I don’t think I could have gotten any happier than when I went river punting in Cambridge today.
I panicked a few days ago when I forgot to squeeze Cambridge into my trip – so I ended up paying a premium (again) for the train ticket. I’m so glad I decided to go, because it was such an incredible place. SO RICH IN HISTORY (obviously). England, you enchant me.
On another note, I haven’t been getting much sleep – I think the last time I got an adequate amount of rest was back in Thailand, nearly a year ago. I made it to my train with only 10 min to spare (woohoo, having to race to the station at 5 A.M.) and felt like dying once I arrived. But the 1.5-hr journey (1 hr on a direct train) was worth it – Cambridge is another stunner. I keep falling in love with every new place I visit in England.
Similar to Oxford (but no one ever mentions that name in Cambridge, and vice versa), all the colleges and buildings have great amounts of history and detail behind them. Even the lesser-known colleges (Emmanuel, Clare, St. Andrews College, etc.) were gorgeous. I should have written down the ones I walked through, but I quite liked how most of them had massive courtyards and gardens that looked straight out of a fairytale.
Basically, exploring these places is like bringing my childhood fantasies to life. Narnia, Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast, Sherlock Holmes – everything takes place in England (mostly). My face is literally the heart-shaped-eye emoji 24/7 here. 😍
Fitzwilliam Museum (free!) was extravagant and massive. I raced through it in about 10 min. since I didn’t want to be late to the punting tour, but in reality, I never spend more than 15 min. at a museum anyway (there’s only so much historical artifacts that interest me). Still highly recommend it to anyone who visits.
The obvious highlight of my day was booking a spur-of-the-moment river punting tour with a group of lads in front of Kings College. Since their ad stated “Cambridge Alumni Group” (led by mostly Cambridge alumni), I figured it was legitimate enough.
And then the dude was like, “Do you like Harry Potter? Your guide is actually gonna be Robbie Jarvis. He played young James Potter in the fifth film.”
Excuse me, WHAT. The same actor that I follow on Instagram and who dated Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood)? I tried not to fangirl too much.
Since 99% of the tourist demographic everywhere in England is Chinese, of course, the 6 others in the boat with me were all Asian (there was one guy from Thailand). That also meant that they were all mute while we did the punting tour, so it was basically an hour-long conversation between me and Robbie. I was stoked. “You guys have to talk to me so we can have a nice conversation going, or else I’m going to make you guys tip over” – it was something to that effect. I may have been the only one who comprehended 100% of his tour, but who cares. WELL CHUFFED.
When the tour started, he basically explained that he didn’t want to be a guide with a monotonous script. We just got extremely lucky, since the other boats that kept passing us were literally all silent and their guides didn’t seem to be chatting away like Robbie was. He was the sweetest and most personable guy ever. Super down-to-earth with a great sense of humour, so the tour was absolutely amazing.
He definitely made sure to include everyone in the conversation – he broke out his impressive Mandarin skills, explained how much he practices Muay Thai, and how he loves California and did 10 days in America for a charity organisation he was part of. Brownie points.
And then he started talking non-stop about all sorts of England facts, Cambridge trivia, personal anecdotes, Cambridge alumni (Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Sacha Baren-Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Tom Hiddleston, and a bunch of Game of Thrones people), etc. I was so impressed with his wealth of knowledge and asked how he knew so much (as in, exact dates of everything and everyone) – and he clarified that his mum would tell him all sorts of stories growing up. He even told us all about Alan Turing (noted alum) and when he became a student at Sherborne School, which was 10 min from where Robbie grew up (Brighton area). He went on to explain how Turing’s start of the first term coincided with the General Strike and as a result, the railway system wasn’t working. Turing was so determined to attend the first day that he cycled 100 km from his home in Southampton to Sherborne and gave himself a full day of lessons unaccompanied. And to think, he was chemically castrated by his own government just because he was that intelligent?! Ridiculous.
We learned all about Stephen Hawking, we passed the beautiful courtyard where they filmed some of the scenes in “The Theory of Everything” (St. John’s), and he talked about how he met Stephen Hawking (and obviously Eddie Redmayne), but the only person that Hawking kept wanting to talk to was Felicity Jones, whom he flirted with the entire time on set. Once a lad, always a lad.
He also explained the reasoning behind the Bridge of Sighs (and I already forgot why it was nicknamed that. The Mathematical Bridge is constructed of 74 perfectly straight beams, none of which are curved, so it’s perfect from an engineering standpoint. We also passed under a famous Chinese bridge built by a famous Chinese poet (obviously).
He apparently only does these tours since he has a friend in the company who lets him- I’m not sure if he’s still enrolled as a grad student at Cambridge, but he did both his undergrad and grad degrees there. Apparently students are forbidden from even having part-time jobs in order to concentrate on studies, which is why only the alums are supposed to do the punting tours. Either way, he’s a fascinating person who gives the best tours in the world.
It was really difficult to take pictures (both of him and of the beautiful landscapes and colleges we were rowing past) since I seemed really rude to be snapping away whilst sitting directly in front of him. But damn, gotta make memories. And damn right, I fit the horrific stereotype of an Asian tourist – but at least he could tell I was from California straight away when I opened m my mouth. LIKE, TOTALLYYY OMG NO WAYYYYY…
He also talked about how Cambridge has an 82-79 lead over Oxford in their annual rowing competitions. The term for Cambridge rowers is “Blue,” and the girls who only date rowers are known as Blu-Tac. Now I know where the name came from… apparently Rachel Weisz was a famous Blu-Tac.
He also pointed out the most hated building in Cambridge – the tall tower of the university library. It was apparently designed by the same guy who designed the red telephone booths around England – same shape and everything.
The coolest trivia (well, most probably knew this, but not me, since I’m stupid) was about the top 3 universities ranked by the QSR. Obviously Cambridge is up there, along with MIT and Harvard – which are also located in Cambridge (Massachusetts). Funny how all three of the most prestigious universities are all in Cambridge. He talked about a bit of Winnie the Pooh trivia (the author also went to Cambridge) as well as the college’s connection to a few of the characters (not actors) featured in Game of Thrones.
He joked that they don’t group everyone in one specific area of study together – “If you’ve ever heard of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ it’s because we didn’t want a bunch of sex-deprived Sheldons all clumped together,” he clarified. My memory already fails me as to what college he lived in (Trinity? St. John’s?), but he’s obviously super intelligent to do both his undergrad and grad programs there.
I got to talk to him a little bit after the tour ended as well since he was just chilling by himself before his next tour. He talked about starting a vegan podcast with Evanna, how both of them struggled with the hardships and letdowns of auditions (6 month-process for a Game of Thrones role, only to be whittled down to the last 2 and then not getting the role?! That’s so upsetting), and his reasoning for doing the tours in his leisure time. He shared a funny (yet sad) anecdote about how he met this stunning girl in the audience of one of his shows, and when he saw her again, she introduced him to her boyfriend – the guy who got his part in Game of Thrones. “You stole my life!” he joked – funny how the universe works in the ways it does.
Cheers for the best punting tour along the River Cam, Robbie! You’re a legend. Well chuffed to have talked to you for so long xx
HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR TOMORROW ❤ *definitely listening to the Harry Potter soundtracks on the commute over xx