Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snapshots from York

The rest of my time in York was spent in much the same way - a little bit of idle sightseeing combined with a lot of time in the pub. Very pleasant! I had to get up at 4.45 on Saturday morning, which luckily wasn't as painful as it might have been, since I hadn't been sleeping well and had been waking up early anyway. Everything went smoothly getting my two trains and plane, and I had packed so impressively light coming over that I managed to take back an extra two books, four cans of cider, a bottle of bitters for a friend, two cheddar cheeses, two packets of bacon, chocolate and the cardi I bought, and still be under the weight limit! Hurrah! I had time for a nap before having some birthday drinks for a friend of mine - I would otherwise probably have taken it easy after getting up so early, but couldn't really say no on someone's birthday!

New dress I got in the sales at Christmas

We had some birthday gin - this is special miner's gin from Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium), drunk out of cute little shot glasses with a handle! You're meant to sip it rather than shoot it, which to be honest is a little bit much for my tastes, however it did seem quite smooth and not so bitter by gin standards. I'll still have my next one with lime though, thanks!

York Minster

The memorial to the Boer War echoes the form of the Minster towers

The side of the Minster, with a Roman column in the foreground

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey, destroyed under Henry VIII

A shrine to St Margaret of Clitheroe, who lived in this house (white one) and was a Catholic martyr at the time of the Reformation.

Who thought this was a good name?

I can only assume the sausage-loving slebs work it off afterwards at Flabelos

Micklegate Bar. Confusingly, 'gate' means street, and 'bar' means gate (mickle means great). This was the traditional ceremonial entrance of monarchs to the city, and also a place where traitors' heads were displayed, including Hotspur's of Shakespearian fame!

Me on my walk around the walls. New coat!

On Friday morning, I went on a free 2-hour walking tour of the city. There was only one other couple on the tour, which was good. One of the advantages of travelling in winter! The weather was definitely colder and damper than the previous days, however the rain mostly stayed away until the afternoon, luckily. I was fretting the whole way round because even though it was a free tour by the society of voluntary guides (or something like that), I was expecting to give the guide a tip. Which would be fine, except for the small problem that I only had about a pound in cash on me. I was running slightly late getting there, and couldn't find an ATM, so I was hoping I might see one on the tour and just dash off for a sec, but no such luck. So when the tour came to an end, I was standing there cringing wondering whether to give him the pound or ask him where an ATM was, but to my surprise he just said "well, that's the end of the tour" and we all said thank you and then the next second he had disappeared! So it really was a free tour! Here's some of the things we saw:

The house where King Charles I spent his last night of freedom during the Civil War before fleeing and being captured by the Scots

A pretty half-timbered house. The guide told us that in the Middle Ages the daub (I think the white bit's the daub, yes?) would have been painted multicoloured - the black and white aesthetic is apparently a Victorian thing

The walls up to the parapet are Roman, and the rest are medieval. The red line of bricks is a characteristic Roman technique for making sure the wall's level. He also explained that the properly-preserved parts of the medieval walls had very narrow parapets, precisely to prevent those swashbuckling scenes you see in the movies where, if someone does manage to scale the walls, they suddenly have room to leap over and fight the defenders.

The smallest window in York, on King's Manor. Apparently formerly a window for a loo. He was great for pointing out these little things you would otherwise miss - some others included little owls and cats on many buildings, brackets which are used to periodically survey whether or not houses might be sinking or otherwise falling apart, and posts or boulders on the sides of houses to stop carriages coming through too close to the overhanging medieval upper stories and hitting them. He kept telling us, "In York, you have to keep looking up", which of course is completely foreign to someone living in France, where the mantra is, "You have to keep looking down, or you'll step in dog poo any minute now".

The doorway to King's Manor, with Charles I's coat of arms above it. He stayed here for several weeks.

Monk Bar. Legend has it the statues on the top will come alive and throw stones down on any attackers, but he pointed out that they don't have a great track record when it comes to actually pitching in.

An old church filled with unusual box pews, where half the congregation would be sitting with their backs to the altar and the priest.

The Holy Trinity church, which interestingly enough was once controlled by the Abbey of Marmoutier, which is just across the Loire from Tours, had a great exhibition on life in a medieval monastery. My favourite part was the illustrations from a bestiary produced by the monks:


  1. Interesting post! Looking fab in that coat! :)

  2. Bravo on being able to bring goodies back to France. I think that is one of the greatest pleasures for an expat, bringing back bits of home (or from our travels) to our new homes.

    Cheese, bacon,'re all set!

    ..and I agree, Gin needs a bit of lime to even the taste out!

  3. I LOVE your red coat - it's just the thing to add a touch of color to a grey day. While your shots of the Minster are fantastic, the picture that caught my eye was the one of the sign for "Ye Olde Pie and Sausage Shoppe" because I discovered that I have a real fondness for pies in York. It's a good thing that I don't have easy access to them on a daily basis otherwise I would be in dire need of Flabelos.

    And isn't it great when a "free" tour turns out to be exactly that - free. We did a free tour with a friendly man named Billy in Jedburgh that turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

  4. Thanks! I've always wanted a red coat! I didn't have any pies in England, but I must admit I have a soft spot for them too. In NZ, we have mince (beef) and cheese pies - fairly self-explanatory, but for some reason the Brits don't seem to have caught on to putting cheese in the pie as well! That's okay though, I'm a happy girl with my cheese, bacon and cider right now!


Feed the Comment Monster! Rawrrrr