28 January 2011

Cambridge in Black & White

What do you know, I've now blogged four times in the last week, and that is as many times as I blogged for all of 2010. I remember this semi-addicting blogging feeling, and I will continue to try to blog more...as I fodder about which to blog, of course. ;)

My time in Cambridge was pretty brief, but I truly fell in love with the place while I was there. When I pulled into town on the National Express bus the sunny spring morning of my flight from Zambia, I was amazed at how much I felt at home immediately. It's no wonder, really, since it is an "ancient" college town (at least by American standards). Since it was established in 1209, it is more than 600 years older than U of M. We just don't have insitutions in the US that are that old. To quote Eddie Izzard: "I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from. Oh, yeah. You tear your history down, man! “30 years old, let's smash it to the floor and put a car park here!" I have seen it in stories. I saw something in a program on something in Miami, and they were saying, "We've redecorated this building to how it looked over 50 years ago!" And people were going, "No, surely not, no. No one was alive then!". Surely not...and they were definitely not housing insitutions of scientific thought, and certanly not 900 years ago, either.

The city stole my heart immediately. I took a lot of pictures, and I think that buildings like these are really best represented in black and white.

BW Path

Bike on Round Street

As a college town, with lots of students without cars, and many narrow streets, alleys, and pedestrian pathways where cars aren't allowed, or just won't fit, many people rely on bikes to get around. In fact, Cambs is pretty much known for its bikes:

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Cambridge Bikes

The towers of the Great St. Mary's (GSM) Church. Staff must live within 20 miles from the Church, and undergraduates must live within 3 miles. It is home to the Cambridge University Organ, and the University Clock (pictured below).

St. Mary's Church

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The Cambridge University Clock (on GSM). The Bell tower pictured above houses the bells for this clock.
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Though the University itself was founded in 1209, it is comprised of several colleges (I think we would call them schools) with different founders, and varying specialities. Keng Henry VI founded The King's College in 1441. It was intended to be a college for the boys of Eton College (remember the Eton Mess from my last post?). It wasn't until 1865, that the first non-Etonian student began his studies at KC.

King's College, Cambridge

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Henry VIII -BW

I thought the Buildings were really beautiful, and enjoyed an entire afternoon, milling about, and looking at the buildings while savored a lovely afternoon tea complete with scones, clotted cream, and proper lemon curd.

Tea break

...and also now some other buildings:
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St. Botolph's church:
Half open church door

Church Window

Many of the schools have gates with keepers (dressed in robes like in Harry Potter), and I wasn't allowed inside the grounds of the individual colleges. But I enjoyed glimpsing them, and trying to peek inside where I could:

St. John's College Church
St. John's College Church

And finally, a place that cemented in my mind that we really don't know anything about good candy in the US:
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I LOVED this place. Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe had so many tasty candies, licorice, bonbons, gum balls, gummy candies (my favorite!), boiled candies, and jars of wonderfulness I couldn't believe my eyes.

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I think I spent 2 hours in there reveling in multiple levels of floor-to-ceiling sweets. I ultimately came away with about 8GBP of candy that only took me about 15 minutes to eat. I tried to savor it, but I just couldn't. I <3 candy. :)

25 January 2011

Verulamium and the Fighters

Cute Ginger girl
So as it turned out, St Albans was a really great idea for K and I to visit. I was excited about the history of the Cathedral there, but I was even more excited to learn about the Roman history of the place, too. Long before there was a St Albans, there was the settlement of Uerulamos, which is Brittonic for 'Broad-Hand' in this place.

To give you a bit of the context (I like history): According to the Roman record, by CE 50, Verulamium was a municipium, meaning unlike actual Roman Colonies, citizens of Verulamium weren't granted full citizenship under Roman law. In CE 43, under Claudius, Romans maintained a treaty with the Iceni people -- the ancient Brittons of East Anglia. When their ruler Prasutagus died in c. CE 60, the Romans (now under Nero) attempted to confiscate their land, and annex the realm for Nero. Under their queen, Boudicca, the Iceni revolted, sacked and burned the Roman British Capital in Colchester, London, and the settlement of Verulamium (now St Albans) around CE 61. After this, the city did thrive under the Romans for a couple of hundred years (at least) following the destruction of Boudicca's rebellion, and the citizens of Verulamium eventually received full "Latin Rights" from the Romans. (Sources: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica, BBC, British Museum).


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Today, there isn't much of Verulamium left, save for bits of wall, a hypocaust, and some of a Roman Theatre. Inside the museum, there are quite a few artifacts, and reproductions of what Roman life might have been like during the time. Above, there is one of the beautiful hypocaust mosaics.

