Saturday, August 14, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 25: A Visit to York

Friday, August 6

James and Kim collected us at 9:00, Kim bearing part of a cake she had baked (which I've since eaten, and it was delicious!) and off we went to York. James told me we crossed the Pennines, but I never saw, coming or going, anything that reminded me even vaguely of a mountain. Kim, at one point, said we were in Saddleback Moor, infamous for the Moors Murders, in which 5 children were slain and buried here.  Another point of interest is a farm, complete with house, barn, fields, pastures, and sheep, sitting right between the lanes carriageways of the M62!  (M is for Motorway, the British equivalent of American interstate highways.)  The owner at the time of the highway's construction refused to sell his property, so the motorway was built right around it.

York is a fascinating city for its scenery and its history.  It was settled by stone age people sometime between 8000 and 7000 B.C.  It was founded as an actual city in A.D. 71 by the Romans.  Vikings captured the city in 866 and called it Jorvik.  Roman emperors came to York; in fact, the son of St. Constantine the Great died while he was in York.

So the city has those fascinating narrow streets all in a jumble, with buildings dating back several centuries, plus the remains of the stone wall with its fortifications, dating from Roman times, plus, of course, the Cathedral.

We left the car in the parking lot car park near the Tower and the Castle Museum, including the dungeon.  But as both places charged a hefty admission, it was decided not to go inside either of them.   The decision might have been different if we had realized that each ticket is good for an entire year, but as we didn't know this, we walked along the streets instead.  These were full of holiday-makers, and it was like a giant, city-wide festival, with face painting, artificial rock-wall climbing, living statues, street musicians - and, of course, tons of interesting and unusual shops. 

Demetrios literally got lost in one that sold beautiful china and the most unusual and gorgeous art glass you could ever imagine.  By getting lost, I don't mean he couldn't find his way out, but that the rest of us couldn't find him for a while.  The least expensive items were probably the charming glass frogs in the front window, the smallest of which cost £200.

Demetrios was also enamored of the armor shop.  Yes, armor.  He has always fancied himself in a suit of it.  My knight in shining armor.

James commented that we needed to buy a 'child rein' for Demetrios, as he kept disappearing every few minutes. 

I found a place (Crabtree and Evelyn, a store we no longer have in Richmond) to buy my favorite scent, lavender.  This time I loved the 'recipe,' and bought 2 bottles for an unconscionable sum. 

Kim, meanwhile, bought me a very naughty souvenir, a Golliwog.  We'd had a discussion the night before about Political Correctness, and how tyrannical it is.  So that, and not racism, was the context in which she bought it. 

We ate in a carvery Demetrios like the look of, and the food was good. 

Then came the crown of our visit, York Minster.

............... A Strange-looking Window in the Minster.

It wasn't like the cathedral in Chester. It wasn't creepy. I said I couldn't remember being in a cathedral that large; and indeed, it does purport to be the largest in Northern Europe. But then, so does Liverpool.

Anyway, instead of being made of red sandstone, it was built from something white, so it looks light and bright inside. (You can take a virtual tour of it here.)

There are painted Medieval carvings on some of the tombs; fascinating!

There's a wonderful mechanical clock, too; on the hour, two knights strike gongs with their lances. 

And here is the ceiling of the Chapter House.

Although Kim and James didn't particularly want to see the Cathedral at the price of 8 pounds each, we did, at the senior rate of seven pounds, so they waited in a coffee shop while Demetrios and I spent nearly an hour inside the Minster.  And we didn't even see it all, either; there was no time for the Undercroft.  Never mind; we may hope for another visit to York some day, as there is so much more to see.

Then home we went, back over the 'mountains', back over the moor, past the house in the middle of the motorway, back to our flat.  James and Kim stayed for supper, with more telling of stories and more jokes and more laughter.  These people are so much fun!  The whole family.

We were in bed within 45 minutes of their departure, as tomorrow we are going with James' parents to the Lake District, another longish day trip.


orrologion said...

I remember being disappointed by the Tower and the Castle Museum. The Minster and the Shambles were far more interesting, though I think my wife would have really liked the Armor.

St. Constantine was actually hailed Imperator and Augustus in York (Eboracum) on the death of his father (Constantius) there - "probably in the principia or headquarters building of the fortress which now lies beneath York Minster" (

Since becoming Orthodox and being of English extraction, I have always enjoyed this connection between Constantine, York and the New York I live in today.

York is still the 'second' see of the Anglican church behind only that of Canterbury.

Devil's in the details when it comes to things like largest, first, etc. I found that "York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe" (next to Cologne Cathedral, so it is the largest in Great Britain) with "the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world [i.e., the Great East Window behind the high altar)". Liverpool Cathedral was listed elsewhere as "the largest cathedral [of any style] in the United Kingdom and the fifth largest in the world". Of course, I also saw Seville Cathedral listed as the largest Gothic Cathedral, period, but that's in southern Europe.

Twain said there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.