Friday, October 28, 2016

England: York

After we left Blenheim palace, we hopped in the car and headed North towards York. Our rental car place was set to close at 5 PM so we were hustling to drop off our car before then. On the way we passed a bunch of nuclear power plants off to the side of the road. I nerded out and had to take a picture.
We got to York just in time, but hit a ton of traffic heading into the city. Luckily we made it to the rental car place with like fifteen minutes to spare! We were about a mile from our hotel but we decided just to hoof it on foot and get to know the city, rather than wait for a bus. It was starting to get dark, but as we crossed the bridge into the city we got our first view of the York Minister, which is a Gothic cathedral. So cool!
We checked in at The Hazelwood hotel. (This pic was taken the next day when it was sunny.) It was pretty cute from the outside. It was like two four-story brownstones connected and turned into a hotel. Small and cute.

 Our unique room key.
 The room and bathroom.

It was a pretty cute hotel but we soon learned they had a serious problem with air circulation, ha ha, and we got serious condensation when either of us took a shower. There was no fan or air control in our room at all. They also had awful internet, which posed a huge problem for us because we had been downloading maps of the city at our hotels and then walking off with our phones on. Without the ability to download maps, we were a little bit lost. We couldn't even call an uber or look up a nearby laundromat. Even after alerting them to the wifi issue multiple times, they couldn't seem to get it together. Oh well!
 The view out our window, with a teensy bit of the Minister peeking out from behind the row of houses.
After we settled into our hotel, we set off to explore the city and find some dinner. We ended up at Bill's, which was SO GOOD. Definitely one of the favorite places we ate in all of England. I guess York is known for being a foodie city, and Bill's lived up to that. We intended to go back for breakfast one day but never ended up making it back.
Chris had some sort of curry that was delicious.
 I had a pulled pork and pear salad, and it was fantastic.

After dinner we headed down to the river for a Ghost Walk. I guess York is known for having some haunted houses and such. There is this old guy who is a great storyteller who leads a ghost walk every night at 8 PM. You just show up with $5 bucks outside a certain pub and he walks you all around famous sites in the city and tells you stories. I actually didn't think the stories were scary at all, to me they were heart-warming and proof of life after death, and proof that family members who leave us still watch over our lives. I kind of loved it. Plus, we got a great first day's exposure to the layout of the city and where things were. However, it was SUPER cold in York, and we were frozen when we got back to our hotel. I bought a pair of gloves in town the next day to try to stay a bit warmer, we just ran out of layers. Still, we were thankful for no rain!

York is a fascinating city. Here's a little model of the city that helps a little bit. You can see the huge minister in the center, as well as the square wall that used to be the city wall in medieval times and the River Ouse that winds through. York was the capital of the Roman empire in 71 AD (they called it Eboracum).  Constantine was declared emperor here in 371 AD. The land where the Minister stands was originally a Roman place of worship, and it was added onto and changed over time as the city changed hands. The Vikings took over from 850 to 950 AD (they called the city Jorvik), left their mark on the city, and then when they left it went back to British rule. In the middle ages it was a huge wool trading center, as well as the capital of the Church of England. The York Minister was built on top of the Roman and subsequently Viking place of worship between 1300 and 1400 AD. Now, York is a major railway hub, a center of a large university, and it thrives mostly on tourism.
We woke up, pounded a few granola bars for breakfast and then headed over to the York Minister for a tour. It's one of the largest medieval cathedrals in all of Europe, and it's gorgeous.

I took a series of "selfie spin" videos for my brother Stu on this trip, in various locales. This is a snip from a seflie spin I did in the Chapter House, an octagonal chapel attached to the cathedral with 8 huge stained glass windows. It was a really neat room.
They had low mirrored tables set around the cathedral so you wouldn't forget to look up at the intricate ceilings.
After we visited the main floor of the cathedral, we went down to the undercroft, where a Viking exhibit was being displayed. They had all sorts of cool viking artifacts that have been uncovered over the years. (There is a viking museum in York but it was flooded about six months before our visit, so three displays had been set up around town in various church's so visitors could still see most of the artifacts, while the museum was being repaired and renovated.)

Then we headed outside to see the exterior of the Minister.

A statue of Constantine The Great, who was declared emperor in York. I think it looks like he's taking a selfie!
As you walk around the city, there are random pieces of architectural history just hanging around. Like this random Roman column! So cool.
We walked down a famous road called "The Shambles." In medieval times, this narrow street was lined with butchers shops and hanging carcasses, and was the center of trade.
We were hungry for lunch and ended up at Pizza Hut of all places, for an all you can eat buffet. So gross, but so good. We just needed some good old pizza, so we did it. Plus it was 7.50 GBP, which was like $8.90 USD. Pretty cheap for all the pizza you can eat!

