We spent the day in Cambridge on Wednesday. It was quite the experience. We took the tube to King's Cross Station so we could catch the train to Cambridge. Sadly, we didn't have time before the train left to see platform 9 3/4 but no worries, I will be back there. Amy, Kaylee, Tara and I were traveling there together. Even though it was an event for our entire group, we were kind of on our own for parts of the day. Getting on the train was probably the closest thing I've experienced so far to a real Harry Potter experience. I felt like I was headed off to Hogwarts and it was a fabulous moment.
The train ride took about an hour and we had a good time chatting about whatever girls chat about. Once we got there, we had about an hour before we were supposed to meet up with everyone else. We weren't completely sure where we were going because none of us had ever been to Cambridge before. They just told us to meet at Pembroke College and we were supposed to figure it out from there. There was a map outside the train station so we figured out the streets we needed to find and it didn't prove to be too difficult, just super far away. It took us over a half an hour to walk there but when we arrived no one else was there yet. There was a big sign saying that the College was closed due to exams, but we decided that we looked enough like students that it wouldn't matter. We walked right into their courtyard and ate our lunch. Eventually was saw some of our group walk past so we went and joined them.
Let me explain a few things at this point in the story that may help you understand some things better. Cambridge is made up of multiple colleges. The easiest way to understand what a college is, is to compare it to a sorority or fraternity. Or even better, each one is sort of like a house of Hogwarts. Similar to Gryffidor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, Cambrige has various houses the students join. Each student just picks what college they want to be in, it isn't divided by what your studying or anything. Each college has a chapel, a garden, a hall (for eating and for sleeping) and a library. Almost all, or maybe all, of the colleges used to be monasteries. So each college is a part of Cambridge. Exams are not the sort of exams we thing of. As an undergraduate at Cambridge, you study for three years and you don't take any finals or anything like that. At the end of your three years, you take your "finals" or exams based on your past three years of education. Can you imagine how stressful that would be? Too stressful for me and we all know how much I stress anyways. I'm pretty sure exams would about kill me from how high my stress level would get.
Ok, so now that you have some explanations, let me continue. Once everyone gathered outside Pembroke, this professor from BYU that does a summer program at Cambridge met us and took us into the chapel. He gave us some info about the school and then had us split up into groups and go with some of the LDS students to different parts of Cambridge. My group went to the Wren Library which was pretty sweet. They have all these old documents and original letters and stuff. Basically cool stuff that nerdy English major people would find cool. Ok...maybe there were non English major people there, but you catch my drift. They would only let so many people into the library at a time to look at the displays so we had to wait outside for everyone else. While we were waiting I learned the strangest thing. No one is allowed to walk on the grass. And people actually follow that rule. Only really important people are allowed to walk on the grass, like the professors and stuff. But their professors aren't like a US professor. According to the student who led us around, the professors are more like the directors of departments. So anyways, we kept getting yelled at for stepping on the grass. Like even just accidentally stepping on the edge is no good.
After Wren Library we headed over to King's College. This is one of the more prestigious colleges. We got to tour their chapel, which normally you have to pay for but someone that is somehow connected to BYU got us in for free. It was a pretty chapel. When we first got there though, we went in semi the wrong way but all we had to do was go across this chain rope kind of thing that was pretty low to the ground and easy to step over. So that's what I did, just stepped over. Well this lady that works for the school opened up one of the connecting things so people could walk through right as I stepped over and she definitely glared me down. I'm thinking it was another one of those don't walk on the grass type things. Whatever, just call me a dumb American.
After, we went punting down the river which was freaking ridiculous. If you don't know what this is, it's sort of like a gondola. You have someone standing on the back with a long pole and you stick the pole in the bottom of the river bed and push off to get the boat to move. So here's the deal though. They have pro punters. But we didn't get to go with the pros. We punted ourselves. It was quite the experience. Tara started out and she was pretty pro at it. Then I tried and I wouldn't say I was horrible but I wasn't pro. Besides the fact that I was pretty much positive I would eventually fall in the Cam River if I got too crazy about my punting. So I was a tad bit on the more careful side. Some of the other punters in our boat were a little crazy and not so good at directing. But that's ok, we can't all be awesome at everything we do. But here the ridiculous part. We had some struggles along the way, so we were cutting it pretty close to making it back on time. We had 10 minutes to get back and we were probably 20 feet from the dock and it took us another 30 minutes to get 20 feet. How exactly does that happen you ask? Well, let me tell you. Tara the pro was punting again but this is a pretty high traffic area. Somehow we got turned around in the wrong direction so we needed to flip our boat around so the front was facing the dock. Every time we were on our way towards turning, we would get hit by another boat and we'd start going the other way, or the punt would get messed up a tad. It was crazy. We just sat there going in every direction but the one we wanted. For a good part of the time we were near one of the other punting companies dock and they kept trying to give us directions. Eventually they just sat there and laughed at us. Finally we got close enough to the dock that one of the pro punters could jump in our boat and get us where we wanted to be but it was a long process before that happened. It was pretty funny though and we had a good time.
Once our punting experience was over, we just wandered around Cambridge. It's a cute town and I liked it, but I don't think I would ever go there for an extended amount of time. A day trip was long enough for me. Once we got back to London, I found out that some of the LDS students had offered to take us to one of the formal dinners they have sometimes. They have the big long tables and they all wear robes and whatnot. Can you say ultimate Harry Potter experience!! I may have to go back for that, but we'll see....
P.S. I know I still suck at blogging in a timely manner. Please forgive me and just like reading it when its there.
P.S.S. Grandma, I hope you noticed that I omitted all "really cool's" in this post, just for you. =]