York: the Roman, the Medieval,and the Modern

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
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15
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Trip End Jun 16, 2010


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, June 14, 2010

The grand old Duke of York 
 He had ten thousand men.......


We've made it to York and the last place we'll visit before heading home. What a place. As Sidney says, it has all the essentials of a British city--castle, cathedral, university, and Roman ruins. Today we spent a bit of time touring the town and getting our bearings since we'll be here tomorrow as well and want to take in all the best. York is known for still having an entire wall, complete with gates, completely encircling the old city. For us, having a wall to stay within makes a large city very manageable. The roads are very narrow and often cobbled. My favorite street is  known as the Shambles. On this street, as the years went by, each time someone added a story to their shop/living quarters, they cantilevered the buildings outwards to increase its size while maintaining the same footprint on the first level
 
As the buildings went up they got closer and closer together. In some places one could just about reach across the street from their upstairs window and shake a neighbors hand. We had read that it was dwellings like this that contributed to the great fire of London, so it was interesting to see it first hand.

After a late lunch we went on a tour of York Minster, Englands largest cathedral and second only in size to St. Peters in Rome. This giant of a building we learned was built over the course of several hundred years, and although it went from a smaller Norman church to a great gothic cathedral, it was built to serve a "congregation" of--at its largest--only 150 people. The stained glass windows are amazing (York houses a huge percentage of all the existing Medieval stained glass in Europe) and some date to the 1200s. We learned that the glass in the windows will last pretty much forever, but the lead that holds the pieces together must be replaced every 150 years or so. Also, as damage occurred to the glass from fires, bombings, sieges, whatever; the cracks were repaired using more and more lead. On some windows, so much lead would eventually be added that it became hard to see the original designs. Now when restored, they've developed techniques to remove the lead and we can see those windows much as they would have looked 800 years ago when they were first built. Currently they are restoring the largest window which is behind the high altar. It is so big and detailed that they expect the process to take five to ten years! Mary Ellen wants me to make sure to also mention the stone carving at the cathedral as well. As you can imagine, it took many, many carvers to do the job and each added his own special touches. While some of the carvings were ghoulish, others could be quite humourous, letting us know that people really have not changed all that much over the centuries.
Finally, an excavation to reinforce the foundations of the cathedral in the 1960s uncovered the remains of the Roman site on which it was built. This has now been turned into an exhibition under the cathedral itself. You can actually see the Roman, Norman, and Gothic layers of foundation stone.  

With the hours counting down til we leave, we're finding ourselves getting really picky about where we eat--wanting the perfect dining experience of course. Tonight we ate at an old pub called The White Swan. We ate at another White Swan several nights ago. Since it was good, we figured how could we go wrong. As luck would have it, it was delicious, and just what we wanted. They specialized in traditional "bangers and mash"--that's sausages, mashed potatoes, and gravy--yum! The waiter recommended a seasonal local ale, so of course we had that too.

So, off to bed to get rested up for our last day. 
   
 .....for when you're only halfway up
  you're neither up nor down.


 Cheers!

Jim

P.S. In case you missed it, there were two entries for Durham, since we were there two nights. We posted both at the same time, so you might not have seen the first.
 
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Comments

A. Barbara on

Welcome home you all! It was so fun to travel vicariously with you! Hope your chickens all made it through your absence!

nz2008
nz2008 on

Thanks, but we're not home yet!

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