Saturday, September 8, 2012

27 August, Monday

This was our last day in Cambridge, and we spent it walking around the town center again, picking up some sights we had missed earlier. Of special note was The Eagle. That’s a pub where Crick and Watson, the scientists who discovered DNA, first announced their big breakthrough.

We also found the Church of St. Edward, King and Martyr.  It is mostly famous as “the cradle of the Reformation”. Well, in a way. They say the first openly Evangelical sermon was preached there. Hugh Latimer, the English Reformer put to death for his beliefs, preached in this church often. The same pulpit is still there, so we went to see it.  The Reformers had such courage.

We revisited the breath-taking King’s College Chapel  and did a fairly thorough tour of St. John’s College. The chapel there is more Enlightenment than Gothic. In the nave of the chapel are statues of famous alumni of the College. Here are three of them.  Click on any you may like to enlarge.

Sir Francis Bacon

Isaac Newton, in front of WWII Memorial

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In the nave, the same theme is carried through; the stained glass windows show scholars rather than saints of biblical events.

The worst disappointment about St. John’s College is what happens after you have walked through several courtyards of magnificent Medieval/Renaissance buildings with all their ornate splendor: you arrive, finally, at a modern group of buildings, the most drab, plain, utilitarian and ugliest buildings you can imagine. It’s almost like sacrilege.

I said we ought to have supper at the restaurant owned by the Chinese man who had helped us a couple of days ago when we were lost, so we went there. Without a map, yet! And fairly easily.

It turns out the man is Japanese, not Chinese, and his establishment is a sushi bar.  Unfortunately, we do not eat sushi. However, there were other items on the menu as well, so we tried a couple of those and were well pleased.

We went back to Demetrios’ old house in Gilbert Road. Turns out it’s now (23 years later) worth more than a half million dollars. Such a shame he had to sell it. We’d have loved living here in Cambridge!

I did ask Demetrios about his method of navigation. Well, he says, “I have a very good sense of direction.” That’s true, during the daytime. So his method, he explained, is to head out in the general direction of his destination and to look for signs. No wonder this method so consistently fails; there are no signs in Cambridge!

Well, there are of course some, but literally, you can travel the whole length of a major street and never be able to spot a street sign telling you its name. Where there are signs, they tend to be inconspicuous and there is no uniform method of displaying them, so you do not always know where to look or what to look for. Signs also tend to be confusing. Still worse, they come at you with no warning. Too often you see the sign seemingly (probably) to point left just as you’ve arrived at the intersection and by the time you’ve (maybe) deciphered the sign, it’s too late.

Nor can you correct your mistake by going around the block, as we’ve amply proven. This is because the streets in Cambridge, as in any old city in Europe, are not laid out in grids; they are a helter-skelter web.

All of this means that my method, using the map, is also far from foolproof.

GPS! Or sat-nav as they call it here. That’s the only solution. We have one in the US, but now I’m determined to get us one in the UK as well. Before the next trip.