Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well I went to Cambridge...

It has been a pretty action-packed few days, with a lot of miles covered from Stratford to Glasgow. On Sunday, after leaving the hotel and our new sheep friends at Stratford-Upon-Avon, we took a slight two and a half hour detour to see Cambridge, patronised by kings such as Henry VIII and home to scholars such as my favourite historian David Starkey. We arrived in Cambridge after a pleasant drive at about 1.30pm, when Mads had to listen to the Manchester City game against Newcastle. So she spent the first two hours sitting in the car in the shopping centre carpark, and I mostly stayed with her but popped in to the shops once or twice.

Finally the game finished (Man City won, thankfully, and now have a real chance of winning the premiership) and after a quick chat to Benjamina on the phone we toddled off to see the university. Cambridge is a really, really pretty town, and it is amazing to think of all the knowledge amassed here over so many hundreds of years. It was really busy, and full of bikes! There were thousands of them everywhere! We had a look at the King’s College Chapel, which is enormous, and strolled past Trinity College (founded by Henry VIII), as well as a couple of other colleges – they were all closed, though, so we couldn’t look inside the gates, but it was all very impressive and very old all the same. Another observation about Cambridge: there are a lot of tailors and suit shops, all displaying tweed ‘collegewear’ in the windows. We did see one or two obvious Toffs, but more interestingly there seemed to be a few initiation rituals going on: a group of blokes hopping around saying ‘kangaroo’ in strange outfits (even funnier as Mads had earlier that day been lamenting how she missed seeing kangaroos by the side of the road...); and girls in green and purple with painting and drawings all over their skin being led around by other girls looking normal (one of the girls in purple was so intoxicated, mind you, she actually couldn’t stand up and bumped her head on the cobblestones).  Still, it seemed like a nice place all the same.

Typical clothing store in Cambridge: frocks and tweed.

Bicycles: the only way to get around!

Hmm, apparently they're not all as intellectual as one would think... actually this guy played pretty well considering he was in a bin...

One of the colleges. Apparently the brown building on the left was established around 1635. 

Trinity College, founded by Henry VIII

The back end of King's College Chapel.

Just an old, windy street in Cambridge.

Feeling like my IQ had gone up a point or two, and noticing my pretentiousness levels increasing at a rapid pace, we got back in the car and headed for ancient York, home to Romans, Vikings, Angles and Normans alike, on the A1. Roadsigns all point to the NORTH, always capitalised like some kind of warning: this road leads to the NORTH, are you sure you want to go to the NORTH, turn back now you’re going to the NORTH!! We arrived in York at about 8pm (still light, of course, which feels odd) and checked in to our guest house, run by a tough-looking, tattoo-covered but really, really nice fellow. We walked into town after settling in, and had a delicious Indian dinner at a restaurant, with seriously the best nan bread ever!


Clifford's Tower

We had the best sleep EVER at that guest house, which was unfortunately cut short because breakfast is served between 8 and 9am. It was a nice, home cooked meal, and it meant that we got a nice early start to the day. So after checking out we headed in to town again, got there at 9.30 before everything opened so we walked up to the Shambles, a tudor street in which the crooked buildings hang over the street, they are very cute, and we got some ‘cinder toffee’ which is basically what we in Australia would call ‘honeycomb’.

Mads at the Shambles

We went to Clifford’s Tower next, which is pretty much all that remains of an old castle whose history dates back to the 11th Century, in the middle of town. It’s really cool, the actual tower being built in the 13th Century, and only the stone walls and floor remain. You can, however, see windows, fireplaces, spiral staircases, a well, and a chapel, and there is a walk around the top of the walls (a little scary for me, being terrified of heights and all I did get a little... dizzy I suppose, but I pushed through!!). Heartbreakingly, it was the scene in 1190 of an attack on the Jewish people of York, who took refuge in the tower and in the end chose to end their own lives rather than die at the hands of the rioters.

Preparing to storm Clifford's Tower

Up we go!

Spiral stairs up to the first floor and wall walk.

On the wall

So high! There was no way I was leaning over like that...

Here, you can see a fireplace and doorway, as well as the windows in the remaining walls in the tower.

Mads going down stairs

Next up on the program: York Minster, which dominates the York skyline and is incredibly massive, even today! You can only imagine how a person living in medieval times must have felt looking up at the massive tower, it would have blown their little socks off! It is an excellent example of gothic architecture: stained glass, rose windows, flying buttresses, arches everywhere, the perfect symmetry: I have a real appreciation for gothic architecture, I love the giant scale of it, and how it looks really chaotic and overdone but if you really look, it’s actually very ordered and organised. The minster really was very beautiful, and it’s been a pretty historically significant place, too, with Parliament meeting in the chapter house in the past.

York Minster from the top of Clifford's Tower

This place is absolutely massive!

Ah the symmetry...

Chapter House. Stunningly beautiful, the stained glass windows almost go all the way around the room.

Mads being no one in Chapter House.

The view from the main altar.

I have a thing for old, worn stairs.

There was a very cool moment when we left the Minster, Mads stopped to send a text to one of her friends and we looked up and happened to be standing in front of Guy Fawkes’ Birthplace: this kind of thing happens all the time in England. There’s just so much bloody history here!!

Guy Fawkes' Birthplace, now the Guy Fawkes Inn

Next up we took a brief toddle around the city wall, which was nice, but we started to run out of time as we’d only paid for parking until 12.30pm. Mind you, not a bad effort for three hours of sightseeing! So we hopped in the Audi again and pushed further NORTH.

Walking the wall

It’s kind of funny how the buildings change the further NORTH you go: as we went they started to look more drab and depressing, like they are the homes of some man who’s gone mad after the death of his wife, or a child who lives in a dream world because they’ve been forced to live with an abusive distant relation after being orphaned, like in so many old books. There were a lot of dilapidated barns and houses falling down, but the land is still beautiful and green, with hedges and rolling fields and cows and sheep.  It also became noticeably more hilly, contrasting with the absolute flatness of the South. We passed two crumbling castles, and finally got to Scotland – for a while we couldn’t tell if we were still in England or had passed in to Scotland, but finally passed a big blue sign welcoming us.

The NORTH of England.

One of the crumbly castles we passed on the way to Scotland.

Yaaaay we made it!!

It didn’t take long to get to Glasgow after crossing the border and I have to say it’s not the prettiest city I’ve ever seen. We didn’t do any exploring last night, because frankly we were buggered. And only after a very long sleep in this morning we ventured out of the hotel. We realised that actually we don’t know a single thing about Glasgow or what there is here, and owing to a cold which reached its peak today I didn’t really feel like doing much. So we went to the movies to see The Avengers, which is awesome. I love superheroes. I wish I was a superhero. We did go for a wander around Glasgow after the film: there is a river, and a lot of kilt shops. As I said before, it’s not the prettiest of cities, but the best thing about Glasgow? SCOTTISH ACCENTS!! I cannot resist a Scottish accent, so all day I’ve been feeling rather melty, every time anyone says anything that has ‘r’ in it I’m gone! Mads also got rather excited when we walked past King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, where her precious Oasis was discovered. Back to the hotel for room service dinner and day one in our ancestral homeland was done!

Downtown Glasgow

The River Clyde

This spire has a ship at the top!

Kilt shop!

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, where, according to Mads the fanatic, Oasis was discovered. 

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