January 18, 2007

January 17: Cambridge

Vanessa’s Dining Room: Histon and the mid-level of CB2: Cambridge: Wednesday 10:45 pm and Thursday 11 am GMT

Vanessa didn’t have to work today so she drove us in to Cambridge and we visited the round church. (I’ve posted pictures of the outside of it already.) The people that own the church use it to focus on the story of Christianity in England in general and Cambridge in particular, highlighting notable religious figures throughout the ages that have had interactions with Cambridge UIniversity.

Inside there are several (12 or so) large displays that start during the Roman period(and St. Alban) and tell the story of Christianity in England. Every time a famous person is mentioned, if they had attended Cambridge University, then their college name was included in parentheses just after their name.

After reading through these we went on a tour that the Round Church people put on which takes you through several of the Cambridge churches and chapels telling you the history of Christianity in Cambridge.

We started with the round church, of course. The church had been built after Crusaders had gone to Jersusalem and seen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which had been built by Constantine as a memorial that is supposedly over the location that Jesus was buried. We have a friend that used to work at the Garden Tomb which is another place Jesus might have been buried. So there are two locations that I suppose people believe may be The place.) which is a round church. In order to remind themselves of this great event in their lives (going and sacking Jerusalem seeing this great monument) they came back and built several little versions of the round church throughout England and this one in Cambridge is one of those.

Then another section was added on to the round church and that's where the stained glass window is that I took a photo of. The stained glass was put in just after WWII, I believe that each part had special significance. (Like the pelicans just over the cross. People used to think that they tore off their own flesh and fed it to their babies. So the birds came to represent Christ who gave of his own flesh, so to speak. The guide pointed out that you'll see pelicans carvings all over the city. Of course, now people realize that the pelicans are just pulling out bits of stored up fish to feed their babies. So there you go.)

We left the round church and headed over to the divinity school (where the grumpy old men picture was.) Just so you get a sense of how close together this all is, the round church is kitty corner from St. John's College (which was started by Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort (who gave birth to him when she was 13). Across from St. John's College (and it would be just across the street from the round church except there was a shop in between) was the divinity school. So these buildings are all within spitting distance of each other.

The guide explained that the dude on the left of the entranceway (in that grumpy old men picture) was a famous Catholic named Fisher who invited Erasmus to Cambridge as Lady Margaret Professor. (Henry's mother not only started the Divinity school and St. John's but she provided endowments that would pay for a professorship and a divinity head (or something like that). Erasmus then made a parallel Greek and Latin New Testament (meaning that you could read the familiar Latin down one side and then compare it to the original Greek that was on the other side of the page). This was a beginning ingredient for the reformation as those who studied Scripture began to see the little changes that had taken place from the original text to the then present-day Latin translation. Fisher was later killed after Henry VIII led England out from under Rome.

The grumpy old man on the right was Cranmer, Henry VIII's archbishop (I believe he's the one that helped Henry secure his first divorce). He helped lead the reformation in England and I believe he was killed by Henry VIII's daughter, Queen Mary I (who was later renamed by her sister Elizabeth, Bloody Mary).

We did a quick stop into St. John's College Chapel which had a statue of Margaret B. out front stamping out ignorance and another of Fisher, I think it was, stamping out ignorance and something else. (I think I only took a pic of Fisher.) Inside there was a statue of Wilberforce who was instrumental in ending slavery in England. (And the anniversary of that date is coming up this summer so there are going to be several celebrations. I hope abolitionists of today's slavery make the most of that. I'll probably try to post something on it in the slave group at some point.)

From the divinity school we headed over to Trinity College which Isaac Newton attended. (There's an apple tree planted by the college entrance in his honor.) Trinity was also *cough* started by Henry VIII (hence the picture of him as a stubby little man holding an orb and a chair leg).

Near the end of Henry VIIIs life his wife (#6, I believe) said something to him along the lines of, "You really think you're going to get into heaven after splitting the church from Rome and beheading two wives?" Back in those days, one way to assure your entrance into heaven was to build a church or college. I'm sure that had been part of Margaret Beaufort's desire back when she started the divinity school and St. John's. And she was quite free with her money. Her grandson, Henry VIII, however, decided to take two old colleges, combine them, rip out a building or two and call it Trinity College. (Actually, it had a much more laborious name to say, but Trinity was in there and that's what it got shortened to.)

We went into the courtyard of Trinity and I think I snapped a shot of their dining hall. Far cry from the cafeterias most of us chowed at in our University days. And we visited the chapel where there were several statues of famous men.

We then went to see the Senate House where David Livingstone made a call to Englishmen to become missionaries to Africa.

Though the site of the White Horse Inn as well as many other churches were a part of the tour, we'd already covered our allotted hour and a half by this point so the guide took us quickly to one last church before leaving us. That was St. Edward's Church. This church is famous for being the heart of the Reformation in England. Because it was hosted by two University colleges and was not under the governance of the Anglican church, reformation preachers could preach freely here. (You'll notice that this is the church that now holds Goth Eucharists.)

Once the guide left us, Vanessa decided that we really should see the King's College Chapel. Rob decided to his a cafe rather than pay the 4.50 ($9) to get in. It wasn't worth it to him. But I enjoyed the Tudor history involved.

It was basically built by the Henrys and it was decorated during the time of Henry VIIIs short lived marriage to Anne Bolin (after 3 years he had her beheaded because he thought she was conspiring against him) so there are H's and A's all over the place. It reminded me of teenagers carving their initials everywhere only these were in stone and worked into all of the church decorations.

