Another day trip we decided to take from Peterborough was to Cambridge, where I was hoping to have my Will & Kate moment with a strapping college lad who was secretly of royal blood.
The college lads were aplenty as there are about a bajillion colleges in Cambridge, including a Kaplan University! Our main objective while visiting this college town was to go punting along the River Cam.
Though I was second choice to quarterback our high school powder puff team, I’m no punter, plus I didn’t bring proper shoes for punting while in England (of course). Luckily, punting in England is nothing like punting in America. Punting in England involved sitting in a long boat (ours held 12 people) while a local dude pushes you along the river with a long pole, telling you about all the cool things you pass as you troll along.
You could easily compare it to a gondola ride, which we were glad for since our trip to Venice fell through. While having some tapas at a Spanish restaurant in town, we did a little research and booked our rides online through Let’s Go Punting! (The names of the other punting companies were equally as creative.)
I would highly suggest you book online beforehand. The moment we reached the river, there were swarms of young guys trying to book us a punting trip for more money than we’d paid online. We found our company and the young guy told us our boat would leave in ten minutes.
When the boat arrived, the punter got off and asked us if we were coming with him. I stared open-mouthed for a minute because his British accent was hard to understand. Wait, that wasn’t a British accent at all, it was an American one! Damn! How’d we end up with the Yank??
I all but asked him that very question and found out that while he grew up in upstate New York, his mom was an Irish citizen, so when his girlfriend came to the UK to study at Cambridge, he came along because he didn’t need a visa. In other words, he doesn’t have to have a legit job or be a student (my dream), so he gets to spend his summer pushing people around in a boat.
Turns out, Derrick was very knowledgeable about Cambridge, probably more knowledgeable than many of the people who live there. He led us on a thorough tour of the portion of the river we were on, pointing out things we never would have noticed including a silver bucket sitting on a spire atop one of the college’s buildings. He told us it had been placed there by the Cambridge Night Climbers which is exactly what it sounds like. A club of students who climb things at night. Told you they’re really clever about how they name things in Cambridge.
PRO TIP (because apparently I’m a pro now): hire a punter.
You can also rent your own boat and take it out yourself, but you’re going to look like a huge douchebag and piss off the people who are actually trying to lead professional tours by clogging up the river.
I noticed on a sign that the people who rented their own boat had to pay 16 pounds, while our tour only cost 10. Plus we had all the insider knowledge AND we didn’t get stuck out on the river getting splashed by high schoolers trying to get around themselves.
We finished off our day in Cambridge with ice cream, wine, and $30 pizza from a mediocre chain, and headed back to Peterborough where I continued to ignore the contents of my bank account. Ignorance is bliss.