September 28 – October 2, 2017
Getting to York was as easy as hopping on a train in Edinburgh and relaxing for two hours. I’ve said this before, but I love train travel through Europe. We booked ahead and had assigned seats with a table for four. It was just Leo and I (because Vivian and Jim booked first class) but we got really lucky and had the table and the two additional seats all to ourselves so we were able to spread out. The fare difference between first class and coach is pretty significant but not as much if you book way in advance, so it’s something to check into if your interested in free food and drinks which I must say I covet. But nevertheless, we bought a baguette sandwich at the train station and brought our own drinks so it was a very enjoyable trip.
So back to the main event; York. We were there to attend a wedding (more about that later) and arrived a few days before in order to enjoy this truly interesting medieval city.
The city of York dates back to Roman times and grew as a medieval walled in city founded by William the Conqueror. So this guy invaded England from Normandy crossing the English Channel to take the kingdom away from King Harold in the Battle of Hastings (I’ll deal with Hastings in another blog post) in 1066. No sooner he secures the area, that he hops back on his horse and takes his army 225 miles north to York to put down a rebellion and completed building the walled fortifications in 1069. The city grew to be a stronghold of the North and the seat of the Dukes of York. One such Duke became the infamous King Richard III immortalized by William Shakespeare as the evil hunchback/murderous king “My Kingdom for a horse!”. There’s a Richard III museum as well as a Henry VIII museum so if you love medieval history and court intrigue this is the place for you.
One of the highlights of the city is the York Minster. This cathedral dominates the skyline and is a must see. We walked from our hotel, situated in the old town, and arrived at the Minster just in time to take a tour, which I highly recommend. The Cathedral is one of the largest in Northern Europe. It is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second highest office in the Church of England. The Minster is a gothic styled cathedral completed in the 1400’s. It’s foundations are on top of a Norman church, which in turn is on top of a Roman structure. So it is layers of history that can be appreciated if you decide to take a tour of the cathedral’s basement, which I very much recommend. The stained glass windows are truly magnificent with some dating back to the 12th century.
The Minster offers a very unique tour to the top of one of the cathedral domes, known as the Chapter House. It is not advertised anywhere, tour groups are limited to 10 people and usually done on Saturdays at 11:00 and sometimes on Tuesdays. If you want to see medieval construction techniques up close and personal, climb up small winding steps to the top of the church, see ancient tools, etc., this is the tour for you. Just ask when you buy your ticket to get inside the church, if there is space for the next tour.
In close proximity to the Minster is the York Shambles. This is a collection of old (ancient) cobblestone streets with overhanging timber buildings some dating back to the 14th century. It was once known as a meat market and today it’s teaming with shops and an outdoor market with delicious food, crafts, beer and even a champagne bar. The Shambles is a great gathering place to eat, listen to street musicians and just watch the world go by. I had churros with the most wonderful dipping chocolate and Leo went for some chicken tikka, you name it, they have it. It is just a wonderful place to browse, eat, and soak up the local ambiance.
Food is always a highlight and we had some memorable moments in York. Two places stand out, Ambiente, a tapas restaurant where the food was served beautifully and delicious, and the other, The Golden Fleece, which is one of the oldest pubs in York where you can feel the floor sag in areas and you must duck your head to get from room to room, they had a customer that must have been there since the beginning 😉
But the true highlight of our trip was the wedding we were invited to. This was the wedding of the daughter of a dear friend of ours and they could not have picked a more beautiful location, think Downton Abbey. The wedding was held at Castle Howard, which was the residence for many years of the Earl of Sandwhich. The day of the wedding was a bit rainy so I’m going to include a picture of the castle that I downloaded from the web because I was unable to take a good picture. The wedding was magical and made more so by our friends. We are so greatful and honored to have been invited to share in their special day.
I would love to return to York and walk it’s old streets and relax on the river, a truly beautiful English destination.