This is a recovered bronze figure of the Roman Goddess Venus:
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This Sea God Mosaic is from sometime between c. CE 150 and CE 300.
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The Oldest Pub in England
So after all of the historic sight-seeing in Verulamium, K and I got hungry. Within walking distance is a small public house called, Ye Old Fighting Cocks. It is considered by the Guinness Book to be the oldest pub in England, though there is some competition from other pubs. Originally, the pub was known as the 'Round House,' likely because of the round-ish, octagonal structure that makes up the main section. As the sport of cock fighting gained a foothold, the pub was re-branded as Ye Old Fighting Cocks, sometime in the 19th century. Today, this country-inn style pub is affectionately known to locals as "The Fighters."

Though I find cock-fighting to be brutal, unnecessary violence of similar ilk to dog fighting, I still thought it was neat to see one of the old taxidermed roosters on display. I'm certainly glad that it is not a place for cock fighting now.
Old FIghting Cock


Real Ale
While in the UK, I learned about the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) , a movement to increase the appreciation for traditional beers, ciders, and perries as a part of national heritage. The Fighters just so happens to be home to CAMRA, and so I was able to try a couple of different kinds of 'Real' ale. I don't recall what kinds these were, but I do remember that I like them!

Eton Mess!!!
The part of The Fighters that stood out to me the most was the menu. Sure, there was all your usual fish and chips, but there were also a couple of vegetarian options as well! On this day, K and I both opted for some summer veg and squash(?) baked in a beautiful puff pastry shell. SO delicious! Then, the real show stopper was the dessert that we chose - Eton Mess. Even this dessert has a history! It is traditionally served at the annual Eton Collage v. Winchester College cricket match, and strawberries are customary, though just about any summer fruit could be used in it. This one was made from cream, berries, and bits of sweet meringue. No one is really sure where the 'mess' part comes from, though some think it's because of the messy appearance of the dish, and others think it comes from mixing ingredients together. Either way, I assure you, K and I made a mess of it. It was absolutely delicious, and perfect for such a lovely summer day in East Anglia!

23 January 2011

St. Albans Cathedral

Oh look at me blogging twice in two days!!!!

Springtime in the UK is truly beautiful. Everything is lush and green, and there is really a great deal more sunshine than you'd expect. Certainly, it's not Southern California, but it's still lovely and beautiful, and exactly where I'd like to spend a few years of my life. The weather in May was perfect for a day trip, so K let me decide the location. After a bit of research, I discovered that St Albans was close enough for a nice day trip. The town had a couple of things that I was particularly interested in-- it was the site of the ancient Roman (and also pre-roman) settlement of Verulamium, and also home to the oldest pub in Britain (but I'll write about both of those later).


One of the first things that you see in St Albans is the St Albans Cathedral. As the story goes, the town gets its name from a man named Alban, the first British saint. Sometime around CE 250, when Christians were still persecuted by the Romans, Alban hid the priest in his home to protect him. Eventually, the Roman soldiers came in search of the priest, and that was when Alban exchanged cloaks with the priest. He was arrested in place of the priest, taken to the magistrate, and publicly professed his new faith as a Christian. He was condemned to death, and according to the legend was beheaded on the spot where St Albans Cathedral named for him now stands. After his beheading, his head rolled down the hill, and a spring supposedly sprang up on the spot where it stopped. It is today known as Holywell The site is on a steep hill and legend has it that his head rolled down the hill after being cut off and that a well sprang up at the point where it stopped.

The grounds around the Cathedral were really beautiful. Lots of greenery, and lots of remains of the old Abbey and cloisters, though they are no longer in use.







Once on the inside of the Cathedral, you're greeted by the Norman Abbey, built in a 'cruciform' style, was one of the largest towers built in England at the time (11th c). The foundation was quite solid, and today, the tower is the only 11th century 'great crossing tower' still standing.





K and I did take a tour of the Cathedral, but I can't for the life of me remember anything that we heard. I remember really loving beautiful the Icon wall wall:


And noted the weird 'Death Eater' style skull with wings on the wall:


When standing in the Nave, if you turn your back to the Icon screen, and look at the Rose Window, and you see a window that was added after the Great War (WWI), to represent the allied fighters during the War.


