On October 3rd, I said goodbye to the warmth and sun on the Isle of Man and ferried to Liverpool on a damp, gray day, hopped in a cab to Liverpool Station where I then took a train to Godmanchester, an ancient Roman village in Cambridgeshire to housesit for the next 10 days.
The Coleman family was heading to the sun (where temps in the 100’s) on the Canary Islands while I stayed in their lovely home with Crumble, the cat, and Darby, an adorable and blind Lhasa Apso. They also gave me carte blanche to help myself to their fully-stocked fridge and freezer – yippee!
Their home was in walking distance to a great pub, a very convenient Co-Op, and the village’s lovely common area where the River Great Ouse meanders through. Buses to Huntingdon were nearby as well as the ones the Cambridge and London.
|The White Hart – my neighborhood pub & a 5-minute walk|
|My ‘home’ for the week|
I choose my ‘housesits‘ based on areas of the country I want to explore and specific places I want to visit. The Godmanchester sit was a very last-minute replacement when my confirmed sit in Wales was canceled. But it worked out perfectly. Both time-wise and putting me a short bus-ride away from the historic town of Cambridge, a ‘must’ on my must-see list.
As I am sure you all know, Cambridge and Oxford are the most well-known university towns in England and are in constant competition with each other. Cambridge was founded in 1209 and is the 2nd-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the 4th-oldest surviving university.
Famous alumni include Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, John Oliver, Jane Goodall, John Cleese, Adrianna Huffington, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking…and many, many more. So they have every right to brag about the success of their student population.
I was so thrilled that my friend Jan Dengis, a fellow member of International Women Associates of Chicago, and now a resident of London, could join me for the day of exploration.
We started with a 2-hour walking tour lead by an extremely knowledgeable Cambridge ‘local.’ Our lovely guide not only took us to the most note-worthy and well-known spots, giving us the history and the architectural importance of the building we saw, but also ‘snuck us in’ to areas that were normally forbidden to tour groups. I was thrilled to learn that the glorious King’s College Chapel was open that day for viewing.
I could write for hours on the history of Cambridge University and it’s colleges, but I will only take a moment to explain that ‘a college’ at an English university is what we in the States would call an expanded residential college dormitory. Take King’s College for example.
|You can only walk on the grass if you are a member of Kings|
The two photo’s above are only part of King’s College. Here students live, eat their meals in a large dining hall (think Harry Potter), have access to their own libraries, meet in the rooms of King’s professors, participate in sporting events – all aspects of college life while here. They attend classes at university – they live in the colleges.
Each college chooses which students, after an extraordinarily hard-won application to Cambridge University has been earned, they want to join their ranks. It’s based on their major focus of study (math, chemistry, etc. as each college has its specialty), their family background (this IS England) and of course, their ability to pay, though we learned that the yearly fee to attend an English University is quite cheap in comparison to the States and Cambridge is well-known for its scholarship program. It’s the cost of the college that can be steep – though they too offer scholarships to gifted students.
Here are just a few photos I took during our morning walk. Just click on them to see larger copies.
After a great lunch at the famous Eagle Pub (1607), the sun came out of hiding and we decided it wouldn’t really be a tour of Cambridge unless we went punting on the River Cam.
The views of the town, University, and colleges from the river were amazing and floating slowly down the river with your guide ‘poling’ you along, was a great way to end a wonderful day.
The Coleman’s returned all tanned and rested and I was off to catch a bus to London (not the thing to do in morning rush-hour!) I was over an hour late and thought for sure I would miss my train to Brighton. But phew! Made it just in time and soon I was being greeted by my good friend Carole Kabel, who I worked with at Wrigley Field all last season.
She had married a gentleman from Brighton and has visited at least twice-a-year for over 40 years. It’s her second home, and after his passing and then his mother’s just this past year, she and her son’s decided to keep the large and excellently located family apartment. When I told her I had 3 1/2 free days before my next housesit just south of her, she invited me to be her guest. Did we ever have fun!
Brighton is about an hour’s train ride from London, has been a nearby seaside resort of choice for vacationing Londoners, Kings, Queens and noblemen and ladies since the late 1800’s.
The architecture, the beach, The Lanes and especially The Dome and the Pavillion make this town, originally founded in 3500 BC – yes, that’s BC, still a great place to visit – when it’s off-season. Not being a great fan of large masses of humanity, summer fills the streets and beaches with so many people that it is almost impossible to move!
I spent half a day taking a walking/audio tour of The Royal Pavillion and cannot tell you how disappointed I was when I learned I couldn’t take photos of the inside. OMG – this extravagant building which the Prince Regent, later King Geroge IV, built is an Englishman’s concept of what a Chinese palace would look like by someone who had never been to China! It is so amazing and beautiful and totally over-the-top! The photos of the inside are not mine but from their official website. Click on the link to see much more of the insides.
|The main dining room|
|The Music Room|
|The dragon that ‘holds’ the central chandelier in the dining room, which weighs over a ton!|
|The band gazebo on the beach|
|The beautiful row houses|
|A keyboard playing zebra? Made my day!|
|Oldest pub in Brighton|
Carole and I stayed up two nights in a row until 3 a.m. watching our computers to see our Cub win. But soon it was time to say goodbye and head to Eastbourne for my last housesit in the UK.
We take long walks along the sea front or into town for a cup of tea – when it isn’t raining – which it’s been doing a lot! So glad I bought a really light-weight ‘puffer’ down coat at TK Maxx in Brighton as I’ve certainly needed it to keep warm!