It’s the August bank holiday weekend! And unlike last year when I didn’t even know it was a thing, this time I was ready.
My alarm went off at 5:30am. I hit snooze and woke up before it buzzed again feeling way more refreshed than I usually do after just one snooze. What a great way to start the weekend!
Then I looked at the clock, did a double-take, and had a heart attack. It was 8am, my train left at 9am, and I still had to shower, pack, eat breakfast, and get to the train station in time to pick up tickets and board.
I quickly decided that showering was optional, breakfast could be got on the train, and if I forgot something while packing, well, it wasn’t as if York wouldn’t have stores. So less than 20 minutes later I was out the door and in my way.
The journey was less than 2 hours from Kings Cross and totally pleasant thanks to glorious sunshine and the fact that I had procrastinated buying my train ticket until the only spot available was in first class.
I alighted in York amidst a crowd of well dressed people who turned right for the races (in England horse racing is watched in three-piece suits and flowery dresses with outrageous hats) while I turned left to find my B&B.
I hadn’t gone twenty yards before I knew I would like this town.
In less than fifteen minutes I had found my lodging: the charming Hazelwood Hotel. I was welcomed by a bubbly woman who said things like “okey, cokey” and “lovely, jubbly” as she checked me in and told me about breakfast.
I considered having a shower but decided I could rough it and opted for lunch instead. The Concerto Cafe, recommended by Rick Steves, was nearby and still serving brunch — avocado toast hit the spot.
From there I headed to the famous medieval Minster. One of the largest and finest cathedrals in Northern Europe, it’s also one of the few in England whose gorgeous windows survived the iconoclasm of Protestantism. I went inside for a pleasant volunteer-guided tour and went back for Evensong service, which was well-timed in my part since this is the last service before the massive organ is dismantled and sent off for two years of repairs. (FYI although it is a cathedral because it’s the seat of an archbishop, its also a Minster, which means it’s dedicated to proselytising and ministering. They consider themselves the place where Christianity first took root in England in the 900s after the Roman Christianity died out in the 5th century.)
As ancient as the cathedral is, it’s sitting on top of even older stuff. The Romans came here in 71 AD and built a fortress. You can see the foundations under the cathedral, and there’s a Roman column in the square outside. Also a statue of Constantine the Great, who was apparently made Emperor here before going on to found Constantinople and convert Rome to Christianity.
The rest of the town is adorable and full of jumbly medieval streets and houses. I walked around and talked to Justin and may have found some art I want to buy. (Btw, do you know where we get the expression that something is “a shambles”? From streets like the one here–a shambles in the Middle Ages was a street of butchers and meat markets that was so messy and chaotic that it took on smearing if it’s own. Now of course it’s charming and picturesque and totally sanitary.)
After Evensong I had just enough time to grab a plate of fish and chips…
…before running over to the Theatre Royal to see a new(ish) stage adaptation of The Secret Garden. It’s probably the version I like best at this point. It was well-told, had puppets and a terrific actor in the role of Mary, and broke out into a Bollywood style dance at the end. (I do, however, think that we just need someone to completely rewrite it and get us away from the Frances Hodgson Burnet original because I really can’t even with the ending. Everyone is so interesting at the beginning when they’re tortured and miserable, but then they become healthy and happy and completely boring and a little preachy.)