A wintry weekend in Cambridge

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Misty morning on the Cam – photo by Matthew Kirkland

My birthday is just two weeks after Christmas Day and this year, to celebrate I opted for a short staycation in Cambridge.

But how would we entertain a six year old on a 24hr break to a historic university city ? Lazy afternoons punting on the river Cam, dreaming spires and college rivarly means nothing to Kitty, not yet anyway.

So I devised a treasure hunt ! After spending some time trying and failing to print photos from Flickr, I turned to my phone and downloaded a selection from Google onto my saved images.

Me: Shall we go for a walk around an historic city ?

Kid : No !

Me: Shall we have a treasure hunt ? Me and you against Daddy, the team with the most points wins.

Kid: Yeah ! Am I in the lead ? Do I have the most points… ?

There are few Olympians as competitive as my six year and her dad, I have to persuade him to let her win…sometimes.

So I racked my brain for all the Cambridge cliches and downloaded images onto my phone.

These included :

A man punting

A woman cycling on a bike with a basket

Four red telephone boxes in a row

A market

A gargoyle, the uglier the better

Spires

Kings College

The round church

The game can be adapted according to the age and wisdom of the players..the basic rule is the first one to spot something on the list gets a point. Second spottings we declared null and void.. after some debate.

For photographically minded teens  you could challenge them to recreate the saved photo and improve on it. Or create a quiz….find the chapel linked to the ‘War of the Roses’, find the pub linked to the discovery of DNA. I like the game because it can be adapted to where ever you are.. beach (seaweed, shells etc); mountain (man with rucksack on his back; ill prepared walker) car journeys (pink car; tractor; police car; Tesco delivery lorry etc etc ); on our recent journey to Scotland we added Scottish things to the car journey list, like a sign with a thistle on it; a man in a kilt; a deer.

So after checking into our B & B, we walked the twenty minutes into the city centre. It wasn’t long before Kitty spotted a lady woman cycling on a bike with a basket, then another and another… she was disappointed when we told her that only the first one counts… hence the strict rule… but she was in the lead, so she was happy.

Eventually the usual towniness gave way to Cambridgeiness, a maze of Tudor and neo-classical buildings. Soon I spotted the round church, which is one of the most ancient buildings in the city, built around 1130 AD. Yeah ! My point !

Matt spotted a gargoyle or a dozen and explained to Kitty what they were, then she wanted to know if they exist in real life too….hmmmm….no.

We headed towards King’s College ticking off things on the list was we went, Kitty rushing around to find telephone boxes and the market.  ‘Am I still in the lead ?’ she asked every five minutes.

We paid the £9 entry into King’s College chapel for adults, children under 12 are free. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day and grey skies don’t show Cambridge at its best, the medieval stained glass would be spectacular on a sunny day….but I am fascinated by the ‘Wars of the Roses’, a name given to the period by the post-truth Tudors. In a nutshell I learnt that the chapel and university was begun by Henry VI, who was deposed by the Yorkist Edward IV, who was briefly succeeded by his young son Edward V, who was followed by his uncle Richard III, (a complicated and disputed story). Richard’s army was beaten by Henry Tudor (Henry VII), a descendant of Henry VI, who married Edward’s daughter Elizabeth of York in 1486, thus uniting the two houses, ending the War of the Roses and siring Henry VIII, who completed the chapel in 1544, almost a hundred years after it was begun.

I hope you were paying attention as there will be a test later !

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King College Chapel – photo by Matthew Kirkland

 

We turned into the market square …. A market and four telephone boxes stood all in a row waiting to be spotted… ‘I’m winning!’ Kitty called triumphantly.

Next we meandered around the shopping area and into a pub, settling comfortably into The Eagle’s RAF bar whose ceiling is decorated with graffiti created by World War Two airmen using candles, cigarette lighters and lipstick. The pub has another claim to fame.. it was here in 1953 where James Watson and Francis Crick announced, over a pint, that they had discovered the structure of DNA, how very typically Cambridge.

Our final destination of the day was an early dinner of oysters and mussels at a branch of the Loch Fyne Restaurant chain, a delicious birthday treat for this seafood fan .

The next morning, despite the gloomy forecast, blue skies appeared. We wandered around the backs of the colleges seeking the best views of our lazy wintry Sunday morning, before heading home….anxious for summer to come, dreaming of a lazy afternoon punting on another outing to Cambridge.

 

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