York, England

Yorkminster and the Snow

As the end of the year draws closer, I realize that the husband and I should really be taking advantage of all the inexpensive mid-week train fares.

Among the many shopping streets

Thanks to that nagging idea and a pile of Hilton points begging to be used, we headed north to York for an overnight jaunt.

While the train took its sweet time to arrive (two hours late), we arrived with a few hours of Tuesday’s precious daylight left to enjoy.

After checking in, we headed to the Jorvik Viking Centre, a museum of sorts located on the site of a late 70’s archeological dig which yielded a number of significant finds about the Viking city of Jorvik, now known as, “York”.  The center includes a museum of archeological finds, exhibits relating to the structures that resided on this site, and an indoor gondola ride meant to provide visitors with the experience of touring Jorvik under Viking occupation, including the commerce, architecture, and even the smells.

We then headed to the Merchant Adventurers Hall, built in the 14th century by the traders who formed this organization. It remains in use today, as the organization continues to have an active membership, nearly 700 years later.

The Parkin

After having a delicious tea fix at  The Hairy Fig, a shop with adjoining tea room, we had a bit of a wander around The Shambles and surrounding streets. The Shambles is a more than 900 year old street, lined with 15th century buildings. It is currently home to shops, and was rated as the most picturesque street in the UK.

With a quick pub stop at The Swan en route, we headed to the highly ranked Melton’s, which was every bit as excellent as reviews led us to believe. The venison was lovely, but I think my favorite thing was the dessert, a Parkin. A parkin is a ginger cake, specific to Yorkshire. It reminded me of sticky toffee pudding, only gingery.

Our view in the morning.

Yorkminster's Interior

We awoke on Wednesday to find that quite a bit of snow fell whilst we were dreaming. After a quick stop for suitable footware, we headed to Yorkminster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Like many of the cathedrals I’ve seen in England, this one has been well preserved, but what I really liked about it was how, where possible, evidence of the site’s evolution was highlighted. For example, one can view the Roman era walls in the crypt, and the first apse is subtly marked.

After all that Cathedral, it was scone o’clock. My pilates instructor, Lavinia, had mentioned a tea shop, and I was about to text her for the name when I spotted a venue that simply had to be the place. Betty’s delivered exactly what we were seeking: delicious tea and sultana scones.  While we were steered towards and also ordered a Yorkshire Fat Rascal, I found that I preferred the smaller, simpler offering with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

The Messy Closet Portion of the Museum

The Shambles by Day

In a scone coma (my first), we ventured out into the snow, and had more of a wander around the tiny streets and listed buildings.

Outdoor market off The Shambles

Last but not least, we headed to the National Rail Museum, conveniently located next to the train station. I realize I am likely outing myself as a giant dork, but I love trains, and I love this museum. Between the old UK rail cars, the Royal Trains from the 1840s to present, the aerodynamic locomotives, and the Flying Scotsman exhibit,  followed by a mishmash of asset tagged stuff all stacked up on shelves and largely unlabelled, I was super happy.

While I could have happily spent another two hours, we were kicked out at two due to a private event being hosted later in the day. It may have been for the best, as our decision to leave after a quick lunch, rather than waiting a few hours for our train, meant that with the delays, we made it home as planned.

Given our 26 hours or so in York, I wish I had booked another day. I would have liked to have seen the York Castle Museum, and The Yorkshire Museum & Gardens, as a shopkeeper we spoke with stressed the beauty of the gardens. Fortunately, a return is a quick train ride away.