University of Cambridge

 photo Fitzbillies20cafe20exterior_zpsirdmxbfr.jpg I hear a lot of angry British people mutter about people who went 'Oxbridge'. Oxbridge is a combination of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and is basically like saying Ivy League in the States. Just like in the States, there are crazy smart overachievers as well as trust fund babies, but it's really funny to watch people's ears prick up like a dog when they hear OXBRIDGE, whether they hate it or worship it.

I just went for the cheese scones.

In September I went to a musical instrument conference at the University of Cambridge. The conference was hilarious because it was partly organised by the Institute of Acoustics, and apparently a lot of the academics researching and writing about instruments are physicists and astronomers because they know about sound bouncing around in a conical shape and such. Half of the presentations were lots of math equations up on a Powerpoint slide and I was a little terrified, but there were also some insane 3D scanning and renderings going on.

 photo Kings College and pasture_zpsdff4fq2w.jpg  photo University of Cambridge punting boats_zpssdnpgyzg.jpg  photo Punting Univ of Cambridge_zpszl7t4kiz.jpg Now, there are two things I think about when I think of Cambridge. The first is my friend Denys, who studied abroad there for a year and who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts while she was at MIT. The second is Brideshead Revisited, or else every other kinds of early 20th century novel about sad privileged white boys being super sad because, you know, sleeping on a bed made of money is uncomfortable at times. Of course, now Cambridge is more than simply a posh boys' club; women can go to Cambridge now and it's full of super smart, terrifying geniuses like my friend. But lots of things stayed the same and the whole place is very weirdly historic. The river is a big thing, and there are lots of flat boats you can rent (they call it punting) to pretend you are in Bridget Jones reciting Keats while drinking a Diet Coke. Or so I assume. Anyway, the river and its surrounding bits were really pretty and picturesque, and there were cows everywhere to complete the whole countryside motif.

The most medieval part (I think) is King's College Chapel, which has all the important components of high medieval architecture and what everyone on house-shopping shows on HGTV is looking for: high ceilings, lots of natural light, CHARACTER, and tons of storage. This chapel in particular has really amazing spindly ceiling bits that fan out like a plant. There's also some SERIOUS stained glass going on in there. The glass looks amazing when it's sunny out, and the whole place looks very bright and airy because the stone is light in color and the whole place is basically a glass box, whereas cathedrals are sometimes darker from their shape and exterior things blocking light (or dirty old stonework).

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Another friend who went to Cambridge for undergrad was explaining all the rituals and traditions and such and I got a little overwhelmed, but she said that you sit in your College in the chapel, thus the awesome members only plaque above. She also directed me to Fitzbillies, the cafe in the first picture, where they serve cheese scones. I went back to that place way more times than I should have in three days, but I have no regrets about those delicious damn scones.

I really enjoyed wandering around Cambridge because it had plenty of funky old parts like alleyways and ancient pubs and such. It was nice too because I came right before all the new undergrads would get there, so it was pretty peaceful and I didn't get run over by a swarm of cyclists like I thought I might. I was really into the whole medieval thing. In fact, I met someone at the conference who showed me around Peterhouse, the oldest College at Cambridge with a dining hall that was supposedly the oldest building in England still used for its original purpose. SO MANY MEDIEVAL GOINGS ON!

And there will be even more medieval goings on in my next post: Canterbury Cathedral!

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