Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cambridge: Punting on the Cam

We had about three hours to spend in Cambridge on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May, so we made the most of our time by taking a guided punt ride on the Cam. This is a must for any first-time visitor to Cambridge as it lets you see all the main college buildings as they were meant to be viewed -- from the water. The guides are well versed in the history of the area and point out many interesting sights as you float by.

The first rule to punt riding in Cambridge: Negotiate the price. We'd heard about this beforehand, but we're not really the negotiating type. When the first ticket seller approached us he told us the price was six pounds per person. A second ticket seller farther along the way told us seven pounds each. When we told him the last guy had said six, he said, "Okay, six then." No argument at all. When we went to pay and get into our boat the cashier had to ask the ticket seller how much to charge us. He said he couldn't read minds! It obviously changes with each new customer. I'm sure we could have gotten our ride for less, but we were satisfied with the price.

We had to wait a little while for another couple and the puntsman, but eventually we were on our way. The ride was delightful and the guide was charming and informative. We learned a bit of history as he pointed out various landmarks and told amusing anecdotes about events in the past of the various colleges that make up Cambridge.

It's a lovely way to see the town because Cambridge is built on the river, and everything is oriented towards it. You learn a little, see a lot, and relax while someone else entertains you and does all the work.

Now that's what I call vacation!

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