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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.