Semester in Europe part four - Go Karts of Death and other random adventures

Before I finish this series with the culmination of our semester - the 10 day backpacking trek around Europe - there are a few other events I have to share about our time in Cambridge.

First, I can't say enough how gorgeous that city is. If you ever have a chance to visit, do it. "The Backs" of Cambridge University (literally the back of a bunch of the university buildings) run along the Cam river and the view is breathtaking. You can go "punting" down the river in a boat you push along with a stick like so:
(Byron looks like a pro here pushing my boat but later his punting stick gets stuck in the mud and we have to sheepishly paddle over to retrieve it in front of laughing locals.... seen below:)

or you could just walk around the colleges (or try to con students into letting you in some of the buildings...not that we tried to do that or anything...) or you could rebelliously take off running across the grass in one of the "courts" where it is only allowed to walk on the grass if you are a "Fellow". Of course I did it anyway.

Ok I didn't exactly run across.

Ok I just barely put my toe on the grass when no one was looking...sigh, I'm a horrible rebel...

But there are great stories from famous Fellows like when Lord Byron used to bathe naked in one of the fountains, etc. And the city is pretty in other parts too, like Jesus Green, the big park that we used to ride our bikes through:

We all were given bikes immediately to get around town with and I loved mine -- except for the first couple months we were there, it was freezing outside. The pic above was at the end of our trip when it got warm but before that, we had to wrap up like mummies to stand the ride into town. I always had long johns under my clothes and always had a scarf...

- wrapped around my face-

when I was on my bike. (When you are that cold, fashion goes out the window.)

But I'm telling you about the layers so you'll understand how much more funny it was


Well, we never actually saw the fire but the fire alarm definitely went off one day when a group of us were reading in our favorite bookstore, Waterstone's. And I just remember us giggling while running down an endless spiral staircase. And Missy (the Irish Yeller here) falls down the stairs, which of course makes us all laugh even harder because we are college kids with no hearts. And I'm in the back of the group and can't see anything because it's a spiral staircase and you can only see the step in front of you and only hear everything happening, say, 4 steps in front of you - like when a body hits the stairs and dissolves into giggles. So all I see-

are clothes.

A glove here. A scarf a few steps down. I guess in everyone's haste to run and in Missy's fall, some of their Bicycle Layers got left behind on the descent. So that's how I remember that day. Running down endless stairs while laughing and picking up random items of clothing.

Another day, we all went Go Karting! So random, but we actually had a lot of random field trips. (like to the Cadbury Chocolate factory! Which is where all the girls died and went to heaven. At least, after we rode around a weird "It's a Small World" type ride full of what looked like cartoon black beans on acid which we couldn't figure out until the end when someone yelled "OHHHHH! they're COCOA Beans!!!!" which continues to be a favorite phrase to yell when I see these friends...)

Anyway, "Karting" in England is more intense then Go Karts in the U.S. And to make matters worse, they split us into teams and pitted us against eachother. Here's after the race where a few of us look friendly again:

But looks can be deceiving.

People hit eachother.

Someone ran over a part of someone else's car.

Someone got whiplash.

And my team was all girls and We. Were. Determined. not to be outdone. And did I mention this was a relay? So you switch drivers every lap. We got to the point where we weren't even stopping the car completely, we'd scream at the other girl to just JUMP IN AND GO! GO! like maniacs. And we were doing really well -- until our car stalled. And we ended in last place.


But did you notice the flame retardant suits in the photo above? Yes. I'm telling you - intense. We had to wear helmuts and full body suits and there were warnings everywhere like “No Contact. Leave room for overtaking kart ahead. In case of emergency, stay in kart. Do not drive in wrong direction. Please drive carefully.” And because we had to make Scrapbooks at the end of our semester, here is part of a page in mine. Note the instructions we got before we drove (if you can't read it, it's basically listing the different ways you will likely crash and how you should wait for help) (also note the nice NASCAR background I used on this page. I hope my teachers enjoyed how seriously I took this whole Scrapbook thing...):

Excellent. That was seriously one of my favorite days...

Another favorite trip we took was to The Lakes District in England where we spent a week at a sort of "team building camp". We did everything from Ropes Courses to building our own rafts and sailing them in frigid waters.

And it rained. A lot. So we had to wear "waterproofs" like these:

and towards the end of a particularly wet hike, Tiffani decided to just slide down on her rear-end to get to the bottom faster -

Love her.

We were so cold and miserable on the bus ride back to Cambridge that when the bus stopped at a gas station, someone found shirts for sale in the station and several of us jumped at them. Mine was 3 sizes too big but I've never felt more in love with a piece of clothing in my life because it was DRY.

I still have that shirt.

Ok, ok, I promise to wrap this up soon. Next up, I'll end with our backpacking trek....