UK: “And since we are in England, I suggest you make some tea.”

I arrived in Cambridge about 5p. Having not had time to notify Katia before leaving Kings Cross, I was on the lookout for a payphone to let her know I was in town. I was set with the change from the Most Expensive Twix Bar Ever, but of course, the first set of payphones I found didn’t take coins. They did take my credit card for the Most Expensive Five Minute Phone Call Ever ($5). Katia was clearly frazzled when I called as I was two hours earlier than we thought I might arrive. But more importantly, she had just discovered that her flat was invested with bees.

We would later find out that Cambridge in springtime is full of swarms of bees that sometimes find their way into places where they don’t belong, like Katia’s flat. She was understandably distressed upon discovering them swarming up the front door as well as dead and dying all over the entry way and main room. Fleeing with only her handbag and cello, she dropped off the cello before making her way to the train station to pick me up. After a brief soda break, we ventured past the taxi stand to the bus stop, waiting for the #1 bus to take us into town. Katia had made the executive decision that we were staying in a hotel tonight, as she had discovered the bees three minutes after the college porters close up for the night.

A pound fifty got me to the city centre with my luggage and my friend in tow. We headed straight for the Crowne Plaza, but alas they were full. They recommended the Best Western across Parker’s Pieces, but it was also full. Turns out the Cambridge Beer Festival was going on at the same time, so most of the Cambridge hotels were full of Germans! Third time’s the charm as we got a great room at the University Arms with a full English breakfast in the morning. It felt SO great to drop off my suitcase after dragging it all over Cambridge. Once we got checked in, it was time to make a list and a reconnaissance mission to Katia’s flat for her to pick up essentials for the night.

It was also a great excuse to walk through Cambridge and give me my first real introduction the UK. The sun was beginning to set and the temperatures were beginning to cool off. I had NOT been expecting the heat wave that had come to Britain, so I was still wearing the sweater and yoga pants I’d flown in. As I exclaimed to Katia many times that evening, Cambridge is like Medieval Disneyland. Within minutes of arriving in Cambridge, I was walking past the descendant of THE TREE Isaac Newton sat under when he discovered gravity (as the story goes). And that was just a drop in the bucket of the amazing things I would see while in this beautiful, historic town. The architecture has to be seen to be believed and the various Pieces are gorgeous in the evening sun.

As we walked back to Katia’s flat, armed with the list of things she needed and her epi pen, we happened upon a senior citizen lawn bowling league. I had geeked out as we left the hotel when we ran into a group setting up to play cricket and this was just the cherry on top. The group had uniforms and suitcases full of supplies, so they obviously meant serious business. I made Katia stop and watch for a few minutes, delaying our arrival at her flat just a little longer.

There were a few bees flying from her flat as we opened the door, but most that were left were dead or dying on the ground. It was clear that although the porters said they would put in an emergency maintenance request, nothing had been done yet. I read things off the list as Katia shoved them into a bag and twenty minutes later we were rushing back down the stairs, mission accomplished. Katia lives in a fourth floor walk up, so I knew I would have my work cut out for me the next day when I had to bring my huge suitcase up those stairs, but left that thought for Future Jenn to deal with. We walked back through “old town” (though it’s all old to me!) to the City Center to drop her bag and go to dinner.

Almost all the restaurants in Cambridge (and in London, to be honest) are chains and we settled on Pizza Express for dinner. Instead of tea, Katia had a nice glass of wine to calm her nerves. I was just happy that it was 2100 and I was still awake! We had leisurely dinner and dessert before heading back to the hotel. I was eager to experience some British television before going to bed, but it turns out most British chat shows are crap. I was also introduced to the phenomenon of Jedward (EuroVision was coming up that weekend), which was quite scary. My body finally gave up about midnight and I crashed out.