To beat our blues and lethargy we hit the road again last week, this time for York.
In all actuality, we plan our trips well in advance. Train tickets are much cheaper when you plan ahead, and places to stay are more plentiful. It is a strange feeling to plan in January a weekend getaway in March, especially when you have getaways in January and February to look forward to, but it keeps everything interesting for us nevertheless.
York once was the Northern power capital of the country. London in the South, and Edinburgh in the far North, with York about 200 miles between the two. A lot of England’s history is found in this city and from everything I had heard about this place it was one not to miss.
We took the train up, taking about 1.5 hours. To drive would have pushed around 3 hours and with the cost of petrol these days the train is much more affordable. We found a small cottage about a mile outside of the city walls (York is a walled city, at least the old historic part). The cottage was built in the 1830’s or so and was super cute and quaint, yet we found it to be incredibly cold no matter that the heat never went off the whole time there.
Our first full day was Saturday and the weather was poorly. It was cold and very wet and crummy out and we began with a walking tour of the city. Even with umbrellas and coats and thermals we all were getting quite chilled and soaked. This was one of the only times that the British Winter really affected our day. We have been lucky going out with the weather, but not today in York.
The walking tour was free and organized by the York County Council and was a great way to get a sense of the Roman and Medieval history of the city, as well as explore part of the old town and the city walls. Our guide was quite good and the sights were very interesting. I was finding more and more that York is a city for me!
One of the oldest streets remaining in the old part of the town is the Shambles. As you can read and see, its present character is at least 600 years old.
York was quite crowded this weekend, probably due to it being Mothering Sunday weekend, which is the British version of Mother’s Day. Our tour ended and we kept on exploring the city. York Minster dominates the skyline, as it is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the Northern part of Europe. It looked a lot like Lincoln Cathedral, only bigger. It is much bigger than Westminster in London. Cathedrals are not free to explore without paying up a few quid. For York we decided to pay as it is massive and impressive. Even the German prog rock band Tangerine Dream played here in 1975!
York was invaded by the Vikings in something like 866 and named it Jorvik. The Viking history is evident throughout the city with the street names and the archaeological digs that are going on. There is even a tourist destination called the Jorvik Center, which helps to explain the current site diggings going on in the city and shows how the Vikings might have lived thousands of years ago. We took the tour, as well as toured an old Tudor home that is recreated for visitors. Plenty to do and see, and we tried to do as much that was inside rather than outside.
On Sunday we walked the remainder of the walls, had lunch in an Italian restaurant (and the pizza was authentic and delicious), and checked out the Railway Museum, the largest of its kind in the world. York had once been a railway hub for the country, so it is fitting that this massive museum is located here. I never collected trains as a kid, nor do my kids (currently), but seeing so many historic trains up close was very interesting and, thankfully, my kids really enjoyed it. As for a Mothering Sunday, Rebecca enjoyed the day as well. We could not be in a better place to celebrate Mum.
York was really promising and there is a lot we still did not get to see, so a day trip up North may be in the works for us before we leave.