colleges and punting



Cambridge has a special place in my heart.  My father graduated from Cambridge University, and I lived there for the first three years of my life, visited almost every year during the years spent in the US, and lived here from September 2011 to August 2012 with my two daughters, then aged 8 and 16.  For us, no trip to England is complete without time spent in Cambridge with our dear friend Mike, a don at one of the colleges.  But the weeks spent in England this summer will not be leisurely for me:  I have to do final revisions to my two manuscripts for thrillers and complete a proposal for a memoir entitled, appropriately enough, The Year of Living Englishly.

We left Boston at 8 a.m., and arrived in the beautiful town of Cambridge, England, at midnight English time, 7 p.m. east coast time, a full day’s journey via car, plane, bus, and taxi.  Cambridge was as it always is, spectacular in its architecture, fascinating in its storied history, and filled with the energy of students and tourists.

There is always a “lot on” in Cambridge, with concerts, plays, lectures, and readings:

Notices of college events

We stopped by my younger daughter’s former public school (called a state school here).  Almost everyone gets to school on a bike.  Here’s the area set aside for this mode of transportation:

bicycles everywhere!

Cambridge automobile drivers are generally very considerate towards children and others biking around the town, and given the abundance of bike lanes and the awful traffic jams at rush hour, biking is by far the best way to get around.

At my daughter’s former primary school which serves children ages 4-11, I saw a lunch-time menu.  Note the vegetarian option, the local sourcing, the free range chicken and eggs, and the yummy desserts:

menu in a Cambridge public school

In my town near Boston, Massachusetts, parking is one of the biggest bones of contention, with some people saying that too much money is allocated to creating parking lots and garages at the expense of public transportation, and other people saying there are too few parking spaces.  Since overnight parking is banned in my town, having a parking space adds approximately $40,000 to the value of your house, a not insignificant asset.

Here in Cambridge there are relatively few garages and large driveways, so many people park on the street, creating very crowded conditions.  Apparently, the owner of this car really pissed off someone:

small car, inconsiderate driver

A closer look:

inconsiderate driver note

As I was taking this photo, a woman nearby caught my eye, and we had quite a laugh together.

Later that day, my mother, younger daughter, and I spent an afternoon at the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, viewing what the English do better than anyone else in the world:  create gardens of surpassing beauty.

fountains at the Botanical Garden


Cambridge botanical garden


a vista at the Botanical Garden


And then, later that day on the way to Grantchester, a mile west of Cambridge, I saw this amazing sky.

Night sky, Cambridge, England

More about how Cambridge University graduates its students tomorrow!