This weekend was literally so much fun that I couldn’t feel my face (reference to the hit new song that is out now by The Weekend.)
1) Friday night consisted of a social gathering with Cambridge graduate students from all different areas of study. Being told to dress formal automatically made the night ten times more fun. As per the Cambridge tradition, we met on the Clare Bridge for photo opportunities. (This college really has their life together to have a set time for photos.) The evening consisted of hanging out in the college bar that is only open Friday nights and run by the students. Surprisingly, it is directly across from our lecture room and I had no idea it was there the whole time.
The food was catered by a yummy Italian place called Aromi and was literally just messy enough to add the finishing accessory to my dress. Champagne was served and the evening quickly disappeared as the room filled with laughs and greetings. It was an amazing evening that I got to spend getting to know the graduate students, their families, and my fellow classmates. We ended the night at a karaoke bar and dance club. Sadly, we didn’t get to sing Party in the USA due to the long queue, but somehow, I still ended up losing my voice. It is interesting to note, that unlike in America, graduate school only takes one year for a masters and three years for a PhD. Which I might look into later…
2) Saturday was my favorite day. We awoke at an ungodly hour to catch a bus to Bath and the famous Stonehenge. It was incredibly worth it and I am still in awe. Catching up on sleep in the bus, we arrived in Bath to sunny skies and fluffy clouds for our walking tour. Our tour guide for the day sounded straight out of a historical British narration. Bath is an old city that was largely rebuilt after World War II. The city kept with tradition and built new buildings in the older style with the same type of stone. I learned about two acronyms that I had previously thought were just words: 1) SPA stands for ‘Salus per Aquam’ and 2) POSH stands for ‘Port Out, Starboard Home.’ The English once saw fair skin as a sign of prosperity, and posh was a way to remember which side of the boat to have a cabin on to avoid the sun during their trip to India. Bath is also home to the beautiful Jane Austen in the 19th century. More recently, bath was once home to Nicolas Cage’s vacation home until he went bankrupt. I had to chuckle when the tour guide went through the list of famous English people from Bath and the one American got the most recognition.
In 43 AD, the Romans conquered Britain under Emperor Claudius. The Roman Baths were founded in 60-70 AD and were gradually constructed over hundreds of years. The bath sits on a natural hot spring that bubbles up water to three different rooms: the hot room, the cold room, and the warm room. It was supposed to be a slow, full day progression through the rooms where one would be oiled and bathed. It is said that the bath has magical healing properties and the temple spa is dedicated to the goddess of wisdom and arts, Sulis Minerva. The baths are not used anymore due to health concerns, but from a different part of the hot spring, visitors can taste the water. I couldn’t leave without trying it, and it is the definition of mineral water. “If they can’t be cured by drinking and bathing here, they will never be cured anywhere.”
3) I don’t even know where to begin to describe the absolute wonder and beautiful aura Stonehenge gives off. I have no idea why it isn’t in the Seven Wonders of the World because it really makes you wonder. I stood there looking at it with the questions why, how, and who. Henge literally means a circular flat area, hence Stonehenge is a flat circular rock area. To someone who doesn’t know the history of the monument, it is pretty much just a strange pile of rocks. But as our tour guide was telling us about it, you began to understand (and also not understand as you convinced yourself it must have been aliens.) It was built 5,000 years ago. I repeat- 5,000 years ago! The Neolithic people brought stones from all over the country, the farthest being 150 miles away. Each stone weighs 2-5 tons that they shaped into certain pieces, to form two perfect inner and outer circles when looking directly above it. Again, you just think, “WHY?” The structure is built like a puzzle with interlocking joints from each stone. And somehow, they got them stacked on top of one another. The structure is in the perfect positon to map the movements of the sun. During the summer solstice, the sun will rise directly over the Heel stone; during the winter solstice, sun will set between the two tallest stones. Stonehenge is surrounded by burial mounds that housed bodies, treasures, gold and copper. There is a very large open area that researchers now believe had temples on either end. A walk from one temple to the other would lead one to Stonehenge. They believe that this walk was to represent the passage from life to death, a ceremony that they revered. There are about 15 other surrounding monuments similar to Stonehenge and remnants of a city not too far off. Not only is the monument beautiful, but the surrounding land is breathtaking with rolling lime green fields dotted with cows and sheep. Ironically, Stonehenge can be seen from all directions in the surrounding area besides the location of the visitor center. It is about a two kilometer walk to the structure, or a short bus ride which just makes your time with the temple all the more intimate and peaceful. I hope to go back sometime to enjoy the amazing summer or winter solstice. Stonehenge rocked.
4) Sunday consisted of finally trying my hand at punting and I have to say it is much harder than it looks. I had a dream I got my pole stuck in the river, forgot to let go, and was just hanging there over the water. Fortunately, that is not how our actual trip went and no one fell in. Coincidentally, we got a punt named "Clare," as in Clare College. We soon became the laughing stock of the river. We got several, “wow, they must be American” because we were on the wrong side of the river, but really they were on the wrong side! We bumped into more punts that I could count. “Sorry, we’re American,” we said. “That is no excuse,” they said. Somehow the trip still managed to be relaxing and it was a whole different perspective to see Cambridge from. I would love to try it again and work on actually gaining some speed.
5) Short note on the food I had this weekend: I had The Eagle’s mouthwatering fish n’ chips again, a raspberry honeycomb pavlova that was to die for, and amazing fries from a random food truck in the market, The Truck of Life. Looks like I will have to eat healthier when I get home, but not anytime soon.
Bye for now,