I no longer remember where the idea of doing a day trip to York came from. Maybe it was because my friend, Art, who you’ll meet later this week, went there last year when he did a week in England by himself. Maybe it’s the many times it’s referenced in Downton Abbey, or some combination thereof. But I’d been saying through the whole planning process of this trip I was going to do it.
Then Saturday while still on the train into London, probably overly-frazzled by the party going on and thinking all I wanted to do was rest, I texted Art and said I was rethinking York. Is it worth it? Yes, Yes! he quickly replies. Fine. I sort of grudgingly thought I’d stick to my plan out of some now weird obligation to him since I was looking for a reason to bail but he wasn’t playing.
I was so uncommitted to this I hadn’t put too much thought into how to get there. What research I had done always seemed to end with something vague like “just buy your ticket at the train station.” It was hard to even find times, other than references to there are frequent trains between London and York. It shouldn’t be this hard and I’m sure I’m missing something basic. But when I went to bed Friday night, I knew I’d need to get going early because it’s about a 2 hour train ride so that’s a 4 hour hunk out of my day just on a train. No time to lollygag.
That I overshot a bit and only slept about 3 hours for some reason, having stayed up longer than usual the night before. I got the blog up and was out the door by 6:30am. All I knew was to head to St. Pancras / King’s Cross where I came in yesterday. So that’s what I did.
The Piccadilly line from South Kensington gets you there in 9 stops; it was pretty fast. I’m looking at all of the display boards and don’t see anything about York anywhere. I find a kiosk and it confirms there are lots of trains going to York, about every 20 minutes, but not until 8:48. It’s now only about 7:00. Good, then I’ll have lots of time for breakfast since I hadn’t anything anything yet, just had coffee in the room. And I still need to get a ticket.
I eventually find the kiosk where I can buy the ticket; none of the ticket counters served by actual people are open yet. So now I have a ticket for 8:48, but can’t seem to find a platform. I go to Pret A Manger to get something to eat and have some more coffee, and respond to emails, blog comments, and texts. By now it’s about 8am. The ticket counter is staffed; the woman tells me I need to be at King’s Cross.
It’s a cool lookin’ station! And if this name rings a bell, the photo below might provide a clue as to why.
I’d been thinking King’s Cross was subway only, and St. Pancras was the railway, forgetting about the famous Harry Potter reference. Shame on me. King’s Cross is real; 9 3/4 notsomuch.
I found a nice place to sit upstairs where I could see the boards and tell when a platform got assigned to my train. Platform 7 came up finally around 8:40.
York is about 200 miles north of London; the train ride was fast and smooth, getting there in under 2 hours. It ain’t a bad way to travel. No party this time and I was able to sleep a little.
York is in the county of Yorkshire, and was founded by the Romans around 71 AD. It has a population of about 200,000.
It’s a decent sized station with 9 platforms. There were LOTS of people about. York is clearly a day trip destination for many, and maybe more than that since I saw lots of people lugging luggage. As soon as I walked out of the train station, I saw the view shown below.
I literally gasped. Art knows me so well, probably because he shares my fascination with European cathedrals, especially Gothic ones. I was glad I was here.
It’s a picturesque little town; clearly this couple thought it was a good spot for wedding photos. The weather today, however, didn’t cooperate.
It was 54/55 all day, and the rain never stopped, as you might guess given all that green on the radar. And it was at times very windy. I’d brought my little umbrella with me but, as I realized yesterday, it’s a really cheap one. I didn’t even know I had it – it was a giveaway from a vendor trying to get my business at work. (Karen: one guess!) And the wind was literally tearing it up, its spine turning inside out like something out of a cartoon. All I had on was blue jeans, a polo shirt and tennis shoes. This was not going to be fun. I’d thought briefly about packing a jacket but thought – it’s August! I was here last year in July and never needed one so figured I was safe. But the truth is I could’ve used one yesterday, too, and had already started thinking I would keep my eyes open.
I was just wandering around looking at the shops. Somewhere around the time one of the above 2 photos was taken, I stumbled across a shop called Rohan. They specialize in outerwear. Hmmm. Now, I’ve been looking for a long, lightweight raincoat with a decent hood for literally 2.5 years, ever since I moved to Midtown and started walking to work everyday. Every one I encounter is either too warm, too short, both, or the hood is something cheap. The hood is important because I really hate umbrellas exactly for the reason I encountered today: wind. I found something here that finally had all of the elements that I wanted – AND he showed me how to roll it up to easily fit into my carry-on. I left the store wearing it and threw the umbrella in the nearest garbage can I found. This is my 7th trip to Europe and the 1st time I’ve bought anything – that’s how impressed I was with this raincoat. (And I wore it all day and it performed exactly as he said it would…very happy with it…)
Now that I didn’t care as much about the weather I could enjoy this cute little town!
Clifford’s Tower was built on the orders of King Henry III in the 1200’s. It contained two floors linked by spiral staircases in the thickness of the walls. Some of the internal walls and the roof have been lost, but you can still see original fireplaces, windows, arrow-slits and latrines.
