Wednesday, 31 October 2007

My Trip to Ely or rather My Weekend of Gorging

I visited Ely the other weekend, it is about an hours train ride north of Cambridge, I have a friend living there which is why I went, not for the world-famous Ely tourist attractions. It was a really awesome weekend, sometimes it is nice to just hang out with other native english speakers. They all speak unbelievably good english at work, but they still don't get all your jokes (not that I make heaps of jokes), or rather comments which you just expect a smile to, but instead need to explain as to why they are slightly humourous, kind of ruins the moment I find. So everynow and again it is nice to be in a place where you never need to explain, if they don't laugh it's because it wasn't funny, rather than they didn't understand. It is also good to hear the old Australian accent every now and again too.

When travelling into London, which I have only done on the Eurostar so far, I noticed that the train seems to go an awful lot faster through the French section than through the English part. On the way back I decided to time the trip and then compare the portion of time travelled in a country to the portion of distance covered in that country. And the numbers don't really come up in England's favour. These are pretty rough numbers but I think you can get the idea, 72% of the journey is in France, and yet only 62% of the time is spent there. This is only from one trip so when I go back there this weekend I plan to take some more data :). I think the problem is that English rail is all privatised, so the companies don't bother upgrading their infrastructure. So this train which can travel at 300km/hr has to share the same tracks as the suburban trains, which are lucky to get to 60km/hr.

I heard a few stories about the privatised public transport system while I was there. Apparently if the weather is a little bit hot, or windy or there are leaves on the tracks then all the trains are massively delayed. The infrastructure is apparently not capable of handling anything but the most ideal of conditions. Makes me wonder what happens when it snows, do the trains stop completely? It is good to visit England just so that you come back with a renewed appreciation of the French public transport system.

Anyway enough complaining about the english trains, the english made their choice when they voted for Thatcher and now they just have to live with the consequences. So on to the weekend of eating!

The village of Ely is a proper English village, there are about 10,000 people living there, it has a massive cathedral in the centre of town, which being England costs a packet to go inside, and cows and horses grazing on the village green. It also has a Tescos, which is an English supermarket chain, it was like being in Woolworths, though I found the opening hours slightly strange.

This is the front of Ely cathedral, with I think fittingly, an apple fair going on in the foreground.

The days in Ely must be kind of strange if this is their definition of 24 hours.

There is also a river, the Great Ouse, which is actually pronouced Ooze, which runs beside the town. It is just lovely, peaceful english countryside around here.
What is not apparent in this photo, but you can see at other spots along the river, is that the ground beside the river has sunk so it is now lower than the river. All this area used to be marshes which they have drained, leaving the peat behind, but the peat shrinks and so now there are these massive embankments about 2m above the fields containing the river. This means that the farmers have to use pumps to keep the river flowing and to stop the land returning to its natural, marshy state.

We went for a walk along this river into town where we had an awesome Devonshire tea and I saw some of the fattest geese I have ever seen. I don't think these birds could fly away even if they wanted to. This one in the photo is so fat that it's body is almost dragging on the ground. After laughing at the immense geese for a while I then proceeded to stuff myself with clotted cream and rasberry jam. If there is one thing the english have down pat, it's clogging your arteries.
Once we could move again it was off to Cambridge for a punt along the river Cam. That was pretty fun, I'd never punted before and it takes a little while to get the hang of it. You feel really unsteady standing on the back of the punt and after hearing the story of a different friend who had managed to stay on the boat for all of 20 seconds before falling into the water, I was a little wary. I got the hang of it in the end, though I'm not going to win any races, but at least I didn't fall into the water. It was a bit like dodgem-punts out there, the river was packed with people, I shudder to think how busy it is in summer, and punts were smashing into each other all over the place.

Waiting for the traffic to clear, actually these low bridges certainly made the punting interesting. You have to make sure you get your pole horizontal before you have gone under the bridge, otherwise you can be left holding the pole, with no boat to stand on.

Here is one shot of me as I have just started to punt and managed to steer us straight under a tree where I then got the pole stuck in the branches, I worked it out in the end.

By this stage we had worked up an appetite, plus the rugby world cup final was about to begin, so we headed off to a nearby pub where I managed to get my hit of fish and chips. Then it was time for the rugby, it was a great place to watch South Africa beat England. You should have seen the pub clear out after the match though, the medals hadn't even all been handed out yet and there was only us and a couple of girls left in what had previously been a completely packed pub.

The next morning it was one last english tradition of a cooked breakfast, complete with black pudding and grilled bacon, before it was back on the Eurostar and back to Paris. All in all a very pleasant weekend.

No comments: