Today we were off to York. Matt went off to have a haircut while Kathy prepared baguettes for lunch. Off to the railway station, short trip to Bristol then a change to the Newcastle/Dundee train, which was absolutely rammed. It was chock a block with families and kiddies who were going home after a week down south. It was a trying mix of jumpy, noisy, excited and bored kids. Fortunately they got off at Birmingham (the little brummy bastards) and it was a lot quieter. So we had a 250ml bottle of Chateau neuf de Pape to lighten the pain – from the bottle. Oh, the shame. Hey – it made us feel better. We then had our baguettes and a bottle of “Lost Sheep” wine – Kathy thought it was more like 'lost dog'. Still it did the trick.
After 4 ½ hours we finally arrived in York, hopped in to a taxi to the hotel, and found out it was a series of rooms above a restaurant – which was shut!! Some tomfoolery on Kathy's mobile, and we eventually got hold of the owner. Very friendly chap, nice room in an old building right on the river. We had a change of clothes then headed out again – it was Pub Time!
First stop was the Kings Arms, which was right across the lane from our hotel. Nice little place, right on the waterfront. Slightly creepy guy who wanted us to go on a 'ghost tour', and showed us where the flood levels have been up to in the pub. Shudder. Next we tried a place called, we think, the Lowthers, then on to a wine bar called Plonkers. We decided it was time to find where the restaurant was. Although we saw a pub across the lane from the restaurant, we decided to go back to a pub called the Golden Fleece. We're very glad we did, as we had a magic moment moment. There was a table of locals with 5 (!!!) acoustic guitars having a jam session
– and they were pretty good. They did covers of REM, Eric Clapton, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Greenday. Brilliant.
Dinner was at J Baker's Bistro. Champagne to start. Kathy had delicious crab and lobster, Matt had brawn and monkfish. Our mains were washed down with a lovely bottle of Petaluma Clare Valley Reisling. Dessert was a wonderful chocolate dish for Kathy (with a glass of sweet red) and cheese for Matt (with a really gusty glas of red). We wandered back to the hotel as the city started kicking off for Friday night, and called it quits for the day at a remarkably respectable hour.
We got woken up quite early this morning by a kerfuffle outside our window. On the river near our accommodation were flocks of ducks, geese and swans. At 4.30am there was a huge noise from the geese – Honk, Honk, Honk! “
..... (various sounds of bottles being kicked and so on in the distance)
“Leave geese alone!”
“Hey, shurrup you!”
“Let's get 'em”
“Soft Southern Poofs!!”
“Let's go after them.”
“I'm not going all the way up there and have them run away!”
“Can we get them come down here?”
“Hey you! Soft Southern C**ts!!”
All in the most fantastic Yorkshire accents. We had been lying there giggling gently, but that last one made us laugh out loud. Clearly being called a poof wasn't the ultimate insult.
Daylight eventually broke, and so we got up and tried to find somewhere to eat. A bit of a challenge, so we ended up in a coffee shop with coffee and toasted sandwiches. Yum? So, off we headed to the Minster, via some of the old town and along the Shambles. The Shambles does indeed deserve the title of most picturesque street in England.
Our first glimpse of the Minster from the Shambles
The Minster (so called because while it's a cathedral, it's also a church from which ministries depart, hence Minster) is an incredible building.
Inside it's light and bright,
The nave at York Minster
A reflection of the ceiling of one of the Towers
and clearly well cared for (Canterbury, a lesson). A lot of restoration and preservation work is being done at the moment – we couldn't get in to part of the Minster because of it. The restoration is done only where preservation is not possible.
Some of the stained glass
A bishop's tomb
Guess who he's related to....
The stonework inside and out is amazing.
The organ pipes are incredibly ornate
– it's nice to see pretty and functional pipes for a change. The chapter house is one of the most amazing I've seen in the UK.
Stone carvings inside the Chapter House
The Chapter House door
Inside the Chapter House
The Chapter House ceililng
The Minster is also full of tombs,
Yes, that marble angel is crying...
and includes memorials to the RAF crews who were nearby during WW2, and to PoWs from the Far East Asian Theatre during the same war,
which was something we'd not seen much of before.
A very cool astrological clock
What's with the semaphore?
After gazing at the choir and the rose window,
we decided to got up the tower because we'd been told that there were amazing views from the top.
The Minster from about half way up
There were – just beautiful views over York and towards the Yorkshire Downs.
And of a power plant in the distance
We could also see the ruins of a nearby abbey
and a white horse on a hillside that was 6 miles away.
If you look very closely, you can just see it on the hills in the distance
It was worth the incredibly claustrophobic journey up – made even worse because someone ahead of us kept stopping. Thanks dude, just what we wanted – to be stuck in a dark and narrow staircase!
Once down on terra firma we decided to go even lower – in to the undercroft and crypt. Very impressive. The displays showed the ruins of Roman buildings underneath the Minster, and the remains of the original Norman cathedral – all nice foundations for the current Minster. We even saw a Roman era drain – which still had water flowing through it! All very impressive. Funny point was learning that the Roman column which had been put up outside the Minster was upside down! We also saw chunks of decorative plaster dating back to the Normans. Very impressive. The Minster was worth every penny we spent on entry.
Next, we wandered around the outside of the Minster,
then popped in to a stone carving festival nearby, which was supported by the Minster.
Naturally there was a local microbrewery there selling some of their produce – stone masons are thirsty people, you understand. So we stood there, beer in hand, watching the masons at work and talking to a couple who were on the same Tower tour as us – about the slow people going up the Tower.
By now we were rather hungry, so we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. It was called nineteen, and was better than last night's restaurant. Kathy had potted mackerel then duck while Matt had a scotch egg made with black pudding then venison with a chocolate sauce. It was all so very good. The waitress was new – only her 2nd or 3rd shift and kept calling people 'chaps'. An excellent espresso helped us to finish off our wine.
To walk off our lunch we decided to walk the City Walls.
2.5kms took us 1 ½ hours, what with stopping to take photos,
going up and down off the wall at the old gates,
and Kathy's new shoes giving her killer blisters (walk through the pain, girl!). Oh, and just meandering. The walls are relatively intact, and were gentrified and saved by the Victorians who used to promenade along some of it. Mind you, it did take us past some less picturesque parts of inner York... But, it was a brilliantly sunny afternoon and we enjoyed our walk.
Back to the hotel for a rest and to change for dinner. We were booked to dine at Melton's Too, but went initially to the pub across the road from the restaurant. Very, very old school – drunken regulars (very drunk), sticky carpet, burly barman. We downed our extremely ordinary beers and scarpered as quickly as our middle class legs would take us. We went to the bar attached to the restaurant, and enjoyed a soothing glass of wine before dinner.
Dinner was excellent. When we were first seated we were next to a hen's party who were just finishing up. It was pretty funny – the hen was a little cranky tipsy and didn't want to wear her L plate or her veil. They were replaced with a family party, complete with 6 week old baby who slept through nearly all of the proceedings.
For dinner Kathy had black pudding with a poached egg, followed by duck (yes, double duck today), while Matt had a delicious but slightly chewy carparccio followed by a lamb tagine. Red wine, but didn't write down what we had – but it was delicious! I think it was Californian. Post prandial bevvie in the beer garden at the Golden Fleece, but we only had time for 1 before they closed at 11pm. As all the pubs were closing at this time, and we don't fancy nightclubs we headed back to the hotel for the night.
After a more relaxed start we wandered around town, again trying to find somewhere open for breakfast. As it was Sunday morning the Minster bells were ringing, which was brilliant in the crisp, clear morning.
After some wandering around, and back through the Shambles, we went to Jorvick, which is an interactive museum about the Vikings in York. To our horror it appeared there was a massive queue to get in right on opening – but it was just a German tour group, thank goodness! First off we were on an animatronic 'trip back in time', which was ...interesting. We were seated in automated cars suspended on a track going through a Viking village. We were supposed to be able to smell things, but those bits weren't working. It was interesting, though. The rest of the museum had a good range of artefacts and heaps of hands on stuff clearly aimed at kids (both young and not so young). Some teenagers got really grossed out by some preserved/fossilised human poo. Ah kids....
After we found some food (thank goodness) we went back to the hotel, picked up our stuff and dropped the key off. Off to the railway station for our epic journey home. York to Manchester Piccadilly to Cardiff. The Manchester to Cardiff leg was a really unpleasant trip – the rolling stock that Arriva Trains Wales were using was not in good condition. Blocked toilets, no airconditioning (the conductor reckoned it had worked fine on the way up – well, that's nice but it's not working now!!), it was over booked and the conductor got in to an argument with some of the passengers. When we finally got to Cardiff everyone had to get off, as they were replacing the train. I hope that the next one was better.
It was a long day. We had dinner at the Conway (Matt had ribeye fillet done like roast beef, Kathy had a pork cutlet), then were very glad to have an early night. Another exciting adventure over.