Then, you see some fresco-style paintings on some of the columns in the cathedral. They seem a bit out of place, and I think that they are. They don't really correspond with the style of the architecture around it, because they are 11th century fresco paintings of various Crucifixion scenes. This is one of them:



On the tour, we went to the rear of the church (to the back side of the Icon Wall), and got a chance to hear the Choir rehearsing for an upcoming event.

video

And then, while the choir was singing, we also got to see the Reliquary which contained the remains of St Alban. See it here:

video

22 January 2011

Crick & Watson, and Discovering Lord Fairhaven

It would seem that it has been rather a long time since I was a regular blogger on this blog. If I were the type of person who made New Year's Resolutions, I might resolve to be a better blogger for you this year. But since I'm not, how about I just try harder to blog more than four times this year. It's not that I don't have plenty of pictures and stories of the places where I've gone, I just don't ever manage to sit down and write something for the five people that read this blog, including Andrea (hi Moglie!).

I think a good place for me to start getting caught up, would be Cambridge. I don't mean that imposter Cambridge, the one in Massachusetts, I mean the first, real, original Cambridge in the UK. While returning home from Zambia last year, I stopped off in Cambs for a few days to visit with my friend, and amazing hostess, K. After 3 weeks in Zambia, I flew 14 hours, and was a little bit disoriented trying to find the National Express hub at Heathrow. But when I finally found it, and saw that there was a Caffe Nero (my favorite!) this is what I looked like...oh yeah, that bad.
Me - 5/1/10

I rode for nearly 3 hours from London to Cambridge, where K met me. Almost as soon as I arrived, I realized that 5 days would not be nearly enough time to fully absorb a city that's been around for 2,000 years. I had a bit of rest, and then we were off for lunch, a bit of sightseeing, and and of course, mint chocolate chip ice cream!
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The Eagle - Cambridge
We stopped off at The Eagle Pub, the site where in 1667, Crick and Watson announced the "secret of life"-- DNA.
The Eagle - Cambridge

The Eagle is owned by Corpus Christi College, and is one of the larger pubs in the city. In the back, there is the RAF bar, where the ceiling has graffiti from US airmen and sailors during WWII.
The Eagle - Cambridge

Cambridge gets its name from the River Cam, and very popular pasttime in the area is "punting" down the river in a flat-bottomed boat with a 5m pole used to steer, and propel the boat forward. It was still a little chilly when I got there, so I opted just to watch. Next time, I'll definitely give it a try.
Punting on the Cam


Anglesey Abbey
On the next day, we visited Anglesey Abbey, where K spends a lot of time volunteering, and coordinating many activities on the grounds. According to wikipedia, "Anglesey Abbey is a country house, formerly a priory, in the village of Lode. The house and its grounds are owned by the National Trust [think of it like the American version of The National Park Service/Department of the Interior]...The grounds were laid out in an 18th-century style by the estate's last private owner, the 1st Baron Fairhaven, in the 1930s...The 1st Lord Fairhaven also improved the house and decorated its interior with a valuable collection of furniture, pictures and objets d'art."

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Everything there was so green, and looked so lush. I could have spent several hours just wandering around the grounds and looking at all the fun things in the gardens.

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While there, I seem to have developed a fascination with doors that carried me through the rest of my trip there. Even the most basic doors would draw my attention, and I still can't explain why. I promise I'll post later with all the pictures of the doors that I found...or maybe not. ;) Anyway, let me give you an example. This door, was a service door to one of the many kitchens (I think):
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This is the door to a garden. See what I mean?
Iron Door

This was a pretty exciting day for me. The Abbey is loaded with all sorts of interesting pieces of art, jewelry, and clothing from Lord Fairhaven. The clothes were so tiny, think that they probably would have fit someone about 14 years old in the contemporary US:
Lord Fairhaven's closet

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When we walked into the library, one of the first things I noticed were the cross-hatched windows. Upon closer examination, I realized that people had etched their names on the glass. Before I was able to get upset at 'thoughtless tourists defacing historic sites,'I learned that it was actually Lord Fairhaven and his friends who etched their names into the class in celebration of the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany. You'll see that some of them are dated May 8th 1945, the date of the formal recognition of the end of WWII.

Elizabeth R

Caroline Newman VE day

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Lord Fairhaven Window Etching

After an exciting afternoon at the Abbey, we'd worked up quite an appetite. K and I stopped off at a local pub, a historic one to be sure, but I can't remember the name now, where her friend A joined us for dinner. I of course had fish and chips with a pint of beer. After dinner, I needed dessert. K and A told me I had to learn that if I wanted dessert, I had to ask for pudding. It's all very strange to me, but as you can see, I fully embraced this one:
Pudding...or dessert?