The Spiritual Haven of the North

Trip Start May 31, 2006
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Friday, April 6, 2007

We knew we had only just gotten back from a trip to Italy but now with Easter upon us we decided we weren't going to spend our days off sitting around in London.  We had a tight budget and air fair had tripled due to the long weekend, so we decided it was high time for a road-trip.
 
Now to choose a destination....but why settle for one when you can have many! That's the beauty of the freedom of road trips.  So I did a little research and decided in York as our first stop.  In Mallorca we had once met a very nice woman from York who had said it was one of the most beautiful cities in England.
 
We woke up on Friday morning at 4am.  It was hard to get up from bed with it being dark outside and all....not even the birds were chirping yet. We quickly packed our bags and loaded the car with the road-trip necessities: bottles of mineral water, rolls of toilet paper, snacks, music cd's and the laptop.
 
It had been difficult but it turned out to be an asset to leave so early as driving out of London with hardly any cars on the street was a miracle. We watched the sunrise through the highway trees while the sky turned furiously pink and tangerine gold.  We sang and debated over Darwin's theory of evolution while we crossed the gorgeous Yorkshire dales. We spotted rabbits and pheasants on the side of the road, but more than often on the road itself, squashed by some careless car. Sheep and lambs with their tiny playful offspring grazed in the immaculate green fields, and a few cows and horses basked lazily under the morning sun having their grassy breakfast. It was a perfect start to our road-trip.
 
At around 10 am we arrived in York, a city which was getting ready to enjoy the sun filled day that was headed.  Already tourists were arriving in cars and buses getting their cameras ready to take a walking tour of this bright place.  Thick stone walls with watch towers and acolorful coat of arms welcomed us into the old center of the town where old traditional pubs, tea houses, brasseries, snickelways, gardens of flowered trees and lawns of watered grass all comprised the comfortable views of York. 
 
We spotted York Minster in no time, not that it was hard to miss.  In a small café just outside the church's domains, a couple sat in a little table in the sunlight, drinking espressos while tilting their heads towards the sunlight, half smiling, grateful for the beautiful Good Friday breakfast. 
 
They say that York is the spiritual capital of the north, mainly because of this great cathedral.  Once inside the church we were spellbound by the pure voices of a choir singing at a service being held inside.  The service was shut off for people visiting the church which was fine by me, just as long as the choir continued their haunting singing.  
 
To be honest, the church was sort of plain, not much to look at except the amazing gray and silver colored vitreaux.  Even though on the outside it was quite impressive, I had definitely seen more attractive churches; this was way too polished, too handled by preservationists. It didn't look old and historic, it looked new and shiny, and very reserved and controlled, as if great care was put into not looking too pretentious. There's a difference between Anglican churches and Catholic churches: the latter are more pompous and ostentatious, which makes them all the more attractive, in my humble opinion. 
 
I had had enough of the church so I pulled Ed out and we walked around the tidy gardens surrounding York Mister, with its flower blossoms and its banks of daffodils and snowdrops.  We sat in a bench under a magnolia tree and enjoyed the sunlight as I watched a little curly haired toddler hiding behind a tree from her parents while laughing hysterically.  In the distance we spotted people walking on the stone city walls we had spotted on the entrance, so we headed in that direction.
 
These medieval walls were surrounded by grassy ledges of fields upon fields of sun colored daffodils.  It was so tempting to jump from the wall's edge and flop into the thick mattress of flowers, and judging by the circular spots were flowers had been crushed, someone already had.  We circumvented the historic center of the city, enjoying the views of the cathedral and the old town with its high peaked Victorian roofs. 
 
Clifford's Tower was just a couple paces away so we jumped off the York walls and headed toward this old quatrefoil tower on an even older Norman motte.  Apparently the tower had once been part of the York Castle which was dismantled.  In 1190 there were riots against the Jewish community of York. Many Jews took shelter in the tower, but surrounded by a mob, rather than be captured, the Jews set fire to the tower comitting suicide.
 
The views from the tower were incredible but the urge to eat was even greater, so we quickly made out exit and ran to the nearest pub.  They say that in York there's a pub for every day of the year, so it wasn't hard to find one. After our veggie burgers we walked The Shambles, an old street in York with crooked timber built chocolate shops and tea houses.  I had read that Shambles comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning meat shelves where butchers would display their freshly cut meat for sale.
 
We walked around York's Gardens where the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey lay which made for a beautiful spot for a picnic or laying in the shade as many people were doing.  We got some ice cream and wandered around watching families playing with their kids, lovers sprawled over the lawn, people walking their dogs, teens being obnoxiously loud, and tour groups following the quick pace of their guide. 
 
We would've stayed in beautiful York but our journey had to continue, and many destinations were awaiting us.  But as we drove out I could now understand why that kind sunny haired woman in Majorca had said her city was the most beautiful one in all of England.  It certainly was an eye-opener.




Petrol £26.70
Toll £2.70
Parking £5.50
Clifford's Castle £6.00
Lunch £15.00
Ice Cream £3.30
Total spent  £59.00
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