Monday, May 29, 2017

Cambridge, part 1

On Saturday morning we had another early wake-up call, to board a bus to Cambridge. Traffic was light and we made good time -arriving in about an hour and a half.

Our first activity was a punting tour. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat designed for shallow water with a platform on the back for the punter who propels the boat with a pole that pushes against the river bed. It felt a little bit like being on a gondola in Venice. We split into 4 punts, but mine and another kind of joined forces with our punters taking turns giving us commentary and at one point masterfully turning our boats around with the grace of synchronized swimmers.

Cambridge's Bridge of Sighs

Tight squeeze!
Kitchen Bridge

The start of our tour was rainy, which kept some of the crowds away, but it cleared up about halfway through and the river got progressively more packed.

The main sights on the tour were the various college buildings that make up the University of Cambridge. They were all very impressive and beautiful.

After our punting tour, we had a walking tour of the city primarily focusing on science related history since this student group are pre-med, biology, and forensic science students.
This is the entrance to Trinity College, where notable alumni include Isaac Newton, Prince Charles, Lord Byron, and Lord Tennyson.
This apple tree is grown from a graft of the apple tree from Newton's home that is said to have helped inspire him in his theory of gravity.
Bicycles are the primary mode of transportation for many of the residents in Cambridge, as most of the students are prohibited from having cars in order to reduce congestion in the city. You see bicycles everywhere!
 This is inside The Eagle pub, at the booth where James Watson and Francis Crick would eat lunch everyday. It was here on February 28, 1953 that they had announced they had "discovered the secret of life" with their discovery of the structure of DNA. The 2nd plaque recognizes the work of Rosalind Franklin whose crystallography enabled Crick and Watson to confirm their theory of DNA's structure.

Christ College, where Charles Darwin studied. 

In Cambridge you see a number of very, very old building with sealed up windows. This is because in the 17th-19th centuries, there were taxes based on the number of windows a building had. So, if you couldn't afford your taxes (or didn't want to pay high ones!), you would brick up some of your windows.

After our walking tour, we headed back to the bus. Originally we were supposed to have a few hours to explore the city, but several of the students had scheduled early evening flights to Paris for their 2 day break and their professors were scared that if there was traffic from the FA Cup finals or other delays that they wouldn't make it. I was a bit disappointed because the city is beautiful, but luckily I will be heading back there this Thursday with another group (hence the title of Cambridge, part 1).

In the evening, I went to dinner at the Kentish Town branch of Wahaca which is a chain of "Mexican street food" restaurants. I was quite suspicious of it when I first saw it, a) because all the Mexican and Tex-Mex food I have had in Europe has been disappointing and b) they spelled it Wahaca rather than Oaxaca, so how authentic could it be? But, one of my colleagues here who lived in Texas for 5 years assured me that it was good and said the reason for the spelling is because it is owned by the same people who run Wagamama's, an Asian food chain.

I was pleasantly surprised with the burn-your-mouth chipotle salsa and everything tasted good. They even have dishes with nopales.

The receipt came with what appeared to be a match book at first glance, but it was actually seeds to grow chili peppers! Cute! 

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