Cambridge is the second-oldest university in England, next to Oxford, and the third-oldest surviving university in the world! My niece and I drove there from Mildenhall, in Bury St. Edmunds. I kept thinking we’d gotten the wrong directions at first because even when we were supposedly just a mile or so from the university area, everything looked so modern, kind of ugly. Then we got a glimpse of what we’d been looking for – a very beautiful, old building – and suddenly every street we turned down was filled with them. We were in Cambridge proper.
What we really came to see is what they call “The Backs” – a stretch of the River Cam that some of the colleges “back” onto, with lovely little bridges arching across. We parked in a garage and walked to Silver Street where it looks over the River Cam near Queens College. And there was the view we’d come for – the river winding its way through tree-filled meadows and ancient buildings. Reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the canals in Venice in a way.
The frustrating thing is, unless you’re a student or have permission, you cannot access any of those lovely bridges or walk along the grounds. It’s all private property belonging to the colleges of Cambridge University. However, one way to see some of the grounds and get a view from a bridge is to pay for a tour of one of the colleges. I think it was the Kings College tour for £2.50 that would have given us access to the bridge you see in my photo. Kings College was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, and you can listen to their world-famous choir when they broadcast A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols every year on Christmas Eve. They've been performing this service since 1918!
Anyway, we decided not to do the tour, but the guide there very kindly advised us that we could have a lovely walk along the river if we just went further along Silver Street, away from The Backs. But we’d been walking for some time, and my little niece Scarlett was hungry, so we decided to be satisfied with the beautiful view we had.
You can also take a boat – or a “punt” as they call it in Cambridge – on the river, but this is expensive. At least it was to us. £14 per adult to row yourself, or £70 total if you want a punter. I have to say, I found all of these restrictions a bit depressing. So much natural beauty should be free for all to see, but instead, they've turned part of Cambridge into a tourist trap. And even on a Tuesday morning, tourists were swarming the place. Still, we enjoyed our visit. Had lunch at The Anchor on Silver Street, with a table right by the river so we could watch the punters.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.