Friday, June 11, 2010


By Claire
June 8-9
We found our campground just outside of York with no problem—quite a feat without an address or GPS coordinates that work for us. The showers were the first thing we tried out. After a hasty lunch, we drove off to the Park and Ride to catch the bus into York. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We followed the instructions to pull over to the lay by and wait for the gate for large vehicles to open. Nothing happened. Chuck got out and spoke into the box with a button for assistance.

The man trying to help him walked over, fiddled around with it for awhile, then gave up and gave us directions to the next Park and Ride. I thought he was saying Brockwell and asked him to write it down. Turns out he was saying Rawcliff. Needless to say, we did not find it. Instead, we spotted a Sainsbury’s food store and decided to stock up instead and try again tomorrow.

We had arranged with Pat and Brian, who we met at Camping Finikes in Greece, to get together once we were in this part of the world. They live in Knaresborough, about 40 minutes from here and offered to drive to us. We had some wine and beer inside Homer when Pat realized we would not be able to get together with them on Thursday since I had made reservations at our next campsite in something of a panic. Long story involving technology and a phone with minimal reception. So, they decided to drive us back to their place where we would find a place to go to dinner.

They are the couple who took the trouble to type up and print out a list of places they recommended we see in England. They also gave us the 6 Sister Fidelma books by Peter Tremayne, which Chuck loved so much and I will read in Ireland.

Their town is wonderful, with ancient ruins, both Roman and Medieval. They are lucky to live footsteps from the downtown.

We found a pub they had not tried that turned out to be perfect. We had a table to ourselves down a few steps from the bar and enjoyed getting caught up on each other’s travels since we last saw each other back in March. They are lucky to travel 8 months each year.

I decided to try Pig’s Cheeks and Chuck had Shoulder of Lamb. I asked the server about them and she said they were gorgeous. She was so right. Mine did not taste like pork or ham but a little more like beef and just fell apart with tenderness. They came with mashed potatoes and mushrooms. Chantrells perhaps?

Shoulder of lamb

Pig's cheeks and mashed potatoes

They drove us back to our campground where we found the guard gate down so they could not come in, which was disappointing. Fortunately, we were able to walk around the side and return to Homer. We really enjoyed our visit with them.

This morning we decided to give the Park and Ride another try. This time it worked. We arrived early in town and had it practically to ourselves. Our plan was to take a free walking tour with a local volunteer at 10:15. We walked through the Shambles—the former butchers’ area; houses were once high and leaning over the street to avoid the sunlight that would spoil the meat. Here, I found a place to get a quick haircut with a very friendly and expert hair cutter named Claire.

We wandered a bit until it was time for the walk to start.

Our guide, Ian, was delightful—full of interesting facts and funny anecdotes. This was probably our best walking tour of the trip! It lasted 2 hours and we saw and learned a lot about York.

Roman Walls

St. Leonard’s—where the monks lived upstairs and took care of the poor in a hospice down below.

Garden with Roman walls

St. Mary’s Abbey—enormous

York Minster is the largest Gothic church in Europe north of the Alps (540 feet long, 200 feet tall). ‘Minster’ means a place from which people go forth to minister, or preach the gospel. As it is the seat of a bishop, it is also a cathedral.

York Minster. All the stained glass was removed and buried during WWII to protect it from German bombing raids.

Pinnacle of York Minster, made of lead.

Ian told us these crosses were called loopholes which somehow became a legal term as well.

This Dutch building is the oldest brick building in York.

This is where the priests were moved because they were outside the effective control of the church and had been accepting money for prayers and spent it on wine, women and carousing.

This little mouse was a carpenter’s trademark on this door leading to St. Williams College.

St. William's College, founded 1461

The sagging foundation on this building is caused by modern day traffic. The traffic around the Minster has been stopped—to preserve it.

We really enjoy this small church used by the common people, Holy Trinity Church. The “important” people went to the Minster. Inside, we saw the Victorian boxed seats for families with butterfly hinges on the doors. They had expanded the church and on one side was a private chapel for a more well-to-do family that included a squint hole so the minister on the other side could stay in sync with the service.

After our walk we were ready for some hot tea and lunch. It was quite chilly today with a threat of rain. Rested up, we headed for the Castle Museum. As soon as we set foot inside, an alarm went off and everyone was herded outside. The fire truck arrived and while we waited we decided to indulge in an ice cream cone.

Ice cream truck from 1949

It wasn’t long before everyone was allowed back in. We waited at the ticket desk but no one appeared. Pretty soon, an official came over and told us to just go on in. That was nice!

The museum was really fun and takes you on a trip through 400 years of York’s past, from Elizabethan soldiers to a Victorian street. I particularly enjoyed the recreated living rooms over the years showing how people dressed, ate, worked and played. They also had an exhibit called From the Cradle to the Grave showing birth, including medical implements used, to weddings and the dresses over the years to funeral wear and accessories.

We wanted to see The Treasurer’s House, an elegant townhouse dating from medieval times with views of York Minster. It is also a National Trust property giving us, as members, free entry. Originally home to the treasurers of York Minster and built over a Roman road, it was carefully restored between 1897 and 1930 by one remarkable man, wealthy local industrialist Frank Green, with thirteen rooms presented in a variety of historic styles. This was the first fully furnished property given to the National Trust.

We saw so much today, once again with the help of a walking tour. This is our favorite way to really see a city. We have been moving at a furious pace and now it’s time for some relaxing in the countryside. Tomorrow we are off to the Lake District.

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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