Day #9: Can you tell me where I might find Harry Potter?

Cambridge for me is just like being on the set of Harry Potter. The shops are quaint and overpriced, while the streets are filled with students. The only difference is that all of the students have bikes instead of brooms. The bikes are a Seattleites dream come true, you can take dream however you want. They are perfect for the emo, tattooed, one pant leg up, smoking a cig, thinking about his band, hot as hell Seattle cyclist, but for the all the time driver tears might form upon seeing so many bikes. I may honestly be understating how many bikes there are in Cambridge. When I de-board the lovely quick train from London and pop out of the station, there is a bike station filled with at least a hundred bikes. Bikes of all kinds, purple with baskets, blue with thick mountain tires, green, and gray that also line the streets. Whole streets are filled with bikes and bikers. Crosswalk signs do not have little people, they have bikes!
I am here with Spyros and another couch surfer named Laura, a beautiful Argentinian girl. Have I even told you what Spyros looks like? He is about 5’9 with medium length dark brown hair and piercing dark brown eyes. He always looks as if a full Greek beard might take shape on his face, but it never does. Laura calls him “charming” and I’d have to agree that he is.
Laura is small and looks the way I imagine every Argentinian to look, like a supermodel, though she is too short to be one. She has perfect golden brown skin with a few freckles. Her long brown hair is usually pinned up in a classically messy way that makes her look exotic rather than unkempt. She is a lawyer in Argentina and hates her job so she has decided to travel for a year. Her English is not perfect, but the fact that she struggles and the listener has to fill in the gaps makes her even more endearing. Due to this array of qualities she has not had problems finding places to stay and I venture to guess will not in the future. Spyros is as equally charmed by her as she is by him.
I know when I go with them that I am out of place and that they would be better off spending time alone, but I don’t much want to go to Cambridge alone and so much like the extra napkins thrown into a to-go bag full of cookies, I go along.
On our way to the talk we stop at the market and buy champagne and grapes and wash them off in the center of town. We make our way around a confusion of buildings, going in and out of alleys, down cobbled streets in search of the talk that will soon be happening. Spyros decides to ask Cambridge staff where to go and eventually we wind around the city to where we need to be with no time to spare. We find our room and prepare to sit and listen to Nancy Fraser and Luke Paltansky . The talk is not what we originally think it’s on, which is the “Socioeconomic input/output of women in the workforce” or something of that nature. Instead it is a critique of criticism. If you can imagine what a philosophical conundrum a critique of criticism is as well as the reality of reality than you will have found the space that we occupied that day. These two speakers attempt, I’m not sure if it is successfully or unsuccessfully to reinvent and reinterpret the culture of domination by institutions and the manner in which they have to simultaneously possess a culture of domination and free will. I’m not going to go long into this. It’s something so on the forefront of our minds that we often don’t take the time to really examine it.
When the talk is over we decide to picnic with our goods. Weeping willows dot the park that is surrounded by a river filled with boats that aren’t quite gondolas, but are manned by students for extra cash. If it weren’t the three of us, I would say this is the most romantic day I’ve had at a park in a long time. I see a couple on the other side of the river in each others arms and I take pictures to remember the sweetness of the day. It quickly turns cold as we dine on our grapes and champagne, but we are determined to enjoy the day regardless of imminent rain.
It is hard to convince the two pseudo love-birds to leave the grassy nook we have found, but after a long stretch under the tree where Spryos teaches Laura to roll her own cigarettes, we venture off to see the rest of Cambridge. It’s hard to say that I’ve ever seen a more beautiful city. The buildings are architecturally magnificent, comprised of Victorian and modern buildings. Modern in the sense of English modern is still a brick exterior. It is on this walk that I see two young men in capes and I am utterly transported into HP’s world. I just hope that one of them throws an invisibility cloak over himself soon!
I become keenly aware of my hunger as we walk through the town. Grapes are just not enough to fill a woman of my size and we begin to seek a place for sustenance. It is difficult to find anything for less than 10pds. That is the equivalent of about $15. Eventually we walk down a side street where a new pub is hidden and find nothing but burgers. I am so hungry that I decide I cannot wait until London for a meal and decide that I will have to take my chances and eaten a gluten filled meal. It is spectacular! I can’t tell you how much I have craved the taste of tender bread on my tongue for the last month and a half. It is as if I had won the lottery. I savor every morsel and await the consequences of such a meal.
It is time to leave Cambridge around 10pm and I am a little sad. This is the kind of place I could spend weeks just relaxing in the parks and riding around on bikes. It is not as crowded as London and I like this because I will never truly be a big city girl. I am always the right outside the big city girl, accessible but not life consuming.
It is hard to talk on the train back. We are tired and it seems like the train itself is tired too. It seems sluggish and the eyes of other passengers are red and struggling to stay open. I want to sleep, but I don’t want to be rude to my host and new friend. We talk more about travel and then they discuss opening a restaurant on a cliffside in Greece. They invite me to become a part of the grand scheme, but I am hesitant because I am not a great cook and have never had grand dreams to serve anyone in that way ever again.
By the time we make it back to the big blue couch it is after 11 and my grand plans of making it to my hostel are thwarted. I have to ask Spyros if I can stay for a fourth night, which to me is very much the same as overextending my stay. Luckily, Laura is small enough to fit on love seat while I once again retain big blue. It is time for more tea and more music. We are happy, this new small couch family. I will leave in the morning and leave them to their smaller couch family and the members will be switched out again in time. I like this. I like the way people come and go and there are no obligations. I think perhaps I will have to host when I get back to the states, though I feel terrible that I cannot offer the same couch. Big blue, you will be missed.

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One thought on “Day #9: Can you tell me where I might find Harry Potter?

  1. January 29, 1945Today we hit Kassel. It was a very quiet tour. Never saw a burst of flak – maybe I was asleep. But there were smoke rockets. Had an excellent escort of – you guessed it – 51’s. Took off 8:10 – landed 8 hours later at 3:50, well, nearly 8 hours. On oxygen 3 hours. Altitude was 25,000 and the temperature was 50° below. My gloves wouldn’t work – my poor little hands nearly froze. Flew Eagles Wrath / 80. Yesterday flying same thing. We got to taxi before a snowstorm hit us and stopped us cold. Twelve planes got off then, and the 13th cracked up. Killed 4. Today makes five days in a row we got up to go, but no go. We got up at 2:30, 3:45, 4:40, 3:30, and 3:30. Flew in high, left wing element, of low squad. Believe me, we messed up on bombing.

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