York

October 17, 2016

Now we were off to London, but stopping off in York because why not, we’ve never been there before. Our train was departing at 9:30 am, bound for Kings Cross, from Waverley station so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there, including buying some muffins and juice for breakfast. The train took two and a half hours to get to York, with stops at Berwick on Tweed, Newcastle, and Darlington.

We arrived in York right at noon and before walking to the hostel we stopped at the Cornish Pasty shop in the station and had some traditional pasties for lunch. According to the advertising, the pasties are made in Cornwall and then baked on the premises. They were delicious and tasted just as we remembered from Cornwall. And why shouldn’t we have a Cornish pasty for lunch in Yorkshire?

York Minster and city wall

York Minster and city wall

We went out of the station and crossed the bridge over the River Ouse and then followed the riverside path to the York youth hostel, about a kilometer out of town. It took us about half an hour, a very pleasant walk. At the hostel we checked in but couldn’t access our room because it was too early, so instead we stored our bags in the luggage room and walked back into York. The afternoon was partly cloudy but it was quite warm for October, and just before we got back to the city there was a short rainstorm, so we stood under a large tree waiting for it to pass.

River Ouse

River Ouse

We had decided to walk around the city walls which have surrounded the original city of York since the Romans built it in about 71 AD. The walls are in really good condition, having been rebuilt and extended by the conquering Normans in 1069 and maintained since then. Along the way at each gate there are information plaques which tell you about the gate and its history; one of the gates had a coffee shop on top of it so we stopped in there for tea and cake. After a while we noticed that we were the only customers who weren’t students working on their homework!

City wall coffee shop

City wall coffee shop

All along the wall we couldn’t help noticing York Minster, the magnificent Anglican cathedral. So before completing the whole circuit of the wall we made a detour into the down to visit it. It claims to be the largest church of its kind in Northern Europe, and looking through the doorway it was pretty impressive, but we decided not to pay the £9 each to go inside.

Gargoyle

Gargoyle

Once outside again we walked through the gardens and then behind the cathedral we stumbled upon the Treasurer’s House, which is a National Trust site. But by now it was nearly 4 pm and it was just closing, so we decided to visit it tomorrow. Instead we walked along the Shambles, an old and crooked street with shops. The buildings date back to medieval times and are extremely well preserved, and fortunately it hasn’t been overrun by tacky souvenir shops.

The Shambles

The Shambles

Back at the hostel we retrieved our bags and went to our room; the hostel was full of school kids so it was quite noisy. Over dinner we discussed plans for tomorrow. Our train to London would leave at 4 pm so there would be plenty of time to look around some more. Maybe the National Rail Museum? If it rains we would be looking for indoor things to do.

October 18, 2016

We didn’t want to eat breakfast at the hostel this morning, since £5.75 for a buffet was the only option. So we stored our bags in their storage locker, checked out, and headed into York to get some breakfast. We found a place to eat at the train station where Rosemary had porridge (really!) and Paul had a blueberry muffin.

As we walked past the cathedral we noticed that it was closed, with a couple of police officers and some important-looking cars outside. We asked what was happening and were told that two new bishops were being consecrated. So we carried on to the Treasurer’s House, where with our National Trust of Canada memberships we got in free.

Emperor Constantine, crowned in York

Emperor Constantine, crowned in York

The house was originally owned by Frank Green, a very wealthy industrialist. His plan was to restore the old house in a style which was faithful to history, but he was very particular about what he wanted in the house. It turned out that some of his changes to the interior of the house enhanced it, such as adding some walls to make rooms cozier, and other changes that detracted from it, such as making a room into a medieval room. So the end result was rather a pastiche. All in all it was very interesting to tour the house, and several of the rooms had volunteer guides who could tell you about the room’s contents and history, which was a great help.

The Treasurer’s House

The Treasurer’s House

For lunch we went to the Cornish Pasty shop at the train station, after which we headed just down the road to the National Railway Museum. The first part of the museum we visited contained various royal carriages—the oldest was basically a stagecoach on railway wheels but the later ones had features like bathtubs. And there were other historical rail cars of many types, from coal to passengers to milk.

Gladstone, as used for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee

Gladstone, as used for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee

The other part was a collection of old engines, all polished up until they shone like the sun. There was a Eurostar engine and a Japanese bullet train and locomotives old and new, but the centrepiece was the famous Mallard, the locomotive which set the speed record for steam engines back in 1938 and still holds it today. And besides the famous engines there was a “warehouse” full of everything you could possibly imagine which is related to trains in some way.

Mallard

Mallard

But we didn’t spend too much time there because we had to walk back to the hostel to collect our bags before leaving. Much to our dismay it was raining quite heavily, but we walked quickly and didn’t get too wet. Our train to Kings Cross was not the direct train, but that didn’t really matter to us. After arriving in London we took the Tube to Caroline’s place, arriving by 6:45 pm. She made a lovely dinner of roast chicken, potatoes, and carrots, with apple crisp for dessert.

The youth hostels where we had been staying all had unsecured wi-fi servers, but Caroline’s wi-fi was secure so now we could catch up on our banking. Imagine our surprise when we found out that Rosemary’s Visa card had been used fraudulently! So Paul spent quite a bit of time talking to the Visa people via Skype (which lets you call toll-free numbers in North America for free). Eventually everything got straightened out; Rosemary would be getting a new card and the fraudulent transactions would be reversed. Hopefully that works out.