One of the benefits of living in (near) London is the available transport links to otherwise tricky to reach places. From Weston it would take ages to visit my sister in Cambridge (just ask Seb and Dad…) but being close to London allows me to get to places fairly directly.
Seeing as Char and Al are moving fairly soon it seemed like a good time to head over and visit.
My absolute favourite thing to do in a new city (and seeing as it was too cold and grey to go punting) is to go up the highest tower I can find and see the city from above and in Cambridge this meant climbing the 123 steps of Great St. Mary’s Church tower.
It was quite the tight squeeze circling our way up the tower steps but thankfully the rain and cold had kept most people away and we ascended the tower without having to navigate past people descending!
Near the top of the tower live the church bells and these bells play a familiar tune – the Westminster Chimes. According to the little information panel by the bells the chimes were written for Great St.Mary’s Church and were known as the ‘Cambridge Quarters’ before being used as the chimes for Big Ben.
And after much huffing and puffing – the view from the top.
Now I’m not sure if I’m building some form of reputation, or if Char just wanted to show me that Cambridge can compete with London, but we visited a lot of museums whilst in Cambridge so the rest of this post should follow a familiar theme…
Starting with the biggest and best known we visited the beautiful Fitzwilliam Museum.
Housed within the Fitzwilliam Museum are, the near ubiquitous, Egyptian, Greek and Roman collections as well as a plethora of glass and ceramic artifacts but what stood out for me were the collections of arms and armour and, of course, the paintings.
The arms and armour display contained a full range of weapons from the brutal to the filigreed however the stars for me were a selection of beautifully appointed Italian and German flintlock and wheellock rifles. Upstairs the galleries of the Fitzwilliam Museum are dripping with works from the likes of Cezanne, Monet and Degas however my favourite was actually Armistice Night by William Nicholson – certainly worth a look if you’re visiting Cambridge!
There are quite a few museums packed in to the centre of Cambridge but with the Polar and Zoology museums closed whilst I was visiting this left the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and the Sedgwick Museum at the top of our visit list.
The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology housed quite the surprise on the second floor (you may be able to spot them in the above photo) – a 26 foot tall (8 metre) Maori Flagpole and a 43 foot tall (13 metre) totem pole.
This flag pole is apparently the only one of its kind outside of New Zealand and was installed in December 2008 – there’s a nice little story about it on the museum’s website although unfortunately the pictures don’t work anymore!
After exploring Maudslay Hall a little more (the actual name of the room just about containing the totem pole) we headed on over to our last destination – the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.
The museum contains a massive collection of rock samples ranging all the way from precious stones and minerals through to meteorites and stones used for building! Not to be outdone by the young upstart museums cluttering Cambridge (the Sedgwick Museum is the oldest museum in Cambridge having been established in 1728 as the Woodwardian Museum don’t you know?) the museum boasts a collection to rival the paintings of the Fitzwilliam – the ‘Beagle’ Collection. Now the Beagle collection is something special – this is the collection of rocks (and the occasional fossil) that Darwin himself collected when he traveled aboard HMS Beagle. Darwin had boarded HMS Beagle as a geologist and 5 years later disembarked, well, still a geologist – it was another 20 years before On the Origin of Species was published.
Having exhausted ourselves before Cambridge’s supply of museums we called time on our visits and headed back to finish the stupid puzzle we’d started a few evenings earlier. I’m not getting them a puzzle for Christmas again unless I can guarantee I don’t have to do it – especially not when I picked this photo to make it from!