Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two days in York

Kitson, Garfield's cousin (you have to see him to appreciate his grand size), resides with the Livingstone family and tolerates their five dogs - primarily I think, because he has the total run of the house and everyone's emotions! Andrew and Joanne have made our stay a very pleasant one and had lots of suggestions for places to visit. With 11 rooms in the St Georges B&B, the semi-detached house is huge. They explain that their 3 bedroom apartment in is the basement area of the building.

The houses in St Georges Close are all large. Two doors down is a separate house that was until a few years ago a 17 bedroom B&B before being bought by the current owners who live in it with their two children who are at boarding school for much of the year. Sheesh can you imagine the cleaning? And hardly being used!! A little further up the street is another large house that was home to an elderly couple until the wife died recently. The man has now listed the house for sale - you can have it for a cool 2,500,000 - oh gosh hang on, that is £ so that makes it a cool $5,178,056.46 at todays exchange rate - and this is regional England!

We have had a very full two days taking in the best that York has to offer. While I stayed in yesterday nursing a hip that was sore after many stairs, Michael walked in to the City which is only about 1 mile from where we are staying. And then he just continued to walk - right around the City Walls that enclose the old town of York - that is 2 3/4 miles long.

To view the old town from the city walls is a sight which can only be experienced first hand; and the only way to fully appreciate a locality is by walking; from street level or in this instance from the walls.
The strategy in protecting the old town is evident when the battlements and parapets are followed. The old city of York was entered by passing through either four gates or 'Bars': Mickelgate Bar, Bootham Bar, Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar. Each of these gateways were further protected by a barbican, which is a fortified outpost or gateway enclosing a walled road called The Neck. During the Victorian era, sections of the city walls were demolished including three of the four barbicans, whereby the Walmgate still retains its fortification.

Anyhow from the vantage point on the walls, I was able to marvel at this city with a new perspective. I commenced my venture at the Mickelgate Bar, the interior being converted into a museum which gave a portrayal of life in these fortifications - defensive and corrections. In case of Mickelgate, a pedestal for displaying the severed heads of those unlucky souls with a Leftist persuation towards the monarchy!

After this illuminating lesson I continued my promenade along the wall towards Bootham Bar. The interior of this fortification had also been converted into a museum surrounding Richard III's involement into the murders of his sons. Being presented with both conclusions for the Defence and the Prosecution, I was left none the wiser. However, I was to discover the bartizans were used as cells and most unaccommodating at that, regardless one was provided with a gravity shute!

He went into places such as:

  • the York Dungeon where he had the pants scared off him by local actors who retell the story of York with appropriate props,
  • St Matthews Church with the best preserved medieval stained glass in the world,
  • the remains of the once impressive St Mary's Abbey set in the Castle Museum grounds,
  • the City Park with the Roman undercrofts and the last remnants of the roman fort that stood here almost before time began,
  • the York Observatory where he is disappointed that it was not open and last but not least
  • searched out Dick Turpins grave and found it in the grounds of St Georges Church - the only tombstone to be standing up where all others are lying down (why do we revere criminals??) and finished
  • with a walk along the banks of the River Ouse to the York City Art Gallery. A huge day (but he is too jaded to elaborate on it all - thank god, I hear a number of people mumble!!)

And today we continued our exploration. We had set aside today to visit the York Minster - the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe (only the Seville Cathedral - been there -is a larger gothic structure). Although it is raining lightly, we know that much of the day will be spent indoors, so it does not worry us. You enter through the south doors so that once inside, you are greeted by the sight of the huge and amazing northern window - known as the Five Sisters Window. Completed around 1260 AD, this amazing work is not as colourful as the rose window (also known as the marigold window for its yellow centre panels), nor quite as grand as the Great East Window. But for me, this was perhaps the most amazing due to its detail and very careful use of colour. It contains the largest amount of Early English 'grisaille' ('grey in background', the groundwork of this type of glass being greyish-white) glass in a single window, anywhere in the world. It has five lancets, each of which is fifty feet high and five feet wide, and contains more than 100,000 pieces of glass.

The great East Window is about to undergo a TEN year restoration project of the glass and stonework at a 2009 cost of £7,000,000. So over the space where the window should be is the world's largest digital photo - can't really do it justice though because it is 2D! Turns out that the glazier who made it took three years and was paid a total of £56! But in those days a horse valued at £1,000 today would cost £1.

There is just so much to see and describe here and it will bore most of you (not having seen it) so if you want more information - just click the link! But before we leave the cathedral it is worth saying that in the undercroft are the remains of an earlier Roman fort on top of which was built a Norman church and then much later, this Minster. (See the photo) You can't take photos here so I can't show you this amazing space. But in the minster above there are lots of early remnants such as bosses, the Chapter House that is 800 years old (which is amazingly well preserved being indoors), lots of stone carvings and tombstones - the oldest we found dates to 1585!

Michael took a walk on the high side and climbed the narrow stairs up the Bell Tower for some amazing views of the city and a very interesting perspective of the Minster itself and the grounds in which it is set.

Back on the ground, we head off from the Minster after a visit that lasted 4 hours for The Shambles. This is England's best preserved medieval street and at times is so narrow that you can easily shake hands with your neighbour across the way, just be extending your arm out the window. Down on the ground level, one of the shopkeepers was padlocking grilles to the front of his shops as he was closing for the day - multiple padlocks at that too. Sad indictment on society today we conversed.

We find chocolate and fudge makers that continue their trade much as it was ever done - and we indulge in some handmade chocolates - why not! Even though the day has remained wet, we have had a great one. The dampness continues with the welcome side effect that it keeps some of the growing number of tourists inside.

And so, we have a final meal at 'our local'. Could have tried somewhere new, but it is close to where we are staying, the food is fabulous and the company of the staff very pleasant. The Manager tells us that he is quite taken with the blog! We have noticed that there are a growing number of people who are looking at the blog regularly and as of this morning have 2358 hits with regular new users recorded. Seems like there is a world of people out there you might wish they were doing what we are. But honestly guys, these days it is more about getting it down so we can remember what we saw where - we get it so mixed up at times! Anyway our last meal at the Fox and Roman is as follows:
That fabulous Whole Baked Camembert they do
Grilled Sea Bass with parsley and lemon butter, seasonal vegetables and baby potatoes (Michael)
Luxury Seafood Pie (Salmon, king prawns, cod and smoked haddock in a light cream and wine sauces topped with cheese and potatoes) served with seasonal vegetables. As usual they do not disappoint.
Not hungry enough for dessert tonight - and we have those choccies to go back to ;-).

So as we are having our last breakfast at the St Georges B&B Andrew comes in and in all earnestness asks whether we have heard of the Swine Flu currently infecting people in the UK. "Yes", I said. "Well", he continued "I've heard that people are coming out in a rash with it. But don't worry - I've got some oinkment!" Takes all types of humour I figured as he laughed heartily and left the room chuckling with a funny sort of leaping walk.

1 comment:

Allyson Rhodes said...

Oh I remember the Minster and The Shambles so well - it is so amazing to see it all again. Am logging the hours till we are there again. Thanks guys