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Trip to an inspiring university city a great way to help refresh batteries of life

The Rev Allen Sleith, Hillsborough Presbyterian Church

By the Rev Allen Sleith

I'm just back from a short holiday in England. The highlight was undoubtedly a day trip to Cambridge, surely one of the loveliest cities one could hope to visit.

I suppose I'm biased but the combination of 'gown and town', of iconic university colleges cheek by jowl with a great variety of shops, restaurants, churches and so much more is a truly wonderful combination. The place is veritably steeped in history but also with the buzz of a chic contemporary setting.

Even the weather played its part. Our arrival coincided with dark clouds and light rain, but within half an hour the sun reasserted itself and the glories of our surroundings were all the more radiant.

Finding our bearings relatively quickly, we strolled along quaint streets filled with multicultural crowds, gazed at the splendours of historic architecture, browsed in cavernous bookshops and made a mental promise to take a trip by punt on the River Cam next time.

Two other features are worthy of note, and not unrelated. First, Cambridge is blessed with numerous green spaces, giving it the feel of an extended garden village.

To anyone who likes to walk it's a bit of heaven on earth, the lure of the beckoning path almost calls you to get up and about by foot.

Second, it really is a city in which, at least round the university area, bicycles are omnipresent - in all shapes, sizes and styles, and that applies to both the bikes and their riders. The overall effect of breaking the stranglehold of cars and buses is to enjoy a calmer, quieter, more leisurely ambience.

There's no perfect place and Cambridge isn't either. Last Saturday was only my second visit and a fleeting one at that. Its university suffers, among others things, from charges of elitism, not entirely unfounded, and doubtless as a city it has its share of problems and challenges.

But for me it provided a summer's highlight and the aspiration to return again for a longer visit. After all, isn't it a proper part of a proper faith that we each have some sort of 'sabbatical' - a rest, a change or holiday that refreshes our workaday lives?

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