Sunday, October 02, 2005

Scenes from Cambridge

Well, we've been here in Cambridge since early September, enjoying almost everything that this beautiful ancient university town has to offer. We live about 10 minutes' bicycle ride from the centre of town (the market square and King's College), about the same from our new parish home (St. Mark's, Newnham), and 5 minutes from my college (Selwyn), faculty (Divinity), and the University Library. I must say that, so far, we love it here. There are things we miss, but for the most part the things that we like outweigh the things that we miss. Of course, there are people we miss dearly and nothing can substitute for them. But otherwise we have found this to be a wonderful place.

One of the things that I find so wonderful about Cambridge is that, since it is so ancient, much of the town is based on old-urbanist principles. Of course, this warms the cockles of a new urbanist's heart, since, after all, the new urbanism is the old urbanism. Some examples:

It is walkable/bikeable -- no need to be tied to a car all the time. Downtown is not car-centric, so no huge wasteful parking lots: this leads to much denser, closer-in design.

It is visitable -- we go into the city centre all the time, sometimes just to window shop. You can only really do that in a very few American suburbs; it is more possible in the city, but often requires a much longer more deliberate trip (or lunch hour at work). There is an open air market in town every day of the week, making fresh produce and a variety of other goods available.

It is mixed-use, with residences, schools, and shopping being very close; many commercial buildings in the centre of town feature flats above.

It is not a Shangri-La. There are (in Jane Jacobs' phrase) eyes on the street, to some extent, but mostly the town rolls up the sidewalks around 6pm. There is some nightlife, but not much on the streets (which increases danger). Also, there are more and more commercial estates on the edges of town with the UK equivalent of big-box retailers (such as ASDA, which, yes, we shop at).

But it is quite wonderful, and nearly every day I wake up in wonder and awe that I actually live here and (starting next week) will be studying here.

(Also, for the theological types out there, not only do I have the extreme pleasure of working with the Faculty of Divinity here, but on Saturday I got to hear John Mibank present a paper, and +Rowan Williams respond to another at a conference on Radical Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy.)

I thought I might share some pictures of this great place.

Punting on the River Cam

A view in front of Trinity Hall and Clare College

Looking south along King's Parade

Looking north along Trinity Street

A typical city centre scene; everyone bicycles everywhere here!

King's College Chapel in all its glory!


Blogger Emily said...

Oh, I'm so jealous!

Monday, October 03, 2005 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gaunilo said...

Concurred. So jealous. Nashville isn't quite as....ok, Nashville's nothing like that.

Your description of Cambridge reminds me very much of this past summer in Leuven - the city center, all the bikes, the market. I had already forgotten how much I was affected by that.

It's great to hear that you're getting settled in and gearing up to start (man, you guys start late. We're approaching mid-term here!)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005 4:04:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Emily and Gaunilo:
Thanks! In some ways, it's just hitting me that I'm here.

G, we start very late! The first university lectures are tomorrow (the 6th). Full term (which is actually shorter than "term", go figure), when lectures are held, is actually only 8 weeks long, far shorter than anywhere else. Also, we have about a month off between terms: my Lent Term (winter term) starts at the beginning of February, but the Michaelmas Term (autumn term) ends in mid-December. We don't get out until mid to late June, on the other hand. (Frankly, I think it's worth the headache and expense just to have a term called "Michaelmas"!)

And part of what makes it great is that it isn't unique, but, like Leuven from what you say, is part of a much larger, older tradition of urban design, which we seem to have forgotten.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005 8:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gaunilo said...

Incidentally, I haven't made a judgment on Milbank yet; he just seems to be a bit unpopular on campus here.

I do find some of his ontology very interesting; all roads seem to be leading to Maximus the Confessor and Pseudo-Dionysius these days. As in, everywhere I read.

I must admit - you get ++Rowan, we get Jim Wallis. Doesn't seem quite fair.

Thursday, October 06, 2005 4:28:00 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

boy, it's quite different from our digs here in Mexico, but I must say my anglo roots find these pictures quite appealing. It looks a lot like the environs of Boston area. Enjoy, we'll have to make a trip there while you are there.

Saturday, October 22, 2005 1:39:00 AM  

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