After our early morning run we enjoyed breakfast and lively conversation of UK politics with our hosts Robin and Jenny. Today is all about Cambridge. Cambridge University grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the towns people regarding a murder. We started at the Wren Library, which is the library of Trinity College and was designed by Christopher Wren and was completed in 1676. It is only open to the public from 12-2 and friends of ours who have visited told us to arrive 30 minutes ahead as the queue gets long and only 20 people are allowed in at one time. We arrived 45 minutes early and relaxed watching the boats punting on the Cam as we sat and read on the stair of the entrance. At 12 noon the door opened and we were the first ones in. It was worth the wait. No pictures are allowed but highlights of what we saw were 1. Isaac Newton’s first edition copy of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica with handwritten notes. 2. Isaac Newton notebook. 3. A lock of Isaac Newton’s hair. 4. A. A. Milne’s manuscript of Winnie The Pooh. 5. Walt Whitman’s edition of Leaves of Grass which was very controversial and banned in Boston. And many others, too numerous to mention or bore you with. We spent about 40 minutes in awe here and then moved on to The Fitzwilliam Museum.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. It was founded in 1816 and includes one of the best collections of antiquities and modern art in Western Europe.
Our tour of Cambridge with a graduate student was with Maria who attended and is now on the faculty of Linguistics. She was very knowledgeable and gave great anecdotes associated with each college mentioned. We started in front of The Senate House and then moved next door to Gonville & Caius where the most famous fellow and professor was Stephen Hawking who died in 2018 of ALS.
Trinity College’s strong point is mathematics. One of the most brilliant graduates was Sir Isaac Newton, less brilliant but as well known is Prince Charles who was not academically acclaimed. She told us that his personal body guard took final exams with Charles as he had attended all the classes and actually outscored him.
Kings College is known for the crypto-analyst Alan Turing who played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in WWII. His disputed cause of death was suicide by cyanide poisoning.
Our favorite college was Pembroke as it was the only one that we were actually able to go into and it is beautiful. It is the 3rd oldest college of Cambridge founded in 1347 by a French Royal, Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke. Because its founder was French and a strict disciplinarian the students were required to speak only French and had to wear college robes in the dining room that served food from Michelin starred chefs.
We wanted to end our day by attending Evensong at Kings College Chapel but they are still on summer break so we drive back to Ely for dinner at The Old Fire Engine House. This family run restaurant since 1968 with its founder reportedly still working was a little tired and slow that night. Not really recommended.
Even though this is booked as a road trip we still made 8.1 miles of walking and running.