Nick (nickmurdoch) wrote,

Easter break 2013: York

For the first three days of April, Emily and I took a trip to York, where neither of us had been before but we'd both heard good things about it. It didn't disappoint.

We arrived just after lunch on the Monday and took a short walk through the town centre while we waited for the check-in time for the B&B to come around. It was a sunny day and after finding our from the train station to the river, my first impression was that York seemed very similar in look and feel to Canterbury – Tudor buildings such as Barley House lined the streets, and York Minster was very similar in style to Canterbury Cathedral. Loving Canterbury as I do, I instantly felt at home in the town.

We had a short walk to Alcuin Lodge, the guest house we were staying at. The owner there made us feel incredibly welcome and gave us some great recommendations for what to do around town, being honest about what the tourist traps were and giving us a great tip about seeing the Minster and Millennium Bridge – more on those in a moment. The room itself was well-decorated and felt very cosy.

On the way back into town we walked through the Museum Gardens. The sun was shining and flowers were in bloom; it's a really nice park area. Reaching the town end of the gardens, we took to the city wall, and did a full walk around the city. The daffodils on the bank weren't quite out yet, but the greenery was lovely.

We decided to eat at the vegetarianvegan, gluten free El Piano restaurant the B&B owner had suggested we try. The main courses were nice, if a little small, but the desserts were disappointing. Afterwards, we wandered around the Shambles – the most well-known old street in town – and found a few snickelways – very thin passages through buildings, with names like "Nether Hornpot Lane". We bumped into several ghost tours going on; if I were a ghost I would probably avoid the city centre after dark! A final walk around the lit up minster building took us back to the B&B.

Having 'brext' the Guest House owner the night before to say when we'd be having breakfast, we got down to the breakfast room at 8am and had some really good porridge – properly made, fresh fruit to help oneself to – after which we decided to take the advice and walk to the Millennium Bridge along the river banks. Along the way was Rountree Park, featuring a great little tea shop that doubled up as a public library. We read Moomins while having hot chocolate.

The Millennium Bridge wasn't as wobbly as its London name-fellow, but was an interesting piece of architecture. We walked along the other side of the bank back into town to take a look at Clifford's Tower briefly before deciding to visit at a quieter time of day. Instead, we explored some of the shops in the Shambles, including a deliciously-scented tea shop.

For an early lunch we went to Grey's Court, another place recommended to us by the guest house. The place was tricky to find, but was lovely and quiet and served us delicious pasta in an alcove overlooking a courtyard. I'd definitely recommend anyone to try it out.

Over most people's lunchtime, we got into Clifford's Tower with minimal queuing, and got a good view of the city from the top of the tower. Afterwards, with the weather getting a bit cloudy, we decided to go to the Railway Museum for a little while until the Minster's evensong. On the way, we walked past and around the outside of Merchant Adventurer and the Barley House, two old Tudor guild buildings.

The Railway Museum was pretty fun Рso many steam trains! Рand we left in time to get back for York Minster's evensong (1730, I think) which was a good tip for seeing the inside the building without having to pay £12 to get in. It was nice to have a sit down Рand our seats were ornate wooden benches Рand the service lasted about half an hour. Because it was evensong rather than a full sermon, most of the content was choir singing, which was nice.

We'd booked a table in The Old Siam Thai restaurant – specifically the window table surrounded by plants and flowers. The food itself was probably the best Thai I've had (and the first Thai Emily had had) and we left completely satiated.

After another lovely breakfast on Wednesday we went straight to the museum gardens again, which were quite empty that early in the morning. It was a beautifully sunny day, making everything just seem perfect and wonderful. We had a good look around the ruins of St Mary's Abbey before heading along to the Millennium Bridge again to make the most of the sun.

Given that York is famous for its chocolate, we had trouble finding any good chocolatiers and we ended up getting tourist trapped by the York Cocoa House, which tempts you in with some hand-made chocolate crafting at the door but then packs you into the tabled area where you wait at least 30 minutes before being served – we very nearly walked out before someone took our order. My hot chocolate was mediocre and Emily's "luxury" hot chocolate – served with cream and marshmallows – hadn't whipped the cream on top, leaving a blob of congealed oil on the surface of the hot chocolate. We didn't tip.

We walked along Goodramgate Wall as we headed back to the Railway Museum to finish off the bits we hadn't seen last time around, including The Flying Scotsman being worked on in the open-plan workshop. Back in town, we found ourselves with just one other couple on the Hidden York Tour, which was well worth doing. The tour guide was well-connected enough to get his group into several off-limit places, including inside the Guild of Merchant Taylors building, which featured the original wooden roof beams, and was really rather lovely. In the Merchant Taylors grounds was also a small exposed part of the original Roman city wall, including one brick which had been inscribed by the Centuria that had built it.

The final part of the tour was to Cuthbert's Church, named after the same St Cuthbert who was bishop of Lindisfarne and whose beads we collected during our holiday there last year. Walking back, we popped into Goji, a vegetarian café, to grab a snack of pakora and a roasted vegetable wrap, both of which tasted amazing; I wish I knew of anywhere like that in London.

To my slight shame, we took a third visit to the Railway Museum - I mistakenly thought we hadn't seen everything there - before going to Ambiente for tapas. The tapas was fantastic (there was definitely a good food theme for this holiday). I mean, really fantastic. It was a great meal to end the holiday on.

My souvenir for the holiday was a lovely Moroccan candle holder, which I found in an odd and wonderful home-furnishings/flea-market-finds store and I'm hoping will look good in my new house when it's decorated!

We picked up our bags from Alcuin Lodge and headed back to the train station, full of happy memories (and tapas). On the train back, we watched the sun setting beyond beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

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