Saturday, April 5, 2008

Punting, Finally

We returned from the Lake District last Friday evening (trip report part two to follow soon) and our friends Mark and Shira arrived from the U.S. early the next morning. Fortunately, they were jet-lagged from the overnight flight and needed to nap, which gave us some time to recover from our vacation. Unfortunately, by the time they awoke, the rare sun had given way to strong winds and occasional drizzle. Yet we ventured off on a long walk to see Cambridge United play--big mistake. Although I think Mark did enjoy the experience of an English football game, United were horrible. We arrived just at their opponents scored and things never got better. United went down 2-0 in the second half and we got colder and colder, so we left before the game ended--and before United gave up a third goal. It was only the U's second defeat at home, and they're sputtering at the end of the season as they try to hold onto a playoff spot.

Sunday was much more pleasant. In fact it was probably the nicest day of the year so far and we abandoned several plans and simply walked into Cambridge's city center, roamed a bit, and then went punting. Katie and I are a bit embarrassed we hadn't been yet but it's more fun with friends. Our Slovakian driver/punter/? gave us an amusing 45-minute ride up and down the river on the famous Backs running behind 7 of Cambridge's best-known colleges.Still enjoying the bright sun, we then relaxed on the riverside grass with pints of beer and devoured olives, bread, hummus and more that we had bought at the market just a few hours earlier. We ended the afternoon walking the long way home along the river. And Mark and I dashed our for a quick bike ride further down the river--Britain just changed their clocks so we had sunlight til almost 8pm!
On Monday, our friends did a walking tour of the city in the morning and then we jumped into the car. On their way to walk the gardens and mansion of Wimpole Hall, KT and Shira dropped Mark and I off at Duxford Imperial War Museum, an airfield about 20 minutes from our house that now houses Britain's premiere aviation museum. It used to serve as a U.S. airbase so it also is home to the American Air Museum, which "stands as a memorial to the 30,000 American airmen who gave their lives flying from UK bases in defence of liberty during the Second World War, and also honours those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq and other conflicts and battles of the 20th and 21st centuries."
The facility spreads over 5 hangers, has impressive audio-visial exhibits on the history and role of aviation (I listed to a World World I pilot describe a dogfight) and includes a Concorde and an amazing array of other airplanes. We even got to watch some stunt flying from a few vintage plane, including a Spitfire. There's also a land war museum that documented England's tanks and other military vehicles, dating back before World War I--it included exhibits on D-Day and "Monty", the famous World World II military genius who was England's counterpart to Patton in the U.S. We only had a few hours before the ladies returned but we could have spent a full day. Come back and visit us Mark and Shira!--JT

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