Ever wondered where the word 'Blazer' (i.e school blazer) comes from? Well, it's not one that we knew the answer to either but interestingly it comes from Cambridge! Deriving its name from the 'blazing red' ivy used to hide the less attractive walls of the impressive St John's College. It's just one of the interesting facts that we discovered on a visit to Cambridge in the early spring sunshine this week.
It seems Cambridge has plenty of these historical expressions within it's rich and varied history... like the phrase '
Heading into Cambridge using the efficient park'n'ride service from Trumpington, our fantastic Visit Cambridge guided tour offered plenty of interesting anecdotal stories to break up the visits across Cambridge. We'd opted for the 'Kings College and Backs' tour... and were treated to a visit to the oldest Anglo Saxon church in England plus a trip to one of the oldest coach houses in England (with its own ghost and Second World War stories)
Kings College has always held an interest ever since seeing the world famous Christmas Eve ' Carol Service'. The one where the choristers raise shivers down your spine with their opening lines to the carol 'Once in Royal David's City'... but the chapel is something to behold. Privately owned, it's one of the Top 3 largest chapels in the world behind the Sistine Chapel, it could easily be a cathedral (interestingly Cambridge has no Cathedral despite being a city...)
The chapel has intricate carvings, stunning stained glass window and an organ that will draw a gasp of amazement! Its history includes housing Cromwell's troops in the Civil War yet was never bombed in the Second World War as Hitler believed the place to be too beautiful to be ruined... it's amazing to think it's been there since AD43!!
Over 95 Nobel prizes have been awarded to graduates from Cambridge University, with 32 coming from one College alone... with amazing people such as Isaac Newton, Lord Bryon & Alan Turing taking turns to become resident academics... Both girls loved the fact that Turing also loved puzzles (like the ones we found in Chateau des Engimes in France) and was responsible for shortening WW2 with his 'Engima' code breaking machine
The walking tour of Cambridge was an excellent introduction to the stunning architectural beauty and history of the Colleges, but soon rumbling tummies were in evidence... so a trip to Wagamama was in order. Both girls absolutely love Japanese food and chopsticks! Chicken Ramen & Donburi were the order of the day after 'chilli squids' and 'bang bang cauliflower'! The service and location were excellent and we'll certainly return next time we visit Cambridge!
Following lunch, we ventured towards Trinity College and the chance to visit Heffer's bookshop. This wonderful bookshop has a specialist children's section that could easily occupy your children for hours... sadly we only had 40mins before heading back towards Downing Street and the opportunity to see Cambridge from a different perspective.
The Backs of Cambridge are well worth a visit on their own. Full of intricate cobbled streets and the beautiful River Cam with its plentiful supply of intricate bridges. With Colleges backing onto the river providing a stunning backdrop, you'll only experience this fully on one of the punts that gently glide down the river.
So grab a punt, if you enjoy Maritime Law, Trinity Hall's ship like exterior will excite, or if you prefer perfect symmetry then St John's facade will be the one for you. Or if you like mathematical genius then the wooden bridge may well be the one for you....
nBut the choice of a self-punt or guided punt is an easy one as the Scudamore's guide was fantastic. Captivating the girls with modern stories about Cambridge through to the darker times that saw students pitted against towns folk.
We'd not known the association with Henry VIII or his wives but there's plenty to learn here. Nor did we know about the beautiful Elisabeth de Clare responsible for the Clare College banana trees... or the fact that Queens was actually founded and re-founded by two separate Queens of England! It was a brilliant way to spend an hour and certainly generated multiple questions from the girls about both history and modern day life in Cambridge.
As we've said all along, the main point of road schooling is to experience places at first hand, to try and stimulate questions from the girls, to draw out thoughts on why things are as they are, and to then have the confidence to express this learning (or the inevitable questions that follow). Although truly special in it's own right, it may not quite fit into our Top 10 European Roadschooling Experiences, but we'll certainly return again to discover more about this beautiful city.
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