Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Weekend in York!

The weekend before my departure came, and I found myself excited to leave, but also really sad. We arrived at ISH very early in the morning on Saturday to depart for what would be our last weekend away from London. Steph and I were ready to go and meet our tour group when we arrived to board our bus and met everyone. There was a girl from India, a couple from Australia (though the man used to live in California) and a group from Southeast Asia, and then, of course the two of us.

Our tour guide’s name was Martin (Mah-tin) and he was a very timid smiling man with a large bald spot whose wife was expecting any day now. He was very nice; we started our drive and made our first stop out of London in Cambridge to pick up another passenger, a girl from the Ukraine who was studying there. Cambridge and Oxford are supposed to be very similar, though my plan is to go to Oxford after I get back from the Continent but before I leave for the States… seems like so long from now…

Finally we arrive in York! The drive was really long and Steph and I were really tired from getting up so early (me especially after a bit of a night out the night before) so I slept most of the way waking up occasionally to glance around and take a picture out of the bus window.

York was very pretty, a walled city of Olde with a lot of social activities to offer and of course, the usual and beautiful mix of the ancient British and the modern British architecture. We wandered the city for a while and were able to go alone to have lunch (Steph and I hit BK for the use of the toilet) and decided to buy pasties before going back to the man square to eat and watch the crowds go by. After a while we started a tour of the town led by a nice man named Keith who worked for a local tour company.

We wandered around the city learning about all sorts of cool things. York is really pretty and has lots of cool stories. The company who invented KitKat’s as well as the Fruit Pastillies and other candies. It was really cool! We saw where the Black Death started in Britain, some guild halls, and even about this guy who placed cats all over the city on every building he remodelled. The cats were pretty cool and Keith kept giving us sweets all the time including this really good candied almond!

All the tour we really were having a great walk around the city of York, even onto the large stone walls that have encircled the city since it’s construction. There is a tower in the city… it was built just after the Norman period, it was the site of an old castle it wasn’t much to look at but there is a horrible story that took place within.

In 1190 there were mass marches against the last 150 Jewish residents of York. The mob set the castle aflame after a few days of siege. As the fire was started many of the people inside chose to took there own lives rather than be slaughtered by the mob. There is a plaque outside the castle which reads, "On the night of Friday 16 March 1190 some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob incited by Richard Malebisse and others chose to die at each other's hands rather than renounce their faith."

It was a very sad story… we ended the tour at York Minster. We thanked Keith and set off for the inside of the cathedral to take a glimpse before heading back to the bus. The inside was probably one of the largest, most beautiful cathedrals I had ever seen! The windows were amazing and the sculptures were so cool! York Minster had one of the oldest and largest stained glass windows in the world (600 years old and HUGE) but unfortunately it was under restoration when we were there.



After York Minster we headed back to the bus, we only had a short time to dawdle because we were on our way to another stop to get housing for the night. We went to the home of the Bronte sisters (Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights) and we were going to stay there for the evening and the night. It was a really cool little town called Haworth in the county of West Yorkshire. Haworth is really only known for its famous author, but it was a nice little town with an old apothecary and some nice little pubs. Steph and I checked into our B&B and set off to look for some dinner.

We found one of the cute little pubs and some of our tour-mates so we sat and chatted with a bunch of them while eating Yorkshire pudding- I ordered Steak & Kidney. We figured it was fitting… We sat for a long time talking to the Aussie couple, the girl from India, and the other girl from the Ukraine. We sat for a long time had a couple of bitters while we ate (my steak was good but I was not a fan of kidney) and just enjoyed the company of strangers. I really enjoy the company of strangers, sometimes its easier to talk to people you don’t know then people you’ve known for years. The pub was warm and cozy, which was great considering the snow and ice outside, but after a while everyone was ready to leave so we headed back to our B&B.

The next morning Steph and I got up to a large ZZ –Top-Bearded man setting out our breakfast in the foyer (fruit, ‘bread,’ and a few other things that didn’t really stand out in my memory- save one: NUTELLA) which was fabulous. It was small and fresh and really tasty, I pocketed one of the extra Nutella tubs and we headed out on the town… err village. We wandered the streets of town and eventually headed up to a hill overlooking the town. It was a very cold morning and the mud had even frozen with the cold ground. We walked down a walled street. I wonder how old the walls lining the street were… they might have been there for ages! We finally got up onto a bit of a plateau above the village and looked out over the Wuthering Heights. They were very bleak, but oddly beautiful. We took some pictures and played around on the rocks and hiked up with the locals who seemed to all be walking their dogs at the same time. We felt a bit left out…

Following our hike back into town, we went to the old Apothecary store and bought some really yummy old style liquorice and some other sweets. Steph and I wandered the streets for a while before going back to grab our bags as it was time to get back on the bus. We drove for a short while and then stopped to watch some kids going ‘sledging’ which ought to have been called sledding because that was what they were actually doing, but either way… We took some pictures and laughed at the silly people with their sleds in the ‘snow’ that was actually frozen mud and some pitiful looking fluff in between the sprigs of yellow grass.

Back on the bus we headed back toward London driving through the area known as the Peak District. I have of course been here before, but this time we were going to see Chatsworth house! Finally, after all the effort we’d put in before only to fail the last time we were in the Peak we were going to see the house, not go in, just see. We made a pit stop in the Peak district and went to the loo and read about the local wildlife while chatting with our other tour members. The scenery is quite spectacular in the Peak district and when we stopped for lunch in a very small touristy town Steph and I wandered up to a cool looking castle on a hill, but it was closed. We got some good views of the town (which consisted mostly of stone structures) and wandered around for a bit before finding a place to eat that was insanely busy. I needed to find a Cash Point and ran across the village to find one in a off-license only to run back and eat my tasty food at this small cafĂ©. The place was packed and we got some very good traditional food before heading back out to get back on the bus. It was still cold, but the sun had come out when we left the town, there had been some rain but even that had stopped and the sky was a beautiful blue. I was really enjoying not having to take the train and getting to stop in more places, but it was definitely faster to be able to go by rail… I wish that was a better option at home…

In the early afternoon we made it to Chatsworth House, it was huge! Stephanie was very excited and we didn’t get very close to it but we got some good pictures just the same of the house from the front. After a quick stop we moved on, lots of driving to do today, and we stopped again a while later in the early evening to hop out and take a look at a church with a twisted spire! It had apparently been constructed straight, but something with the way the wood was warping was causing it to twist and it looked really cool, but would eventually snap off. We all snapped a photo and moved on, as the sun was setting we were still not back in London, and by the time we were finally back at Great Portland Street it was nice and dark. Steph and I bid everyone else farewell and went home to sleep before work the next day… good trip to York… I tried to save my Kit-Kat, but I eventually ended up sitting on it. I was sad, but it still tasted good though… J