag.  We saw the infamous Harry Potter trolley at the mythical Platform 9 3/4, but who in their right mind would stand in line for two hours just to have their picture taken with it, is beyond me.  I like Harry Potter, but not THAT much.  It's certainly not why we came to London, but I did get a quick picture when no one was standing right in front of it.  

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