Saturday 07 February 2015 – York.
Our room at the Churchill did not include breakfast so we decided to head out earlyish and get breakfast in before goiing to the minster for opening time, and hopefully beating any crowds. York is a very popular tourist town and York’s premier attraction is York Minster. It may look like one but it is not called a cathedral, so thanks to Wikipedia – A minster is a church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. A cathedral is the seat of a bishop, because his seat, or throne, is called a cathedra.
The hotel was under half a mile from the minster on one of the main roads into town, and just outside the city walls. Though the walk in to the ‘old’ part was still pretty damn nice, with a mix of Georgian terraces and little bits that are significantly older.
Even though it was 9:00 am on a Saturday, finding somewhere open for breakfast was rather tricky. as nothing appeared to be open. We did find the place where Guy Fawkes was born – which was a surprise as I had no idea, he was from York I just assumed he was born in London – my London centric view I guess.
We finally found somewhere for a very nice breakfast, and damn good coffee as well, good enough to have a second to take away as we carried on strolling around killing some time before the minster opened. The coffee did not come from Coffee Yard though, there was no coffee in Coffee Yard at that time of day, I had to duck to walk down this alley leading to old Barley Hall.
We popped out on to one of the main shopping thoroughfares of York and I took the opportunity to take a picture while it was relatively quiet, as you can see the streets are narrow, the buildings sort of lean in and it is all quite nice. I cannot remember the name of this building, it is behind the minster and I recall it was part of a school. The pillar in front is from the original Roman great hall and was discovered during excavation work in 1969. It was erected as a monument to celebrate the 1900th anniversary of the founding of York in 71AD. A 1900th anniversary, wow. That is centuries older than the discovery ofNew Zealand.
The Emperor Constantine.
We were a little disappointed at the cost of entry into York Minster, 15 pounds a head to enter a church building is a little steep in my book. I understand that running a building of historical significance costs an awful lot of money, but the church is hardly going broke.
There has been a church on this site since the early 7th century, though numerous fires and sackings, and the almost complete destruction at the hands of the Danes in 1075 meant the current building was started in 1080. The bulk of the gothic style was started in the 1220’s. There has been renovation work on the building off and on ever since. It is a pretty cool building, including a major and long term piece of work on the stained glass window. It did feel a bit soulless to us, unusually so. Normally we love the feel of the great cathedrals.
The crypt was quite interesting with some lovely old Norman artifacts, including this Doomstone, which depicts the entrance to hell and sinners being tortured and consumed. Nothing like a bit of churchy forgiveness…
Back out into the streets of York and off to walk some old city walls. York has the most extensive network of remaining city walls in the UK, something I did not know until we arrived yesterday and something I found very exciting. The walls were first built by the Romans, starting from their earliest occupation in 71AD, though they fell into disrepair and were largely rebuilt under the Danes and into the 12th and 14 century – and these are the walls we walked on today. We entered the walls at Monk Bar, one of the many gate forts along the wall.
The walls do not fully surround the city, there are numerous gaps, including the rivers. There was a river side walk down the side of the Foss, it had all the charms of Regents Canal in London. Not saying that is good or bad !
Back in to town, we found ourselves at Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate. The shortest street in York. In this case gate is a corruption of the Viking word Gatta – which means street. It runs the width of the church…
Our next stop was Clifford’s Tower, the last remaining part of York Castle, which was built under order of the Norman king William I. It was partially destroyed in 1648 after a major explosion, but was used as a prison until 1929. There was a fee to enter the tower, so we flagged the opportunity to go inside, but we did walk up and take a photo from the top of the hill, before walking down to the Castle Museum.
We went down to the River Ouse and walked along the river side for a short while before heading back towards the city centre and our next stop, one of York’s premier tourist spots – the Jorvik Museum, where we had planned to pay the entrance fee. On the way we spotted an extremely rare thing – a closed down Tesco Express. Wow! Never thought I would see one of these, I didn’t even know they existed.
The Jorvik Museum was kinda cool, it is built on the site of an archaeological dig from the late 70’s that discovered a series of streets and houses from the ancient Viking community of Jorvik. The museum is like a history lesson on a Disneyland ride. Sitting inside a ‘time capsule’ we took a ride through the streets of the ancient Viking capital and were shown what daily life was like back then, it was part amusing an part interesting. I really liked it. Photos were not allowed, but I snuck one anyway.
It was lunch time after the museum so we started looking for someone where to eat, we had a bit of a list of places to try and started trying to find a couple. On the way we took a walk through The Shambles, one of the oldest streets in York, but rammed full of tourists.
The afternoon is coming next!