Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cambridge - Home of Scarecrows and Beer

Karen's boyfriend Richard has been applying to colleges and universities over here in order to do his MBA. One of the places he applied to was Cambridge University. If he gets in, Karen will be moving up there so we thought we would spend a day wandering around getting a feel for the place that may one day be her home.

Okay, so I lie. We really went to see the scarecrow festival, but it sounded convincing right? And to a certain extent it is true, it just wasn't our main reason for going.

The train ride out to Cambridge was really easy and relatively cheap which was a nice surprise considering that the ATM at the train station stole £50 of my hard earned Aussie dollars. Turns out it also stole £50 of Karen's as well. So after a slight delay where I called Tasmania to lodge a complaint, we were off.

Cambridge is completely different to Oxford. I think I was expecting the same type of atmosphere but I didn't get it. Where Oxford is "antique" Cambridge is "up and coming". I know that sounds strange considering that it is still over 700 years old but Cambridge lacks that small country town feel that Oxford has. Oxford oozes history and if I close my eyes I can see the scholars wandering down the cobblestone streets in their 18th century garb. If I do the same thing in Cambridge I see 1950s men in their boat shoes and straw hats cycling down the streets laughing with women in full skirts and white button down blouses.

Before we had even exited the train station we were lost. To add insult to injury I put £1 into the map machine and I got no map. So far, no good. I was down £51 and we hadn't seen anything yet. Karen's pound coins seemed more amenable to the map machine and we managed to at least get a piece of paper that would give us a clue as to which direction to head in. We needed to get our bearings and what better way than finding the biggest church you can and going from there. Then we came up with the most brilliant and original idea of going to the Tourist Information Centre to find out where the scarecrow festival was. Finding the Tourist Information Centre wasn't easy either. But Karen was intrigued by the fact that you can exchange corn. We wanted to know what you exchanged corn with. And more importantly, could you exchange other vegetables as well or was it just corn?

Finally found the T/I/C and were perturbed to find out that we had missed the last morning bus to the Scarecrow festival. My question of "Can we walk there?" was met with strange sideways glances and I swear I heard a giggle and the word "Aussies!" slip from the ladies mouth. Apparently the Scarecrow festival was being held in a paddock in a "nearby" town. "Nearby" being a 35 minute bus journey. So, no more scarecrows on our itinerary.

You know that you should never underestimate my powers of finding markets anywhere, anytime, anyplace. But you should also never underestimate Karen's ability to find Fluff (marshmallow/fairy floss mixture) anywhere, anytime, anyplace. That's right, in the middle of our wandering Karen finds a man selling fluff in a pot.

Having given up on the whole map premise, Karen and I decided to just wander in the general direction of the University's houses. I can't believe how many there are. Certainly beats good old Mac Uni where it takes you 6.5 minutes to get from X5B to C4A (one end of the campus to the other). Here in Cambridge you can get lost in one university house let alone to 20 odd they have there.

We also managed to find the Judge School of Business Management where, should all go well, Richard would be studying at. "The Judge" as it is apparently known is a newer type of building and have very manicured lawns and a big burly security guard at the entrance way. It looks like a good place to study, but doesn't have any of the "age" of the other buildings that surround it.

I'm not one for stereotypes, you should know that now. But sometimes they really can not be helped. I mean, is it really our fault that we are Australian, or that Australian's are known for their beer consumption, or that we just happened upon the Cambridge Beer Festival in Jesus park? We can not be held responsible for fate like that! Nor can you be held responsible for anything that happens at a beer festival. Which is what I reckon the poor guy who was arrested for climbing up onto the tent roof in just a t-shirt and shorts is thinking right now as he tries to explain both his bail and the fact that he no longer has shoes! Not being the best beer drinker I quickly switched to the red wines and was pleasantly surprised at the fact that you could fit 75% of a bottle of wine into a pint glass. Considering my glass was empty by the time we had eaten cinnamon donuts (now there's a classy combination) and Karen had patted some Swedish people's dog, I am going to go out on a limb here and blame it for the fact that we found ourselves back at the train station bound for London having devoured a tub of Ben and Jerry's Fossil Fuel ice-cream and me clutching a hand held 99p fan whilst Karen harassed some American tourists who were also on our train.

I'm sorry Cambridge, but whilst I had a great time visiting you, I am still an Oxford girl. But at least now I know who to barrack for next year the the Head of the River Rowing Race!

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