For centuries, there has been rivalry between the two famous university cities, Oxford and Cambridge. It was only sensible that we took a day trip to Cambridge to see the difference for ourselves. The universities have many similarities: both are globally recognised super brands with similar institutions and facilities, and an almost identical collegiate structure. The difference lies more so in the cities than the actual schools in them. Oxford is larger, more urban and industrial, while Cambridge, to many, resembles an ‘agricultural market town’. This I can agree with, especially as we discovered a number of cows amongst the beautiful buildings and on a field right near the Hilton Hotel! Punting is a popular activity in both cities, but the river in Cambridge flows through the city centre, hence it is more prominent. In addition, building stone used in Cambridge has been brought in from many different sources, resulting in a greater variety of character. But perhaps the most notable difference was that we felt Cambridge to be less exclusive than Oxford. Whereas most educational institutions were restricted to member of Oxford University, we felt much more freely walking around in Cambridge. This means we got some insight into the scandalous life the elite student body…
Our first stop was to the Heong Gallery located in Downing College. They were exhibiting the private collection of Sir Alan Bowness, former Director of Tate. Generation Painting 1955-65: British Art from the Collection of Sir Alan Bowness featured work by an array British Artists. We loved it, and even discovered our first David Hockney piece!
We also tried lots of delicious treats in the city. It was my first time having a scotch egg. A hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked. Accompanied with a Barn Owl cider from Perry’s, I was soon in a very happy place! In between visiting colleges, we couldn’t resist a quick break at Fitzbillies, an old-school bakery that serves traditional pastries and delicious coffee! Their speciality is the sticky Chelsea bun. Despite its fame, I think it was our first and last time trying it. These buns have been sold here since 1921, and they are delicious, but way too sweet for our liking.
We visited a number the institutions, but our favourite had to be Pembroke College, which is the third-oldest college of the university. It comprises of buildings from almost every century since its founding, as well as extensive gardens. We also discovered beautiful meadows with wild flowers and an orchard in the centre of the college.
Everything in Cambridge was truly amazing, but the bridges deserve a special mention. The River Cam runs past many of the historic colleges of the University along an open area known as The Backs. Many famous bridges cross the river, and we admired two of the most famous ones. The Bridge of Sighs is part of St John’s College, built in 1831 is probably the best-known bridge. My second favourite had to be Queens’ College’s Mathematical Bridge (also known as the Wooden Bridge), simply because of its name. I just love math! This bridge was first built in 1749, but visitors can currently see the third version of the design dating from 1902.
Our day in Cambridge was wonderful, and I can’t wait to return again in the future!