For context: Intro to My Happiness Project
Needless to say, Month Eleven’s resolution (from back in July) of engaging in leisure went magnificently. How could it do anything else?
The classes alone were well worth all the head-and-heartache. Check out the classes I took each term (two week periods).
Shakespeare’s kings: King Lear and The Tempest;
England at the crossroads: Jane Austen, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake;
Villains in literature: “something wicked this way comes.”
Term II, I took–
A short history of English;
Jewelled pages: the art of the book in Persia and Japan;
Dickens and the Victorian underworld: Great Expectations.
To be frank, at Cambridge, I was basically dumb. My professors were experts in their subjects. My term I professor (yes all 3 classes were with the same man) was the most intelligent, most poised, most feminist, most engaging man I’ve ever met. And yes, I might have developed a fleeting crush on him, despite his earring.
My ‘jewelled pages’ class was taught by two professors, the Persian expert was a Belgian woman of tall stature, calm demeanor, and a bleu-blanc-rouge clothing color scheme, while the Japanese exert was an Italian woman of small stature, extremely energetic demeanor, and all black clothing with ornate dragonesque jewelry…I can’t make this stuff up, I swear. Oh, and they were both published authors (!!) who could speak at least 3 languages fluently (e.g. English, Italian, & Japanese, or English, French, & Arabic).
So, yeah, at the very least, I was like a brand new sponge, ready to absorb every ounce of knowledge to be had. And I probably learned more in those four weeks than I did over four years of college. I might be able to attribute that to how riveted I was by the compounded factors of professors, classrooms, England, and material.
Every minute NOT spent in class was spent out of doors, or at least out of my own dorm’s door. We walked to town nearly every day for one errand or another. The exercise and the accompanying scenery was breathtaking.
[Read my guide to Cambridge (Town) for historical highlights, quintessential punting tips, and more!]
[Top left: My dorm hall’s entry. Top right: Punting on the River Cam. Bottom left: Newnham’s dining hall, on my way to term I classes. Bottom right: Selwyn’s chapel, on my way to my dorm.]
We agreed early on that, while we didn’t want to break the bank over food (especially since the Selwyn dining hall really was quite good), we still wanted to #eatourwaythroughcambridge. So we decided the two Fridays that weren’t term closing dinners, we would go out to a local pub. So to celebrate our first week, we dined–on our veteran, Becca’s, advice–at The Anchor. It was delicious. None of that fried nonsense you would expect in the States. Plus I tried Pimm’s and Rekorderlig for the first time, which was the start of what I suspect will be a life-long love affair.
Some of our bigger excursions were London, a coach tour from Windsor to Bath to Stonehenge, and Ireland. We really wanted to see as much as we could since we had our weekends free and it would probably never be so convenient again.
[Left: Ministry building; Middle: Shakespeare’s Globe; Right: Savoy Theatre]
The very first Saturday in England, we went up to London for the entire day by train via King’s Cross (!!). We started out at the British Library, took a Harry Potter-themed walking tour, ate at The Tipperary (oldest Irish pub in London), and finally saw Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe (Shakespeare’s theatre).
[For more details, read my guide to London – train & tube tips, things to do, places to eat]
[Left: King’s Cross (at 23:30, so no line!); Middle: the Thames across from St. Paul’s; Right: The Cheshire Cheese, Dickens’ favorite haunt]
To recover from the hustle of Saturday, we slept in on Sunday (missing breakfast at the dining hall) and then strolled down to Grantchester for a bite at The Orchard. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the meadow was or how sublime it felt to be eating tea and scones under blossoming apple trees.
[For more details, read my guides to Grantchester & to The Orchard – the history, the menu, the charm]
Because of the trials of long-distance relationships, I ended up missing dinner in the dining hall the second Tuesday we were there so I could talk to the hubby. The girls wanted to explore town anyway and grab a draft, so we headed to The Mitre and I had the most amazing salmon fishcakes.
Hannah, Emeline, and I also went into town on Thursday night to go shopping for the closing dinner. I bought a fabulous pair of two-tone pumps from M&S for only £9. And then we stopped at Itsu for a quick bite, which is basically the posh British version of fast food.
That Friday was the Term I closing dinner, which was quite an affair. Read all about Selwyn’s dining hall and service here.
I’m going to stop there for now. Catch up on the rest of the trip in Part 2!