For those following my blog, we spent a glorious weekend in Yorkshire Dales in August. On the way back, we decided to visit the city of York – it had long been on my bucket list and it just felt right to check it off. The only thing not accounted for was the good, old English weather… anyway, am running ahead of the narrative.
York – the very model of an English historic town – as old as the hills themselves, steeped in rich cultural heritage. It was founded in 71 AD as Eboracum by the Romans, though archaeological evidences found date back to 8-7000 BC; it later formed the Nordic capital of Jorvik –‘the place of the yew trees’. Quaint, pretty, and filled with medieval streets, centuries-old fortifications and one behemoth of a cathedral, it’s not hard to see why flocks of visitors from across the world venture this far north to check it out.
The internet abounds with advice on things to do and see in York, viz.: a boat trip, visiting the Cathedral (this you must!), the Museums or Clifford Tower (grim history alert!).Sorry, I didn’t; but I saw the city, really SAW it and felt it, like I belonged. Maybe, I will do the touristy things if I visit it again?!
Being a time sensitive visit, we tried to get a taste of everything. We parked our car near the famed Bootham Bar, headed towards the historic City Walls, stopping by the York Art Gallery and walked into the beautiful Museum Gardens, set around the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, by the River Ouse. It houses Yorkshire’s oldest Observatory – an octagonal building you couldn’t miss. Suddenly blessed with torrential rains on a bright, sunny day, we took refuge under trees and arches while sipping coffee- what a feeling!
Thereafter, we crossed the Theatre Royal and Bennett’s Cafe (hello, P&P?!), while capturing some amazing views of the Minster – the city’s prime claim to fame.
With its medieval stained-glass windows, glittering artefacts and stone buttresses, York Minster is a Gothic marvel. Walk the 275 steps up the Central Tower, if you have the stamina and the time; we had a toddler.
Once outside, we walked through the Courtyard all the way up to Monk’s Bar. We came across a pub marked as the birthplace of Guy Fawkes!! Turning our back on the usual touristy spots (literally), we walked the by-lanes, taking in the smells and sights of the city, and chanced upon both the Betty’s Cafes with their queues of visitors.
We decided to save time and hit a less famous tearoom the old-fashioned way, without referring to the various apps on our phones. The place was an independent, artisanal kind and offered some unique and supremely delicious fare. In my experience, a good way to read a city is to visit its local eating and drinking holes and pick a window seat. This offers you a taste of the local grub and pint, as well as a close view of the urban scape and mood; in England, it offers you refuge from unpredictable showers too!
We were only 200 yards away from The Shambles – a lane full of crooked medieval buildings, constructed originally as butcher shops; the architecture allowed for the meat to be hung without being exposed to the elements.
Although we had decided to not fall into the tourist trap of must-see places, I had to go and walk through this lane – what Potterhead would I be otherwise?!
OMIGOD! I WAS IN DIAGON ALLEY!!!
Who would have thought?! Truth be told: Every. Single. Person. EVER!! Suddenly, you realise how many millions have grown up believing in magic (thanks, JKR) and still do!
I spent time just walking up and down the lane, smiling like an idiot and had to be dragged away as there were signs of another bout of heavy rain. We walked past The Jorvik Centre and Roman Baths, ending up getting caught in the rain after all – there is no way you can avoid that!
It was strange to be in a city and stay within just one area. Yes, so much was missed and naturally so, but we came away feeling satisfied with what we had. The takeaway is to appreciate the time you’re given rather than rue the time you were not. And when it comes to travel, I’ll take what I can get and utilise it just as much as I did this time. 🙂
How do you spend your holidays and city breaks? Do you carry a list or itinerary or go with the flow? Do let me know.
Until next time,