Friday, August 12, 2016


Sherry and I have jokingly referred to our York sojourn as our "Mackinac" part of the great England trip. A few years ago we did an epic road trip as a family that featured a three-night stay on Mackinac Island. A vacation within a vacation, featuring a hotel stay, dinners out, and a very pedestrian- and tourist-friendly locale. That was York.

York is more like the scale of cities we enjoy visiting. It's modest and doesn't even crack the UK's top ten cities for population. It's an ancient town that the industrial revolution largely bypassed. Except for chocolate manufacture, it never really was a center for factory work. In some ways, it's going through a renaissance now as a pleasant residential center that's a mere two-hour train ride from London.

The most appealing thing about York is its ancient and Medieval character. Fortifications, built by the English centuries ago atop Roman walls, surround much of the old city. And walking the city's perimeter on them is splendid.

An imposing tower is all that's left of a castle that once stood in the city, and climbing it was one of our highlights of the trip. It's rugged, uneven, a little scary at times. 

The city's most imposing building is a church, the York Minster. Unfortunately, Caroline was running out of steam at the time of our visit and I missed much of its nooks and crannies which Sherry and Sam explored.

I looked forward to visiting the Shambles and must admit to being a little disappointed by this street, a medieval shopping way that inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. It was a little too touristy, too populated by cheap souvenir stores. However, there are dozens of other winding narrow streets offering nearly the character but with stores that were legitimate places to spend money. Oh, and let's not forget the many, many quirky taverns in that town.

Speaking of taverns, I visited several. Great names: Three-Legged Mare, House of the Trembling Madness, The Last Drop Inn. Oh, and I found my favorite English beer in that town.

At Mr. Chippy, a great beer found. It's beside the dog. 
Antlers at House of the Trembling Madness.

One final note in this post: museums in York. We got to three in that city. The city is deservedly proud of its National Railway Museum, which was as good as the museums dedicated to this topic of which I'm the most fond in the U.S. One bittersweet note: railroad history didn't mean quite as much for me when divorced from the context of U.S. locations and railway art. But I particularly enjoyed two things there: an exhibit on what station platforms looked and sounded like earlier in the century and an exhibit of royal railcars.

Luggage for boys headed off to preparatory school at National Railway Museum. 

A Royal Rail Car. I believe this was Edward's.

19th-century period room. 

Victorian street scene. 

Creepy but cool. Roman burial model. 
The York Castle Museum surprised me. It was a fantastic museum dedicated to the history of York over several periods of time. If anything, it avoided the ancient and medieval times and focused on the more recent times. I thought their renderings of period rooms were fantastic. A Victorian Street was much larger and more fitted out with authentic artifacts than I expected.

Unfortunately, the Viking Museum in the city is closed due to flood damage. We did get to their museum geared toward younger anthropologists-in-training, Dig. They do a pretty good job offering a hands-on experience for elementary-aged kids. Oh, and they had a creepy Roman-era skeleton there too.

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