Wednesday, January 18, 2012

York, Dec 2011 - Part 1

It certainly has taken me a while to finally get this little trip blogged.  I had originally thought we might go to Venice for 3-4 nights before flying to Texas to celebrate Christmas with family.  However, the husband just wasn't jazzed about it.  Last year England had a lot of snow and ice around the holidays, so we thought it might be best if we toured somewhere closer to home.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to York we go... or make that went almost a month ago.

It's a four hour drive to York from our house in Surrey, so we decided it might be fun to take the train for a change.  It was only a two hour ride from Kings Cross station in London and I didn't have to hit the highways and byways and zillion roundabouts between here and there.  

Rick Steves had suggested a lovely B&B in his England book, right around the corner from Bootham Bar, one of York's famous gates in the old city wall.  It was perfect, with a two bedroom apartment in the attic where we had a nice view of the minster (cathedral).  If you ever get to York, and I highly recommend it, then you should consider staying at The Hazelwood. 

Our first evening in York, we found a lovely fish and chips place that was just delicious.  It wasn't your typical greasy take-away fare, but rather a sit down restaurant with attentive service where everything tasted very fresh.  We ended up detouring through Monsoon, which is a bit like Claire's back in the US.  The biggest difference is that it has some other accessories like purses, scarves, hats and mittens.  As usual, the teen was more concerned about how she looked rather than the real possibility of being miserably cold while freezing her patootie off in the winter weather.  Therefore, we got her a humonguous scarf on the walk back to our B&B from dinner before she broke a tooth with her nonstop chattering.  The lows and highs weren't too far apart for our visit, hovering somewhere in the 30s.  That same evening, our pretty little magpie also had to drag us into this frou-frou boutique when she spied party dresses so she could try on a potential prom dress.  She only has until mid May to find the right one, dontcha know.

Our first full day was spent tromping through the very pedestrian friendly old town centre, entering via the gate below that was originally built by the Romans in the 3rd century.  I just love it that the more "modern" walls and gates were built between the 12th and 14th centuries.  A year after moving here, I'm still in awe of all the really fascinating artifacts you see in England that just seem to be everywhere.

If you climb up the stairs onto the wall, you can walk around the perimeter of the old town centre for a couple miles.  We walked a bit of it as we were headed back to the B&B and would have kept going, but the girls mutinied since we had been on our feet all day touring.  

We had fun checking out all of the fascinating exhibits in the York Castle Museum, which included the York Castle Prison.  I thought it was hilarious that the PUNISHMENT back in its heyday was being sent to the colonies - America or Australia.  Isn't that a hoot?  Below is a pic of Clifford's Tower, located right across from this museum.  It was built by William the Conqueror to subdue rebels in the north.

We also visited the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens.  On the grounds we discovered the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey that was dismantled during the reign of Henry VIII when he broke with the Catholic church.  It was a haunting sight in the waning light of 3:30 pm.  Yes, Virginia, that is when it starts to get dark in England during the month of December, a few days before the winter solstice.

Goofball that I am, I just had to include this shot.  It's a plaque in the ground that denotes where the abbey's altar was located.  However, a piece of grass had fallen on the letter P in apse so that it looked like arse.  I did a doubletake as I was walking by and just had to laugh.  

We also visited the very cheesy Jorvik Viking Centre.  These marauders from the north captured York during the 9th century and controlled the region until William's conquest.  It was reminiscent of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  It included smell-o-vision, but I thought it was just a foul miasma that made me suspect they were having sewer troubles... though I guess that might have been the eau de 10th century aroma of an authentic Viking settlement.

No visit to York would be complete without a visit to this place and my husband (the only person in our family who felt it necessary to partake of a pig sandwich) said it was quite tasty.

We ended our day at a sweets shop where we got some fudge and invalid toffee.  I have no idea why the toffee was given that name, but it was quite tasty and my granny would have enjoyed it since I recall her having a fondness for Heath toffee bars.

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