The Final Countdown: Europe, North America travel blog

Mickelgate Bar, York

Mickelgate Bar, York

York Railway Station, from the top of the city walls

From the top of the York city walls

From the top of the York city walls

York Minster

York Minster

York Minster

St Michael le Belfry, GuyFawkes was baptised here. He later became a...

The Shambles, York

The Shambles, York

The Shambles, York

York


We had a comfortable night, when we finally did get off to sleep. There is an email from the courier company telling us everything looks ok, and it seems customs has accepted the company signing the form on our behalf.

After a full breakfast we check out, and bags are taken to the car. We double check that there are no restrictions on parking at the front of the hotel, and make our way across the bridge into town.

York was founded by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, though there is evidence of settlers since 8,000BC. The 4km of walls surrounding the medieval sector of York are the most complete in England, and retain all of the principle gateways. Micklegate Bar is the southern entrance, and here we take the steps to walk around the top of the wall.

From up there get a great view, we can see that the city is surrounded by an outer ring road, which allows traffic to by-pass the city. It is just as well that the traffic is diverted because inside the walls the city dates from medieval times and is not suitable for modern traffic. Later we see that many of the routes inside the city walls are designated as car free during business hours or restrict traffic entirely.

We pass by, or should that be above, the huge railway station, and are reminded that the world famous Flying Scotsman is here at the National Railway Museum (the train is currently being restored).

Inside the city walls we head through the streets to the Gothic York Minster (consecrated in 1472), it is very impressive, being one of the largest in Europe. There is a charge to enter, however we can see a lot from the ticket area as that is inside the church.

As we walk around the outside we come to it’s much smaller neighbour, St Michael le Belfrey, also Church of England, it is the place of Guy Fawkes’ baptism. Yes, Fawkes was originally CoE, converting to Catholicism after his mother remarried (his step father was Catholic). Fawkes fought with the Catholic Spanish against the Protestant Dutch in the Eighty Years’ War. He was found guarding explosives under Westminster Palace, a bid to assassinate King James I, and return a Catholic monarch to the throne. He was tortured, and before his sentence was to be carried out he committed suicide by jumping from the hanging scaffold, rather than face the terror of being hanged (until nearly dead), drawn and quartered. Every year, on November 5th, the failed plot is commemorated, usually with the burning of an effigy and accompanied by a fireworks display.

York claims to be the home of chocolate, and there is a chocolate trail, but we don’t have took much time for that. The city is home to Nestle-Rowntrees, producing Kit Kats (over a billion a year!), Smarties and Aero.

Central York features a few narrow pedestrian routes called the Snickelways, many of which led towards the former market-places in the city squares The Shambles is a narrow medieval street, lined with shops, boutiques and tea rooms, some of which date back to the 14th century. It was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally 'flesh-shelves'), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. Most of these premises were once butchers' shops, and the hooks from which carcasses were hung and the shelves on which meat was laid out can still be seen outside some of them. Back in those days there were no sanitary facilities or hygiene laws, and guts, offal, and blood were thrown into a runnel down the middle of the street or open space where the butchering was carried out. Often the apprentices would tire of sweeping the mess down to the river, and today any scene of total disorganisation and mess is now referred to as, "a shambles".

There are a number of market stalls in the square, and we spend a little time shopping before heading off to the supermarket for something for tea when we get back to Windermere.

We have to have the car back by 3.30, but Tony thinks it won’t matter too much if we are a little late. Besides, we are owed some time given the “shambles” we had when we collected it. We allow plenty of time to return without rushing it, turning off at Harrogate and returning via the top road around the Dales. Taking the A1 and A66 is about 25km longer, but is a little quicker.

We ask the car rental owner to drop us off at Lake District Backpackers as it is a bit far to walk with all our gear (and he did drop that other customer off at the railway station yesterday). There was not a lot of choice of accommodation, today being a Friday, but we are lucky that hostel this is just across the road from the railway station and bus stop. There was some trepidation in booking this, the hostel operates as self check in, and the reviews were not too flattering. Tony realises that we have not got the door combination when we are confronted by a locked door, but we are fortunate that another guest arrives back as we are searching for the email with the information.

A notice board in the dining-living area tells us what room number we have been allocated, and we are to place the payment for tonight in an envelope, and post it in a security box. £31 for tonight includes a basic breakfast and free wi-fi. We are in a room right by the front door, hopefully we won’t be disturbed with people coming and going. We are the only ones in the room, the bed is queen sized, with a single above it. It is quite cramped, with not a lot of room to move about.

Tony spotted a WH Smith just down the hill, so we head there to see if the Kobo can be sorted, but it is a small store, and they are unable to help. They give Tony a number to call, it is a premium one so costs extra. The advice is to do a factory reset, but that has been tried several times.

We call into the supermarket for tonight’s tea, and something for the bus trip back to Manchester tomorrow. The notice board in the dining room shows us the hostel is full tonight, but there are only three others in the room. We never do see the owners, but they see us as there are security cameras here and in the kitchen.

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