Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Cambridge, England

Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:20am EDT
 
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By Paul Casciato

CAMBRIDGE (Reuters) - Got 48 hours to explore the colleges, pubs, green spaces and leafy towpaths of Cambridge, England? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the city that is home to one of world's oldest universities.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. Arrive at Cambridge train station and breathe in the soft air of the Fenlands. Cambridge is a town of cyclists, where everyone from students to software millionaires ride bicycles to get around.

If you want to get the most out of the city, you can rent one too right outside the station at Station Cycles (www.stationcycles.co.uk). Buy a map while you're at it.

7 p.m. If you're staying in the center of town and you like a bit of history, stop in at The Eagle. It is one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge, dating back to the 1600s with a galleried courtyard for outdoor drinkers. A plaque outside will tell you this is the pub where Cambridge scientists Watson and Crick cracked the secret of DNA and there will likely be plenty of modern-day geniuses knocking back their Friday night pints. The ceiling in the RAF room at the back is festooned with the smoky signatures of World War Two airmen stationed around Cambridge, who wrote their names in soot on the ceiling before flying off to confront the Luftwaffe.

11 p.m. Most pubs in Cambridge still close near or around this traditional closing time, though some stay open past midnight. You could try the nightlife if you're keen. There are at least three busy late night clubs close by The Eagle: The Kambar, Lola Lo and Fez Club. But beware it's an early start in the morning...

SATURDAY

8 a.m. Rowing is a Cambridge passion, though the Cambridge University Boat Club (www.cubc.org.uk) lost the 157th "Boat Race" against Oxford this year. Nevertheless, students, lecturers, top athletes and keen amateurs all turn out in the early morning for a row. If you're in Cambridge in early June you can see the Cambridge University "May Bumps" races for the student "gownies" or in late July the Town Bumps for "townies." Both sets of races are a big spectacle and bring thousands of people to the river for four days of rowing mayhem, dinners, picnics, parties, BBQs and bonfires. The races are conducted in boats with crews of eight who chase each other down the river intent on overtaking to "bump" the crew ahead. Crashes, sinkings and even rowers knocked out of boats are regular occurrences. Bankside, cyclists race along the towpaths screaming support for their teams, so watch out! Cycle out across Midsummer Common to the towpath to see the rowing or just look at the lovely college boathouses perched on the banks, with their escutcheons proudly displayed. Foremost of these is Goldie Boathouse (1880), where the Cambridge University team conduct their indoor training. If you're lucky, the doors will be open and a number of scantily clad top athletes will be getting put through their paces.   Continued...

 
<p>A man guides a punt under a bridge on the Cam river in Cambridge July 24, 1999 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/files</p>