Anisa Alhilali

Anisa fell in love with Cambridge the first time she visited and tells us why it was love at first sight.  As well as sharing her favourite photos of Cambridge, Anisa also shares her favourite memories and recommendations. 

Anisa Alhilali at Cambridge UK

Tell us about yourself

My name is Anisa and I’m originally from Texas.  In 2017, I left my corporate job in NYC and moved to Norwich, England, to be with my husband.  After three years of navigating a trans-Atlantic relationship, we were thrilled to be together in the same place.

It has been quite the adjustment, but I have been enjoying learning more about the traditions and history in England. Plus, there are so many hidden gems to discover.  It’s also exciting to be so close to Europe.  I have a long list of places I want to travel to once the pandemic is over.

What are you doing with your time at the moment?   

I run the travel blog, Two Traveling Texans, which aims to help Americans make the most of their limited vacation time.  However, given the travel restrictions, we have spent more time exploring our local area, Norfolk.  It has been eye-opening to discover new places in our “backyard.”  I have started to work on a new website, Norfolk Local Guide, that will share some of these gems with the rest of the world.  Travelers need to know about Norwich, the North Norfolk Coast, the Norfolk Broads, and more.  The area is perfect for history, art, and nature lovers.

Mathematical Bridge Cambridge University Cambridge UK

What is your connection to Cambridge? 

I don’t have a direct connection with Cambridge.  It’s just a place I fell in love with the first time I visited.  Cambridge has a special charm to it and lots of history.  It’s fascinating to think about how the city shaped so many influential people like Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Charles Darwin, John Maynard Keynes and more.  Now that I live about an hour away, we try to visit a few times a year.  It’s always inspiring to visit the colleges, museums, churches or to just walk around the city.

What is your best memory of Cambridge?

My favourite memory of Cambridge was my first visit when we went punting. I think back on it and I can’t stop laughing.  We decided to do the punting on our own instead of joining a tour.  Let me tell you it is harder than it looks!  My husband did all the work and I just sat back and enjoyed the view.  

I am happy to report that no one got injured or wet during our excursion, but we did have a little run in with the edge of the river, a weeping willow, and a professional punt tour guide.  He was not pleased with the technique my husband used to turn around.  The punting tours in Cambridge are lovely and you will learn a lot, but punting on your own is more of an adventure. 

King's College Chapel Cambridge, Cambridge University Cambridge UK

Who would you like to share a punt with and why?

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.  I have been a fan of his since he was young.  It has been inspiring watching him grow and prepare for his role as the future king.  I was still living in the US when he married Catherine and I remember getting up early to make sure I could watch it all.  I have so many questions that I would love to ask him. What happened with Harry and Meghan? What does he think about Brexit? It would also be fun to hear his stories about George, Charlotte, and Louis.  I wonder if he has any experience punting?

What is your favourite place to visit in Cambridge and why?  

It is hard for me to pick one favourite as there are so many places I love in Cambridge.  I think I will have to say King’s College Chapel. The Chapel was started in 1446 by Henry VI and wasn’t finished until the reign of Henry VIII over a century later. It is one of the most beautiful churches I have visited and home to the world-famous King’s College Choir. The walls are mostly filled with stained glass, so the light inside is magical.  It has the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world.  The stonework on the ceiling is incredible.

The Backs of Cambridge and King's College Chapel Cambridge University at Cambridge UK

Was there anything you discovered about Cambridge that surprised you?  

The back room in the Eagle pub.  I knew it was the pub where Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson had “discovered the secret of life” after they developed their proposal for the structure of DNA in 1953, but I didn’t expect to see all the graffiti in the back room.

The area in the front was crowded so we headed to the back to find a table.  When I went to the bar to place our order I was moved by all the graffiti on the walls and ceiling dating back to World War II.  I thought about how difficult life was during that time in England and wondered how many of those that had written their thoughts in the pub had survived.

What is the one thing in Cambridge that everyone visiting should do?  

Besides punting, everyone that goes to Cambridge should try to visit the Wren Library at Trinity College.  It gets its name because it was designed by Christopher Wren, the same architect that worked on St. Paul’s in London.  It’s a beautiful library but it’s the treasures inside that will blow your mind.  You can see a Shakespeare First Folio, the original manuscript of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, handwritten manuscripts by John Milton and Lord Tennyson, some of Sir Isaac Newton’s notebooks, and more fascinating significant works.

Little Round Church Cambridge UK

Why should someone visit Cambridge? 

Cambridge has so much to offer visitors.  It’s neat to explore the colleges where so many important figures have been educated.  The museums are amazing (and mostly free), They cover a broad range of topics. Plus, it’s such a pretty city to explore on foot or by punt.

Cambridge is a wonderful place to visit whether you’re a history buff, a photographer, or the average tourist looking to visit one of the most famous university towns in the world.

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