ScotTrek: York

Way back when, I posted about my day in Melrose and promised that a recap of York was coming up soon. Um … here it is!

I arrived by train in York the evening of my second day, was met by a woman named Pie who I had exchanged messages with twice on the internet, who took me back to her Victorian townhouse in a neighborhood of identical townhouses – built for the families of men working on the railroad – where I promptly dropped my backpack and raced off into the evening to see everything I could see.

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The first thing I saw was the lovely little high street in Pie’s neighborhood (I’m charmed by the amount of bunting I saw during this trip.)

I loved York for a lot of reasons, but especially for how compact it was – all the things I was interested in lay inside the old Roman city walls, which helped – and  I could get to any place I wanted to go easily on foot.

You can walk on top of those walls (incredible!) and so I did, surreptitiously peeping down into gardens and roof-top patios.


Like Melrose, I went to York because of one building: York Minster. It’s architecturally significant (the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern England) but mostly it’s just incredibly beautiful.

So of course I headed that direction first.  First it was just the towers visible over the press of buildings (the bells starting ringing about the time I took the first picture, and they continued ringing for about an hour – it was magic), then the full grandeur of the building hit me as I got closer.

The next day, after an adventure in Thirsk which I’ll write about later, I spent about 5 hours inside the Minster – climbed the tower, explored the crypt, looked at all the remnants of the old Roman fort the church is built on top of – much of which was excavated when they reinforced the foundations in the 1970s because the church was in danger of falling down – and attended Evensong.

But that first night, I sat outside the church in the bustling square, imagining what it would be like to like in medieval York and have this grand building towering over everything.

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I did a lot more in York: wandered aimlessly around the Shambles, drank a cider at the House of Trembling Madness (accessed via rickety, crooked stairs because the building is from the time of freaking Shakespeare), ate a Yorkshire pudding while sitting by a fountain (it was not what I expected), enjoyed late-night fish n’ chips from a shop of dubious character, went to the train station just for onion and cheese pasties (I ate a lot in York).

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Oh, and wandered around the botanical gardens, which contains an ancient Roman tower and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, where I made friends with two small Indian children, up on holiday from London (we bonded over our love of squirrels and silly putty.)

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My last night in York, in my little upstairs bedroom in Pie’s Victorian house, I left the window open (no screens, how novel!) and listened to the rain fall – able to see just the faint outline of chimney pots and brick walls and life seemed both completely unreal and so magnificently REAL I almost couldn’t bear it.

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