After a long drive up north, we arrived in York just in time for dinner and for getting settled in to our digs in town. We did briefly walk around some of the city center before and after dinner, admiring the city walls and the imposing minster. For our days in York, we stayed at the Groves guesthouse, just outside one of the city gates, about a 10 minute walk from York Minster. This was the one accommodation on the trip that annoyed me and did not receive a 5 star rating from me on Trip Advisor. They advertised laundry facilities and since we were at the midpoint of our trip and in need of cleaning our clothes, I booked this particular accommodation based on that information. When upon arrival we were told that they could not, in fact, offer laundry services and offered no real solution other than to recommend a self-service place a 15 minute drive through town, that clouded my perception of the rest of the stay. And I can hold a grudge! Our room was on the top floor. It was a decent enough size but it was incredibly hot, especially considering the weather in York was not hot at all. Breakfast was alright, the tea was good and the servers were nice. But it wasn’t anything to write home about and the fruit salad was down right odd. I have never seen fruit salad that incorporated so many different fruits. Seriously! It had apples, peaches, grapes, pomegranate seeds, kiwis, melons, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, weird cherries, mangoes, papayas, some Chinese fruit the English seemed to like but no one ever knew what it was, and a couple other things that I am forgetting. So anyway, to sum up, I wouldn’t recommend The Groves in York.
But York itself is definitely worth a visit. The day after we arrived, we decided to start the day touring the huge church in the center of historic York, York Minster. I actually ended up loving the minster more than I thought I would. They have an amazing exhibit in their crypt detailing the history of the site back to the Roman era complete with artifacts and architectural foundations from that time period all the way through the present day. While the Husband climbed the tower (of course), I happily wandered aimlessly through the crypt looking at Roman walls and medieval coins.
After our visit to the minster, we walked over to the Yorkshire Museum because I had heard that it had some great exhibits on the history of York. What I didn’t know was that it’s actually built on top of the ruins of a former abbey and cloister and is believed to be where Richard III stayed on his occasional visits to York. The museum showcases the exposed ruins in their exhibition and also has some great pieces like original prints of Shakespeare and jewels that belonged to Richard III. I did think the museum was tiny, especially given what they charge in admission, but maybe we just didn’t find everything? Always a possibility! We did wander through the ruins of the abbey right next to the museum when we exited, before sitting in the garden and enjoying a sweet treat.
For the afternoon, we headed over to the National Rail Museum to see a huge warehouse full of old trains. It was just as exciting as it sounds. ;-) I kid, I kid. Not my favorite type of attraction, but again the Husband does deserve to see some things that he is interested in right? I did at least have an appreciation for the collection of royal coaches on display. They had the train cars that Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, as well as every monarch in between, traveled in. And they did travel in style!
Having had our fill of trains, we headed out to dinner and then off on a ghost walk to explore York by night. Of course this being the summer in northern England, it was completely light out the entire time, but it was still good fun with some interesting history and stories. With tales of ghosts, tormented souls, and drunkards in our heads, we gathered some refreshment from York’s version of a fast food restaurant (which had a hell of a lot better selection of food than any of ours here) and headed back to the guesthouse for an evening of dining in while watching the World Cup since England was on.
The following day, we started out by airing our dirty laundry. Or at least taking all of our clothes to a launderette in the city. The owner was super helpful and we sat and caught up on some reading while we waiting on our clothes to wash and dry. With freshly laundered garments, we headed back towards the historic center and dropped off our clothing at the guesthouse– except, of course, what we were actually wearing. I assure you we did not walk around York naked. Tempting thought it was, just too chilly.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the winding streets and seeing the Shambles and all of the various shops and street performers out. We stopped by the Jorvik Viking Center which details some of the Viking history of the area with a Disney-like theme ride and a wax figure village. I really enjoyed it, though I could see how some might consider it hokey. After seeing that, we stopped in a local alcoholic beverage store where I had to remind the Husband that while I was fine with his purchasing whatever he wanted, we still had not yet made it to Scotland and our planned Scotch whiskey distilleries, and well… there was only so much room in the suitcases. After quite some time of worthy evaluation, he selected just a few sample bottles to take home.
At that point, we decided to head out to find the Richard III Experience within the city gates opposite of our hotel area. Within the tower where guards and prisoners once worked and lived, there is a multiple floor exhibit about York’s King Richard. It details his childhood, his genealogy, his rise to power, and subsequent death, as well as the controversies such as how he probably didn’t kill his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, and his unfortunate and undignified final resting place under a parking lot. It was interesting and something I would recommend if you are a fan of the much maligned monarch. From there we were able to hop on top of the city wall and walk around walls that once served as the ultimate security system for the “most powerful city in Northern England.” At least that’s what Braveheart taught me. After walking an almost complete circle around the city walls, we grabbed some dinner (pub food of course) and traveling provisions (namely Cadbury chocolate bars). Then it was time to retire to the hotel to pack up our things and get some rest, because the following day was the day I was truly waiting for- we were going to Scotland.