Friday, April 28, 2017

York

Life has been rather difficult for the last couple of weeks, for all sorts of reasons. So, in a bid to distract from the crushing reality of life, I thought I'd recount some of our recent trip to York.

LC and I travelled down to York on the 11th of April, taking advantage of the fact that the Virgin Trains East Coast line runs through Falkirk and York - a five minute walk from the flat got us to the station and then we just sat on the train for a few hours. Which was nice.

Prior to our trip, we had purchased three-day "YorkPass" cards, giving us access to a whole range of attractions in the city. However, because these cards covered calendar days, rather than 72 hours, we were left with a choice - use the cards on the Tuesday after we arrived, or use them on the Friday morning before we left. We couldn't do both.

In the event, we chose to keep the cards for the Friday (the right choice, as it turned out). In the few hours we had to spare on the Tuesday, then, we took advantage of one of York's free attractions, being the railway museum, which was most impressive. My personal favourite was the Mallard, of course, though sadly the Flying Scotsman seemed to be elsewhere (or, at least, we didn't see it). Still, a good use for a couple of hours.

On the first evening, we ate in the restaurant of the Premier Inn where we were staying, which was fine but not exceptional - that being pretty much what you'd expect of a PI. Likewise, the breakfasts didn't disappoint.

Day Two was rather busier than the first day. Since we had the YorkPass cards, it was of course important to get our money's worth, so off we went...

The first thing we did was head to "York's Chocolate Story" - not to visit the attraction, but rather to book in to visit it later in the day. Which is maybe a tad strange, but there it is. That done, we made use of the York City Sightseeing bus tour, which was a decent way to cover quite a lot of the city in an hour. It's probably not worth doing without the YorkPass, being much smaller than equivalent tours in Barcelona, Paris, or London, but wasn't bad. Oh, but it was cold!

After the bus tour, and after a coffee to warm us up, we went back to York's Chocolate Story for their tour. This was probably LC's most anticipated event of the trip, and was really quite interesting - I hadn't realised just how important York was to Britain's confectionary industry, and vice versa. So, this is recommended.

There was then a short stop for lunch, which was a roll with pulled pork from a little store. And then we went to the JORVIK Viking Centre, where the Vikings have, apparently, returned. And I must say, they've done a good job with the place - a good mix of fun and information, plus some live exhibitions. Good stuff.

By that time, the afternoon was drawing to a close and many attractions were closing, so we finished Wednesday's adventure with a visit to the York Brewery. I think this one was more interesting to me than to LC, but it was interesting enough. Much like the Tulip museum in Amsterdam, it wasn't something we would have gone to without it being in the YorkPass, but it was reasonably interesting - that's actually a big advantage of the YorkPass that it gives an incentive to see some 'lesser' attractions and so help them gain some business they might otherwise miss.

That evening, being our fifth wedding anniversary, we had booked a table at a restaurant called Delrio's. This comes highly recommended - after a starter that was quite nice if somewhat uninspiring (bean soup), I then had one of the best pizzas I've ever encountered, followed by their "meringue of the day" which turned out to be one of the best desserts I've ever had! So, yeah, that's highly recommended, too! (The meal wasn't even all that expensive, especially if you discount the bottle of prosecco - we pushed the boat out on that one, and although we didn't regret it we probably wouldn't make that choice on a more normal evening out.)

Thursday was set to be our busiest day - and then our plans went agley fairly quickly when it turned out that York Minster was closed for the morning due to Easter celebrations. Honestly, how could anyone have foreseen such a thing?

Thwarted, we instead hunted down Barley Hall, which is hidden away in an alley off one of the side-streets. This wasn't quite open, but we were able to kill some time easily enough. Barley Hall was notable for two things: firstly, it was a "hands on" museum, meaning you actually got to play with all the exhibits, which was cools; and secondly they had several costumes from various Tudor-related shows, notably "Wolf Hall"

Having ventured into the reign of Henry VIII, we then stepped further back in time (Great Scott!) and visited the Roman Baths. This was a tiny exhibit that, like the brewery, was diverting enough for a little while, but not really worth visiting without the YorkPass. Still, good luck to them - it was still interesting to see the evidence of the Roman Empire so far north.

Next up was the YorkBoat which, as the name implies, is a boat trip along one of the rivers in York. Which was nice - good to see yet another perspective on the city. Though it was also somewhat sad seeing how the river was once such a vital artery for trade and industry back in the day and is now... not. (Of course, that's also true of Falkirk with the canals, and many other places.)

And then, following a quick Subway lunch, we went to the York Dungeon, one of the other 'big' attractions in the city. This was a lot of fun, though is certainly not one for small children! (Incidentally, and not at all to my surprise, it turns out that I do indeed have the plague. I knew it!)

And then, back to the Minster. This was definitely worth a visit, though perhaps warranted a little more time than we were able to give it (due to Easter celebrations it closed early, too). In addition to the free entry for the YorkPass, we also purchased tickets to climb to the roof, which featured a trek up some hundreds of steps, and then back down again. Nice view, though.

Thursday's dinner was tapas, from a restaurant called Las Iguanas (I think). And very nice it was, too.

By the time Friday came, we'd done pretty much all the key things we'd wanted to do in York. Still, we still had the passes, and still had some time, so off we went again. Firstly, we completed our walk along the city walls (I haven't mentioned this before now, but we did walk along all of it at one point or another), and visited Dick Turpin's grave. This was all en route to the York Castle Museum, which actually was fascinating - I particularly enjoyed their recreation of a Victorian street.

And from there we climbed up to Clifford's Tower, which I think we found most noticable for the very obvious slope of the rooms on higher floors!

And we still weren't done, because following lunch we made a quick trip to Fairfax House - an eighteenth century townhouse that had been converted into a cinema and then restored. This was interesting, though by this point I think we were slightly running out of steam.

There then followed some shopping for souvenirs, some wandering around the Museum Gardens (though obviously this was only done under protest, since the entry was free and so didn't contribute to us getting our money's worth), a look around the Chocolate Festival that was just starting, and then back to the train and then home.

Yes, it was a busy few days, and I think we came home more exhausted than we went! A good trip, though, and one I would recommend for those seeking a short break. I do definitely recommend the YorkPass - there's enough of interest to fill several days there, and it covers a wide variety of things.

Anyway, there it is. I hope you enjoyed my trip to York, much belated as it was.

#21: "Pathfinder: Fangs of War", by Rob Lundeen

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