A Month in Cambridge – Week 4

Our final week in Cambridge came faster than expected, and we spent about half of it in London.

Thursday morning was spend on landing new projects and moving the Triangulation project forward. In the afternoon Elmine and I went to the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden, a beautiful park really, and open to the public. It was a splendid summer afternoon in a splendid summer to stroll through the gardens there. We discussed next year’s Unconference BBQ there (mark your calendars for the Midsummer Unconference BBQ on 20 and 21 June 2014).

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Cambridge Botanic Garden

We celebrated Elmine’s birthday on the 30th, enjoying a Japan themed day in London. Elmine had indicated earlier in the month to be curious about visiting Japan. I bumped into a sketch-note travel diary ‘Tokyo on Foot’ as well as a Japan guide ‘A Geek in Japan’, while browsing books on Charing Cross Road, as gifts. We also recently read an article saying that planning a trip already provides the ‘happiness benefits’ of a trip, even if you don’t go. So I planned for a ‘trip to Japan’, albeit Japanese things in London. A quick 50 minute train ride brought us to ‘Tokyo’, where we had lunch at the Tokyo Diner, browsed a manga / graphic novel store, before visiting the Serpentine Gallery 2013 Pavilion by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. We rounded off the day with a great 8 course tasting of Kyoto-cuisine in the Michelin starred Umu restaurant.

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Serpentine Pavilion and Umu restaurant.

Saturday we used to say our goodbyes to Cambridge. Enjoying Johnnies tomato and pear filled garden, and going out for a last coffee and Patisserie Valerie cakes, enjoyed in the park. In the evening a goodbye dinner with Johnnie, good both in tastes and conversation. Sunday morning, another beautiful day, we cycled with Johnnie up the Cam towards Grantchester for lunch, where I had a classic Sunday roast. Then the train to London, with all our gear and luggage, where we planned to stay the last days in the Pullman next to St. Pancras International station. We enjoyed a quiet Vietnamese dinner at Sen Viet before retiring to our room on the 10th floor with a wide view over the north of London.

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A last look at Johnnie’s garden and saying goodbye to our home for August

We explored the very good exhibition on Propaganda at the British Library Monday morning. I lost track of time, causing Elmine to worry where I went. Takeaways like how propaganda got its name, then its bad rep, and therefore was rebranded as public relations (PR), as well as the role of propaganda outside of the traditionally associated contexts of war, dictatorships and leader cults, in contexts like the 2012 London Olympics, ‘buying local’ or health care campaigns. Triggered memories of the nation branding and place branding discussed at the Medinge Group for years. After that we took to Hyde Park for some reading in the grass, before meeting Piers Young for tapas and wine. It’s been quite a few years, 2004 or 2005 I think, since we last met face to face, so it was very good to catch up again. Before we knew it, talking while enjoying food and wine, it was elevenish.

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British Library (seen from our hotel), Propaganda exhibition

Getting to Greenwich, the next day, turned into a three hour expedition, as we attempted to take the Thames river bus (bearing the ridiculous KPMG slogan “cutting through complexity”, making it quite obvious they don’t understand complexity.) and then got off at Greenland Pier, not Greenwich (thanks to the absence of any info on scheduled stops on board as well as signs on the stops themselves, and a comms system that can’t overcome the boats engines). It meant a trek to the nearest tube station, then across the river, change trains, go east, change trains, and go back across the river. Greenwich is a pleasant village it seems, and we strolled for a bit through its streets, after concluding Greenwich Market was a bit disappointing in terms of finding the hoped for ‘makers’ selling their wares there. Dinner was enjoyed near the hotel again, and as this was our last evening in London, we went for some fine ‘pub grub’ accompanied by a good pint of beer.

And that brings us to the concluding day of our final week: Wednesday, the day of our return home. Our train didn’t leave until 15:00, so we had ample time for a slow breakfast, before heading over to Covent Garden for a coffee. Relatively early in the morning, there are almost no people around, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. I ended up talking to Tristan who sells hand made and bound notebooks. He repurposes old damaged books for it, using their pages as cover, and adding a quote. In the end I chose one, with a quote about getting tired of London by Samuel Johnson in a discussion with Boswell. Because it was our final day in London, and I had used Johnson’s and Boswell’s writings on a trip to Scotland years earlier as a travel guide to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. In good London publishers tradition he signed the notebook for me. Some tea and lunch at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, enjoyed outside in the shade in Hyde Park, was our final goodbye to the UK after a month here.

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View of London from hotel, Write Stuff at Covent Garden Market

With all our gear we caught the 15:04 Eurostar train, which through connections in Brussels and Schiphol Airport, landed us back home just before 23:00. Home seemed a strange place, after having been away for basically 2 months (the month in the UK, and before that a month camping in France, with in between just a quick visit home to dump the camping gear and repack our suitcases).

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Now it’s time to reflect on our stay in the UK.

2 thoughts on “A Month in Cambridge – Week 4

  1. Jon Husband

    You’d be a great travel writer, Ton. Sounds like a marvellously enriching and rejuvenating month ‘abroad’. Johnnie’s home is great, isn’t it ?

  2. Ton Zijlstra Post author

    Thanks Jon! Combined with a month in France (just to relax) it was a very good summer. In terms of reflection, and in terms of new things seen and encountered. Johnnie’s home is excellently suited for this type of stay. Lots of bright rooms, and a garden that also provides several ‘spaces’ to use. I hope it worked well for Johnnie as well.

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