Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

York October 20, 2011


I spent today up in York, which was the last of my side trips outside of London.  I had originally planned to spend the night there, but decided that it wasn’t necessary and the money would be better used for other things. 🙂    York is about two hours north of London by train, and today was actually my second time there; it was my ONLY day trip when I was here in 2009.  Actually, “day trip” might be a bit of an overstatement.  I didn’t want to be coming home late at night, so I only gave myself four or five hours in town back.  That wasn’t nearly enough, and I felt rushed the whole time.  I had nearly double the amount of time in York today….and I still ended up feeling rushed. 😛


The walk from the train station into town is the prettiest one I’ve seen anywhere (Canterbury was the ugliest).  It’s not a long walk, by any means, and you get to walk right along the city walls.  My favorite part of the walk is crossing the Lendal Bridge over the River Ouse (rhymes with “loose,” not “house” like I originally thought).  All these half timbered and stone buildings are right in front of you, with the Minster looming over it all.  It’s a little bit like stepping back in time.  The rest of the city center feels that way, too; the streets are narrow, and some of the buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  The Shambles is the most medieval of all of York’s cobbled streets.  It used to be home to the city’s butchers, and there are still channels in the pavement that they used to wash away all the yucky stuff.  Nowadays, you’ll just find shops and restaurants there. 🙂


My first sightseeing stop was the Yorkshire Museum.  It recently won an award for being one of the best tourist attractions in York, and I think that was well deserved.  If you’re at all interested in the history of the city, this is a must-see.  You’ll learn about the Romans, the Vikings, the prehistoric creatures that inhabited the area, and get and idea of what medieval York was like.  The museum is set in the middle of a nice park, near the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey:


When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he abolished abbeys and monasteries.  This one was converted into a palace and then allowed to deteriorate to the condition you see now.


The Yorkshire Museum offers a “Museum Trust Ticket” which gets you admission to both this museum and the York Castle Museum.  It saves money, and you know how I like to find ways to do that! 🙂  What’s better, the museum cashier gave me the student discount, even after I told her I didn’t have a student ID and couldn’t prove I was in school. More money saved! As an added bonus, the ticket is actually good for a full year as long as you’re willing to give them your full name and tell them where you’re from, so they can “personalize” your ticket (they’re non-transferrable).  I love getting good deals. 😀


After the museum, I walked along the river for awhile.  It was very nice and peaceful,but  it was also why I ended up really rushed at the end of the day. I wandered around the town center for awhile, peeking into some shops, and eventually headed here:



That’s York Minster.  You can see it from almost anywhere in the center of town (and many places just outside the center), and you can actually hear the bells from pretty far away as well.  It also happens to be one of the only big churches over here that doesn’t fuss about photography. 🙂  I got in at about 2:30pm.  I decided on the spur of the moment that I was not only going to take the guided tour, but that I was also going to climb the tower again.  The tour was great; the guides are volunteers of retirement age, and they really know their stuff.  They also really love the Minster, and enjoy sharing it with visitors.  This is the kind of tour I actually LIKE to take!  That’s why I don’t regret taking it….in spite of the fact that it was a quarter to four by the time it was finished.  That presented a problem: I hadn’t been to the York Castle Museum yet, and I definitely needed to do that since I paid for it.  It closed at 5pm, so I was definitely running out of time.  I also wanted to walk along the old city walls, and THEY closed at dusk.  Finally, I had wanted to get back to the Minster in time for the 5:15 evensong service.  There was no way that all of that was going to happen, so I had to abandon the idea of climbing the tower.  I wasn’t all that sad about it; I did the climb in 2009, and it was pretty brutal .  It’s 200 + steps that are very steep, narrow, and spiraled.  Going up wasn’t so bad, but coming down was  actually kind of terrifying.  The steps are SO small in some places that about half my foot was hanging off.  Combine that with the fact that I could see down the spiral staircase for a lot further than I care to think about, and I was practially kissing the ground after I was safely back in the church.  Sooo…while I was a little sad to miss the views from the top, and a little sad that I paid to climb and didn’t go, I was mostly okay with it.  Even the money thing wasn’t so bad, since I ALSO got the student discount at the Minster. 🙂


I raced down the Castle Museum and did the world’s quickest walk-through.  I THINK I liked it, but I was under such a time crunch that I’m not really sure.  There were some outfits from bygone eras that I liked, and a complete Victorian street as well.  There was also an exhibit on housecleaning through the years.  It was more interesting than it sounds. 🙂


Next, I walked along the city walls.  There are three big, intact sections, with breaks between each one.  I tried to do the walk last time I was in York, but got lost between sections and only did one.  It turns out that I just didn’t walk far enough to find the next section.  🙂  At any rate, the views over the town are fantastic, and the whole “loop” is 1.9 miles.  At least, that’s what the signs said.  It sure as heck felt like more to me!  The sun was setting by this time, and I had a good portion of the walls to myself.  I also got to see this:


I could have used a day and half in York.  I didn’t end up making it to evensong, and I would have liked to take a little bit of a rest in the middle of the day.  If you’re thinking of coming to York and you want to do all the stuff I did plus some of the things I wasn’t interested in this time around (river tour, Jorvik Viking Center, Railway Museum, ghost walk, dinner out, the York Dungeon, etc), you could easily spend two full days and one night here.  All in all, York DEFINITELY wins the prize for my favorite day trip city.  Judging by my word count, I’d also say it wins the prize for longest blog entry! 😛



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