You could climb to the top, and this was a room off the first landing of the spiral staircase. Watch out for pigeon poop! The floor was covered in it, and there are two sitting on the beam up there left of center.
This is across the street from Clifford’s tower as seen from its top wall. There’s a museum about a castle, but there isn’t a castle anymore that I could tell. I don’t know what the building to the right is.
Clifford’s Tower, being a defense strategy, is at the edge of the center of town. It was time for lunch so I started walking back into the center and took photos of things that looked interesting along the way.
The Shambles is a decent sized market area covering several blocks in total. It includes both outside merchants as you see here, as well as storefronts along very narrow streets. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, some of this may look a little familiar. Portions of The Shambles inspired the look of Diagon Allley.
York was busy despite the lousy whether. It was about 1pm and some restaurants had signs on them that said “we’re full, come back later”! These places are small and can’t accommodate huge crowds. I was looking for something that was on my list that I would likely find here – fish & chips or a meat pie. (Indian food is also on my list while I’m in London but I doubted I would find it here…) Ye Old Tavern was full inside, but they had covered seating outside if you didn’t mind the chill.
This was where I sat in the back. There were only a couple of us at first but before I left this was full, too, and the Tavern was turning people away. Notice the blankets on the chairs. Some people wrapped up in the them. I just put mine over the metal portion of the chair which was awfully cold.
Those peas are probably disgusting to some but I love peas and these were fresh and tasted great. Not the best thing to look at though I will admit. Pretend it’s guacamole from here 🙂
Here’s an example of the look that inspired Diagon Alley. And a brave soul (or just another unprepared one) in shorts and a T-shirt. Notice how just about everyone else is bundled up and hooded!
Some smart businessperson is taking advantage of the tie to Harry Potter. Yes, that’s a line of people waiting to get in – to a store. I passed.
The first church on this site was built around 633. The church that stands today was built over a period of 200 years, completed around 1225. From this angle it looks very much like Notre Dame.
Actually, it looks a lot like Notre Dame from this angle, too, now that I think about it. Maybe it’s because I was just there. Although, as I was walking around inside I did have the thought: all these churches start to look alike at some point! The inside is very Westminster Abbey; I don’t know if I’ll make it there on this trip or not.
I always feel like photos don’t do Gothic architecture the justice it deserves. Doesn’t keep me from trying.
It’s always remarkable to me that beautiful work like this is still standing nearly 800 years later. Nothing we make today seems to last very long! Will the Empire State Building still be standing in another 700 years?
The nave didn’t photograph well because there was a lot of scaffolding behind the altar, so I went for this instead. York Minster is considered by many to be the finest example of Gothic architecture in England.
Rose Windows are a classic Gothic element.
This very much reminded me of both Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. It’s practically enclosed, with the wooden pews along the side and the walls done in intricate woodwork. These churches often have 3 altars down the front aisle: the one you see going in, sort of the main one; a 2nd one like this that’s enclosed, and a 3rd one against the farthest wall from the entrance.
Also like Westminster and Canterbury, lots of people are buried here. The inscriptions are all in Latin I think – or some other language I don’t recognize – so you can’t tell who it is 🙂
Medieval cities were often encircled by walls for protection. Much of the wall that surrounded York is still standing and is about 700 years old. This was a gate near York Minster. You can easily make a whole day of wall walking in York.
They’ve made it very interactive, where there are metal plates on the walls that have spit of a map of York between them. Called the Walls Rubbing Trail, you can get paper and crayons from the visitor center to rub the map off the panel onto your paper to eventually complete it. Great fun for kids, but not for this kid on a cold, wet day! (This photo was taken from another part of the wall I was on earlier.)
This family obliged me with perspective!
You get some nice angles of the church from this perspective. Don’t worry, I won’t include all the photos I took 🙂
See the very narrow doorway bottom left? That’s where I came out.
There’s plenty to do in York – including the National Railway Museum – but given the continued nastiness of the weather, I was sort of done despite my cool new raincoat. It was time to sit on a train for another two hours and rest a little so I made my way back to the train station.
I noticed in the restroom mirror that my hair was a mess!, so I used my camera as a mirror to brush it while I was waiting for the train, and took this while I was there.
The train wasn’t full and I found a nice quiet seat in the back row with no one next to me. I was alone on the way up, too.
Traveling essentials! I was set for the just under 2 hour ride and caught about a 20 minute nap. They never did ask me for my train ticket.
I got into King’s Cross around 5:10 and made my way to the subway and over to South Kensington. It was just about 5:30pm but I realized I was so very done for the day.
Everything was crowded on this Saturday evening but I found a burger joint that looked interesting and was very reasonably priced – better than that Five Guys at Gare Nord! Proper Burger I think it was called; I forgot to take photos of inside or outside, that’s how tired I was. It was a good meal and I was done for the day. I got back to my room about 7pm, showered, worked on this blog entry some, and was in bed by 9pm. Much needed.