Published: October 14th 2008September 28th 2008
One of my roommates, Krisztina, the Hungarian, has invited me to go with her friends to Cambridge. Krisztina and I left the house at eight this morning, walked to Gyorgyi's house, and she drove us to Hatfield to pick up Heni.
So here I am, the only American among three boisterous Hungarian women. And it's a gloriously sunny day!
The first thing we do is tour the famous University, which I found out is actually comprised of three smaller universities--St. John's, St. Katherine's, and Trinity. The only one we tour is St. John's, and we aren't permitted to go inside any of them. It's sooo beautiful! The elegance of the architecture, the heavy columns, the intricate stonework, the statues of saints. It feels like we're on the grounds of an ancient castle!
The Cam River winds through the campus, and through the entire city of Cambridge. We stop on a short, low bridge to watch people paddling slowly along in a gondola-like boat. We follow the path through campus, to a wide-open field, into a shallow forest. Krisztina finds a dead squirrel in the water! It hovers there with it's arms slightly lifted, like they're floating. I scream
and laugh and take a picture. Everyone laughs at me.
We finish our tour in about an hour. Krisztina says she's tired and wants to lie down in a park somewhere. So we wander around trying to find a park.
At the town centre, in the midst of restaurants and shops, another bridge crosses the Cam. Here, many young British lads are trying to get tourists to accept a ride in one of their gondola-like boats. They show us laminated flyers with pictures of their boats and prices. We turn them away.
Gyorgyi and Heni go buy a burger at a hamburger stand right in the middle of them. Great
, I think, hoping no one else tries to get me to buy a boat ride. Solicitors get on my nerves.
A tall guy approaches me. "Hello, are you interested in a boat ride?"
I look up at him. He's blond, blue-eyed, with a dimpled smile and a white hat with blue pin-stripes. "Umm...," I say, blushing in spite of myself. "I don't know. I'm here with my friends, and I don't know if they want a ride."
He smiles, his eyes twinkling. "I can
St. John's College
Standing in the Second Court in front of Shrewsbury Tower.
take you all for 20 pounds."
"20 pounds?" I gasp. "That's expensive!"
"No, it's a really good deal," he says, still smiling.
"Hey, I'm an American--" I begin, smiling playfully.
"I can tell," he says, smiling bigger, not taking his eyes off me, which is making me blush even more.
"--and that 40 dollars to me, and that's a lot of money."
He glances away and looks back at me, scratching his head in a way that is sooo James Dean. "I promise it's a really good deal. 20 pounds for all four of you. And it's 45 minutes down the river and back."
God, his accent is beautiful. I want to do it, but I'm not sure if anyone else wants to. Krisztina comes over and says, "Yeah, we will do it."
He walks us to his boat and gives me a hand to help me in. "My name is Tom, by the way."
"Alicia," I say.
He smiles, "Alicia, alright then."
During our boat ride, I find out that it isn't a gondola. It's called a punt, which is smaller and shallower than a gondola. I also
found out that Tom is half Dutch, but he was raised near Suffolk in the countryside. No wonder, I can tell a cowboy when I meet one
, I think. He bought his hat in Paris.
He's so tall, he has to bend down when we go under the low bridges.
He keeps looking at me, and I at him. When our eyes meet, we break into smiles, and I fight back giggling. He is gorgeous
Tom gives us commentary about the buildings we are passing, but I have difficulty concentrating. "And there is a pub where Pink Floyd used to play before they hit it big," he points. That was the only thing that got my attention off him.
He takes his shirt off part-way through. I try to act like I don't notice, but.....damn
Towards the end of our trip, he asks if we'd like to try paddling. I'm all over it. He explains how to steer, and I stand carefully on the back of the punt with that huge stick in my hand, paddling slower than a freakin' snail. It's much harder than it looks! I'm excited that I'm doing so well, though.
Called Third Court. This building is the old college library built in 1624.
"Yeehaw!" I shout. "Hey Tom, so are you going to give me any money now? I'm paddling and you're sitting down. You should give me money for doing your job."
He was watching me. He laughed, "Hey I already gave you a great deal on the price! But if you want, I'll limbo under one of those low bridges."
Another good deal, from Tom to me.
So of course, we make him do it, and I take a picture.
When our ride is over, I want Tom to ask for my number. I'm too shy to do it in front of my Hungarian friends. We smile at each other, and he helps me from the punt. I notice that I'm the only one he helps out. I thank him for the ride. He says he's out there every day, rain or shine.
But he never asks for my number.
On our way off the wooden riverside boardwalk, we see a sign with the name of his boat and a price: fifteen pounds per person. He had taken all four of us for twenty.
We find a park and lie down for a couple
of hours. Apparently, it's a normal British thing to do to go to a park and just sit there. But I'm an American. I have to be doing somethin. And I'm hungry, the Hungarians aren't, so I'm stuck lying around in a park. I'd rather be eating, or talking to Tom.
Krisztina said, "He liked you, but he is not single. I mean, look at him."
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