Then we walked to St. Mary's church to see another one of the Jorvik viking exhibits that was being housed there. St. Mary's dates from the 11th century, but most of the church had been reconstructed in the 15th century. It's no longer operated as a church, but houses traveling exhibits.

I'm a sucker for stained glass.
This Jorvik exhibit had volunteers who were in character as vikings, demonstrating their weaving, their arts, their lifestyle, etc. This exhibit had an almost intact viking longship on display, which was really cool. I believe the only other fully intact one is in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, which I've also been to. The one in Oslo was much bigger. Still, this was a really neat exhibit, with lots of interactive things to do.
After we left St. Mary's, Chris was all viking'd out, so we skipped the last Viking exhibit which was at the Royal Theater. We walked down Goodramsgate and popped into a few shops, where I bought some gloves. My favorite shop was this one, which sold nothing but buttons. It was amazing! And so overwhelming that I didn't buy a single one, ha ha, even though I go through a lot of them when I sew.

Then we walked down toward Clifford's Tower, to see it in the daylight. It's so random, just this huge castle tower on a hill in the middle of the city. It is a medieval Norman castle, built in 1068.
In 1190, one hundred and fifty Jews lit the castle on fire and locked themselves inside to prevent themselves from falling into the hands of the mob or renouncing their faith.
The tower was rebuilt and demolished numerous times over the years, and even used as a prison for some time.
We didn't climb the steps and go inside (because there's nothing really to see and they charge you to get in), but we took a selfie out front and then kept walking.
Chris was really intent on seeing the LDS church in York. We found the nearest one with our wifi at dinner the night before, so we decided to walk to it.

...It turned out to be much farther away than we realized, ha ha. The next series of photos were all pieces of the city we saw on our walk to the church.
We crossed the river and headed out of the city. That crop of trees on the right bank hides a few of the last standing medieval houses along the river.
We passed a few medieval buildings that had been turned into pubs. So crazy! Like, you'd just be walking along and seeing normal architecture and then, BAM, a building clearly from medieval times. So cool.
Medieval church.
Even the more modern city architecture was lovely.

We passed through Mickelgate, which is one of the four medieval corner towers of the city wall. We climbed up the steps and took some pictures from the top of the tower and the wall adjacent to it. Cars drive right through the lower gates as they come in and out of the old part of the city.

I believe you can walk around most of the city from the top part of the wall.

Another cool church.
Finally we arrived at the LDS chapel. It was big and really modern, with a huge parking lot.
I think we half expected to run into some members or missionaries there, but there was no one. We did seem to be situated a little bit in the suburbs, though, because the houses nearby were large and nice, and we saw a lot of families with two or three children, passing us on bikes or with strollers.
On the door was a flier advertising the Stake Conference for the coming Sunday, with Elder Nelson as the main speaker! Unfortunately, we were headed back to London the next morning, so we couldn't make it to the conference. It would have been really neat.
I sat down on the wall of the church near the road and decided that we if we sat there long enough, a member or someone would stop and give us a ride back to our hotel. We had no wifi so we couldn't call an uber or even look up a bus schedule. We did have enough of a map downloaded to at least get us back to our hotel, thank goodness.

Well, nobody came, ha ha. So after we'd rested for a bit, we hoofed it back towards our hotel, and we stopped at the train station to scope out our platform for our train the next morning and make sure we knew where we were going. Then we passed over the River Ouse via Lendal Bridge toward our hotel.

There were some cool medieval towers on Lendal Bridge.

Some good info on Lendal Tower, and a good graphic showing where the old city walls and new city walls are.

Bootham gate, part of the old wall gates. If you walk through underneath the tower, it's a walking only street with cute shops and salons. I bought a few souvenirs there.

When we got back to our hotel, we crashed a bit for a nap. We had done a TON of walking that day. Then we woke up and walked with our laundry down the road to a laundromat, but it was closed by the time we got there (dang internet! would have been helpful.), so we walked back to our hotel, dropped the laundry, and wandered down the street for some dinner. It happened to be my birthday, so Chris let me pick the place and we ended up at Jim's for dinner, which was good but slow. We wandered around the city for a bit, then headed home, watched an old X-Files on tv, and then crashed.

We slept in a little, then packed up our things and headed to the train station. We arrived with plenty of time, so we ate some breakfast and enjoyed the free wifi on the platform for a while. When our train arrived, we were in first class where they served us lunch and had excellent wifi while we traveled. It was a fast train, so it only took us about two hours to reach London! And just look at that amazing weather waiting for us. Woo!

To be continued...

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