We’ve been trying to take a weekend trip to York, and this weekend we finally did it! We still couldn’t find a good deal on a hotel (not sure why York is so expensive), so we ended up staying on the outskirts, on the way to Leeds, so we spent Saturday in York, and then explored Leeds on Sunday.
We drove up to York on Saturday morning and parked in one of the many car parks. Although taking the train would have been convenient, it was a better deal to drive, as it usually is. Taking the train seems to be quite expensive, especially when more than one person is going. Parking was close to 20 GBP for the day, but still cheaper than the train.
First up on the agenda was to visit the famous York Minster. This is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. It took over 250 years to build, and over 3,000 men died during its construction.
We took one of the free tours (although it cost 9 GBP each to get into the minster!), and we were pretty bored by the tour guide. Poor guy, he meant well, and had tons of knowledge, but he spoke very softly, and generally in the opposite direction of the crowd, so it wasn’t all that great.
The church is constantly undergoing renovations, and they are working on the big stained glass window on the back wall of the church. The picture below shows that they actually have a photocopy of the window hanging there.
Doug was so bored by the tour that he was reading his book on his phone throughout most of it.
We also randomly ran into our friends, Matt and Liz, at the minster! Matt and Liz are Americans who also work for Rolls-Royce and are on secondment in Derby like us. We actually had them over for dinner on Friday night, and we found out that we were both planning to go to York the next day. We said we would try to meet up, but we didn’t even have to contact each other because we just ran into each other at the minster! Also, it was Liz’s birthday, yay!
York is also famous as a walled city because many of its walls from when it was a Roman city still remain. So next up was a walk around the walls. We started at the Bootham Bar, where “Bar” means “gate.” We walked about half of the walls, all the way to the York castle (or what remains of it). The walls reminded me of the Romans walls that we explored around the city of Chester back in March: https://schetzelsintheuk.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/some-more-uk-differences-and-day-trip-to-chester/.
The walk around the walls was pretty nice, and there were quite a few people out as it was a really nice day. We even saw a fair amount of trees with their leaves changing colors! Nothing like autumn in Virginia (like at Virginia Tech where Doug went to college), but it was pretty nice.
We finished our walk on the walls at Clifford’s tower, which is the remains of the York castle keep. It is actually an English Heritage site, and we are National Trust members, so we couldn’t get in for free. Therefore, we decided to just admire from the outside. By the way, look how blue that sky is!
Next up was the Jorvik Viking Museum, where we also met up with our friends Alex and Kevin. Jorvik is the viking name for York, and York used to be a stronghold of the vikings. The vikings were in York (and much of England) after the fall of the Roman empire, and after the Anglo-Saxon period. So the Romans were gone after 500 AD, and then the Vikings came around 800 or 900 AD. The museum itself was really cool because you got to go on a ride through an entire Viking village. There were life-like mannequins that talked to you, and you went through their houses and around the village. We had been warned that there were bad smells throughout the ride to make it seem even more life-like, but we must have a bad sense of smell or something b/c the worst smell we had all day was walking by the toilets at the entrance to the museum…
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures on the ride (as usual for all cool things), but I would recommend it for sure. Even Doug was entertained and he didn’t have to read his book on his phone to keep occupied.
After the ride, they had a small-ish musuem, but even some dressed-up Viking actors who would tell you things or have exhibits. I think we all enjoyed it. We could take pictures in the museum part, so I have some here.
Yep, they had fossilized human feces on display. I guess they can get a lot of information by analyzing poop, including how many worms and parasites the people had. Apparently they had a lot of worms living in them!
After the Jorvik musuem, we went to the nearby Valhalla museum, which we got free entry into with our Jorvik tickets. It was more Viking history, but especially about the afterlife. They had multiple skeletons, gravestones, and information about the Viking religion. The vikings were mainly pagan, but as they invaded England, they were influenced by Christianity. The two belief systems seemed to merge and many artifacts have been found with Jesus depicted on one side and then a pagan god depicted on the other. In fact, the meaning of the word “Valhalla” is the viking word for the level of heaven where the warriors who have died in battle get to go.
After all the sight seeing, we decided to take a break and have a pint at Guy Fawkes Inn. Guy Fawkes is the most famous member of the gunpowder plot, which was an attempt to blow up Westminster in London. In England, there are big celebrations on November 5 to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire night. Apparently people burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and other unpopular figures, as well as set off fireworks and the such. Derby is having one of these events this year, so hopefully we will get to experience it! Anyway, Guy Fawkes Inn is located at the birthplace of Guy Fawkes. By the way, if you have seen V for Vendetta, the mask is actually a Guy Fawkes mask.
On the way to Guy Fawkes Inn, we walked through the Shambles, which is a historic area where the butchers used to trade and sell their meat. The roads are really narrow, and the buildings seem to be caving in on each other. I think you could reach across the top windows of the buildings on opposite sides of the street and shake hands!
Later that evening once it got dark, we took a ghost tour through York. York is known as one of the most haunted cities in the UK, and since it is so close to Halloween, we thought it would be a great opportunity to go on a ghost tour. There are many ghost tours to choose from in York, and the one we did was the Ghost Hunt of York.
There was actually quite a large turnout for the tour, probably over 100 people! But it really wasn’t a problem, and we were able to see and hear all the stories. We probably heard about 5 different ghost stories, and although they were spooky, the guide was more of a comedian than anything. We laughed a lot, and it was generally an entertaining tour. Here are a couple shots with the tour guide.
Overall, we had quite a nice day exploring York. I wouldn’t mind going back there again, especially on such a beautiful day!
Then this morning (Sunday) we drove over to Leeds. There was some really bad fog on the roads, and I don’t think it burned off the whole day because it was even foggy on the drive home.
Once in Leeds, we checked out the Royal Armouries museum, which had free admission (suggested donation), so we really liked that.
The museum was packed with all sorts of weapons and armory and other war stuff. There was just so much stuff that it was really overwhelming. We tried to make our way to all the floors, but it was really large and I’m sure we missed a lot of it. Apparently there are other Royal Armories, including one in Louisville, Kentucky, which is where Doug’s parents live. Maybe we’ll have to check it out next time we are in Louisville.
After the Royal Armories museum, we took a stroll along the river into the Leeds city center. We got some food and did some shopping (or rather I shopped while Doug drank Guinness at the pub).
We (I) did some shopping on Brigade street and in the Corn Exchange, which had a bunch of independent shops. That was about it for our trip to Leeds and York. Doug is leaving for California next weekend, but after he gets back we’ll be headed to Spain for our 1 year anniversary trip! Look for that blog post.