Za3tar goes to England .. (or what have I been up to this summer)

Gosh! I haven’t blogged in ages. I know, I know, I am terrible. So for the sake of the good ol’ times let me share a long-overdue post about what I did these past few months.

This summer was nothing short of amazing! I got the opportunity of a lifetime to go do summer research at a lab in Cambridge University in England, and it was spectacular.

King's College Chapel as seen from "The Backs"
King’s College Chapel as seen from “The Backs”

It was really amazing being in Cambridge. At the time of my visit the university was already 800 years old! Affiliates of that university have contributed to literally every field of science, and they include among others: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, James Maxwell, and Alan Turing. Isaac freaking Newton was there! How cool is that! I never expected to be able to go to pub and have dinner at the same table where the discovery of DNA was first publicly announced. This was unreal.

Besides the university, the town of Cambridge is amazing. It is old, has lots of history, and very bike-friendly. People use bikes to get everywhere, and there are bike parking spaces all over town. As a matter of fact, policemen hassle you if you break traffic rules with your bike! I was really shocked by that, and I can’t say that I really obeyed the rules 🙂 I just learned to avoid the police if I am going backwards on a one-way street 😛

Houses in Cambridge
Houses in Cambridge are more “European” than I’m used to

The town and university had much more religious affiliations than I would have thought. There were churches all over the place, and several places in town were named after iconic Christians, e.g. “Magdalene Bridge” and “Jesus Green”. Other than that, the weather in Cambridge was horrible unfortunately. It was cold for most of the time and almost constantly raining, and I was there in the summer! At the end I was glad to go home just to get some sunlight.

I am usually not an outgoing person. However, given that this was my first time in Europe, I decided to take the opportunity and tour around. If you are young and single you can get around Europe very cheaply. They have a huge number of deals for students in almost every country. For example, you can literally find good accommodation for just €18 a night! So I went on a few weekend trips.

Granted, you can never experience a city in just 48 hours. However, you can still have a great time and get a taste of the local culture. The process itself was really amazing. I would wake up Saturdays at around 4am and bike to the bus station, then go from there to the airport to catch the 6am flight to any European capital. I would then spend the weekend there, and travel back on Monday morning. The awesome thing is that Monday noon I would be back in my lab working. Never in a million years would I thought I’d ever get to do that. I’ll tell you more about my weekend trips later, for now let me share some photos from London.

Westminster Palace from the London Eye
A view of Westminster Palace from the London Eye

London was nice. We happened to go there on the Queen’s coronation anniversary, so there were very nice shows and marches around town. We went to Westminster Abbey where various kings, queens, and other famous people are buried. I got to see Newton’s and Darwin’s burial grounds which is very surreal.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

Big Ben from street level
A view of Big Ben from street level

All-in-all, England was very nice. Unfortunately I didn’t see much besides Cambridge and London (I opted to go out to other places instead). It took me some time to get used to their accent and coins (they have so many coins) but at the end I was a professional :-P. Probably the only two things I didn’t like were the weather (it rained constantly, and it was cold even though it was “summer”), and the local food. Everybody told me that English food sucks but I didn’t believe that until I went there. The food was bland and tasteless at best. Luckily, you can get plenty of non-English food all over the place. So over all, England was nice place to visit.

  1. woow.. impressive post.
    I always wanted to visit london, they always says, it’s the only place where you can feel and find technology and nature at the same time, they took care of their city, beautiful views and so many places to smile, also they didn’t forget what any citizen or visitor may need.
    Honestly, I don’t know why i felt like I am who went to london 🙂
    I am really glade to know that your visit was successful and you enjoyed it.

  2. Sounds like alot of fun! Welcome back to blogging
    So did you say hi to my good old friend Dr. Richard Clayton? He’s a great guy

    Hope you’ll have a great winter too 🙂

  3. Mohammad: Thank you for the kind words my friend. London was nice, but i think other cities were a bit more well-maintained. But they were all nice nonetheless.

    Qwaider: Thank you. Hopefully in this winter break I can post more regularly. I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t heard of Dr. Clayton before now. I searched his name and found that he does amazing things outside my field. Ahh .. had i known i would have talked to him. Thanks for the tip though

  4. Cold, rainy summer, my kind of place!! And the houses are so beautiful, they look as if they were brought here by a time machine! But I couldn’t help but notice how many times you mentioned Newton lol can’t blame you though!! it’s something to be psyched about

  5. Thanks Ola.
    The town was nice indeed. And at first i thought i’d enjoy a summer that is not hot … but after a while without seeing the sun i really started to get depressed.

    And yeah, Newton rocks! 🙂

  6. I am terribly jealous and shall voodoo you until I get to travel LOL!

    Seriously though I am glad you had that experience – it’s refreshing and the exposure will do you good, plus you will always have something to talk about when you’re 70 and half of the world doesn’t exist!

  7. KJ: haha .. now i know who i should blame if something happens to me 🙂
    You are absolutely right. It was a nice experience that opened my eyes to things i never thought i’d enjoy. If you are interested, I recommend you to do it while you are still young and single. You can really put together a cheap trip if you go off-season and stay in youth hostels. You can actually find really good, clean, and safe hostels for a low price of around 18 euros a night (which is what i used). This site has a list of the good hostels in different countries http://www.famoushostels.com/ (these hostels are certified, be careful if you use other ones because they might turn out to be bad .. i had a bad experience once before getting to know this site)

  8. sounds pretty good! thats what i like about europe, its easy to travel around and somehow central…i was hoping though you would tell what other cities you experienced! i am total city-addict :))

  9. this place is known for its rich heritage and culture. I must ask http://www.thebackpackerco.com/ to arrange my trip

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