The ceiling was breathtaking. I wish there was something on the floor that I could lie on and take in the ceiling without getting a crink in my neck. The screen and wall decorations were wonderful (and matched the shot I took of the outside with the dragon and dog). But I have to admit that I really felt like they were grumpy at the door about making us pay (like they wish they could have charged more) and I felt a sense of the "Let's make the tourists pay to keep up England's national treasures." I really prefer the suggested donation thing. At least then you feel like you're helping as opposed to feeling used.)

After King's College we went and got some pasties for lunch. Rob Loves pasties. Have I mentioned that before? We found a really cute little shop right on the market where the workers all seemed to be from France, which Vanessa enjoyed since she was a French major.

After Cambridge we went to Tesco's again. This time Rob and I picked up a suitcase and goodies for the kids to fill it with. ;-) We also got more tea and biscuits for home.

Rob made lentils for dinner and since Nathaniel and Rebecca were at Patrick's it was just Ness, Rob, me and Katie for dinner. I don't know if Katie has ever had lentils before the way Rob makes them but she enjoyed them and she and I practically devoured and entire wheel of yummy, creamy cheese. :-)

January 16: Nottingham

Nessa’s dining room, Histon: Wednesday 9:30 GMT

On Tuesday we said goodbye to Nathaniel since he’ll be with his dad till we see him one last time right before we leave on Friday. Then Vanessa dropped us off at the Cambridge train station.

Before when she’d take us down to Cambridge, she’d go the long way about and when I asked her why she said it was because the traffic going straight into town was horrible. But this morning she went straight into town (the way that we walk back) and it was Craaaaazy!!! It took us forever just to leave Histon and another forever to get to the station. So we ended up setting off later than I had hoped.

We got our tickets without any problem, but then we had no idea which platform to go to. We couldn’t find any signs that told us (though I think if we’d been brave and just walked out to a platform, we would have found a tv out there that listed it... maybe. If we’d known what we were looking for. Which we didn’t.) The problem was that we knew we had to switch trains but the ticket agent hadn’t told us where. So we weren’t even sure which train to get onto. So Rob got back in line and asked and that got us to the right platform. Then we weren’t sure where to get off so we had to ask the conductor to help us out. Whew!

We managed to make our way to Nottingham and then got lost again trying to find out way out to the train station from the platforms. ivy basically guided us in via cell phone.

From the train station we promptly set out for the castle (and grabbed some food that we ate on the way).

The original castle was built in 1067 by William the Conquerer (apparently also called William the Bastard). When he realized that the Saxons up north (I think they were Saxons *shrug*) were not going to simply bow the knee to him, he decided to set up a fortress from which he’d gently and mercifully bend them to his will. It was a wooden structure built on top of a hill with sheer cliffs on three sides.

Later, one of the Henrys, I think it was, came up and tore down the wood structure and replaced it with stone. This was expanded several times by various Plantagenet kings (think Richards, Henrys and Edwards) who liked to come up to Nottingham to kick back and kill things (mostly animals out in the forest. “Forest” by the way, didn’t necessarily mean wooded areas like we Americans tend to assume, but any land that was covered under the king’s “Forest Laws” which could include not only woods but fields and heath as well.)

Edward II's wife, Isobel, took a lover at one point, Roger Mortimer. (They used to have secret meetings at the bar that we went to after visiting the castle.) Mortimer killed the king but forgot about doing away with this son, who became Edward III. The king knew of a back passage into the Nottingham castle so Mortimer and the queen thought they were safe but Edward snuck in and killed him.

Once Henry VII took the throne, the Nottingham castle fell into disrepair. (Mostly because all the Plantagenet fighting was, for the most part, done, and Henry had other things to do with his time than chase about game in the forest.)

Somewhere in the 1600 or 1700s the castle was passed on to some duke or earl or some such and eventually razed. Then some dude in the 1700s built his own little hideaway there and that’s the building we saw.

The building has been turned into a museum. One part holds the history of the castles that have been there. One part holds art (the kind that goes on walls, mostly). There’s a large display of Wedgwood Pottery. (Rob was majorly impressed by that.) And there was a room dedicated to the Sherwood Rangers including information on several rangers who had earned Victoria Crosses as well as equipment that they used or commandeered during various battles. (There was a really neat compass that some POW’s made during WWII that enabled them to escape. They used a razor blade, a button, a shoe polish container and a pin.)

After looking around inside the museum we wandered around the outside, noting where Ivy goes to school, where the English equivalent of the IRS is located, and getting queasy as we looked over the sides of the cliff.

We then decided to grab a pint and headed down to the oldest pub in England. Started in 1189, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn may very well have been a stop along the way for the Crusaders as they left England for Jerusalem. The back of the pub was carved out of the same rock that the castle was atop of, and it is said that Mortimer and the Queen had secret trysts there.

After leaving the pub we hit a thrift shop or two (Rob is trying to find a cheap (lol!!!!) long coat made of wool here. So far the cheapest he’s found is about $200 or made of synthetics.) and then went and had crepes. I had a tomato, basil, mozzarella crepe. Rob had a ham and cheddar cheese crepe. And Ivy had a chocolate and banana crepe with some sort of shake. I think it had a cookie in it or something, right Ives?

We had to go soon after that so Ivy led us back to the train station. I should stop here and say that Nottingham has a very cute downtown with many marvelous old buildings in it. I didn’t snap any pictures of them, but they were certainly cool.

We got to the train station (we would have been sincerely lost without a guide) and headed back to Cambridge on the train.

On the first leg of the trip (we had to switch trains in Ely, pronounced either ee-lee or eh-lee) we ended up sitting across from a Scotsman who saw that I was reading How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest nation Created Our World & Everything in It. We ended up chatting with him for awhile. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

We got back to the Cambridge train station at 20:00 and Vanessa drove up just as we were walking out of the station. Perfect timing. We got home, had some dinner, chatted for awhile (and discussed what personality types Vanessa, Katie and Rebecca were) then went to bed.