I can’t remember when I last saw the sun, but it seems like ages ago. Every time I leave the house it’s a very brisk walk to wherever our destination is, raincover firmly on the buggy and my hood fastened tightly. However, it’s half-term, my husband is off work and his sixteen year old son is here and I think we’d all go mad if we stayed at home all week. There is only so-much COD (Call of Duty) gunfire a girl can take.
We’ve been loving this #hometourist idea going on around Twitter, which I heard of from the Culture Vulture. See this Guardian article for more information. It’s a great initiative and inspired me to search out new places to visit, some are right on the doorstep and some are further afield. Today we focused on York.
So, after filling ourselves with bacon butties, we set off with our York Cards (free or reduced entry to a number of museums and attractions) into town along the river and via Rowntrees Park. It’s only a fifteen minute walk and as we get to Skeldergate Bridge I can see the crowds. Oh yes, it’s definitely half-term. Groups of families are also huddled against the elements; a collective of reluctant dads, harrassed looking mothers trying to hurry their children along and groups of foreign tourists probably wondering why they chose to come to York in February. (Why did they?!).
We started with the York Castle Museum. I’ve been here fairly regularly as my family’s old shop (House & Son) was replicated on the Victorian Street. It’s moved on since then, with the second part of the street being taken over by a multimedia area. It’s a lovely museum, my favourite bit is the collection of old household items. They display an old 1950′s hoover and washing machine of ours I believe. Anyway, Jake (the sixteen year old) wasn’t too bored but Jemima (one) was getting a bit tired of being in the buggy so we decided to decamp to the Museum Gardens for a run around (Jemima, not us!) and decide where to lunch.
Aside from the chain restaurants (did the rounds of those with my NCT friends when the babies were little), most family-friendly places would be a squeeze with it being half-term so we figured Pizza was the best option. Cue long-queue at perennial favourite Pizza Express on Museum Street so we hedged our bets and went to Zizzi’s round the corner on Lendal. My husband and I both went for the yard-long extra hot pizza, Jake his usual margherita and there were plenty of breadsticks and waitress attention to keep Jemima happy. It made a nice change from Pizza Express and we left replenished and refreshed.
I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet visited the revamped York Library, which is across the road, but I thought the boys would be bored so I’m leaving that for a future visit, when I’ll hope to spend a couple of hours there. We walked past the Dean Court Hotel, passing our old shop House & Son (now luxury flats with splendid views of the Minster) and walked through Dean’s Park marveling at the iconic York Minster. It really is incredible and awe-inspiring to say the least.
We carried on past Treasurers House and into Chapter House Street. I love these streets, cobbled and quaint and away from the crowds. My parents used to live on Ogleforth, opposite the other part of House & Son (again, recently renovated into lovely-looking flats) and we imagined what it was like in the 1960′s when my parents were there. A bit spooky my mum said, as they had no neighbours and a huge creaking house that they could only afford to heat one floor of. It’s still quiet today save a few people walk up and down looking for the recently re-opened Grays Court, a 900 year old country-house, a stones through from the Minster. It claims to be ‘probably the oldest continuously occupied house in Britain’, dating back to 1080 and is now a splendid cafe, with gardens looking out to the City Walls.
We walked back through town, looking up at the rooftops until we reached the Shambles, a street I take for granted but when looking at it through a tourists eyes is incredible. It’s York’s oldest street, with it’s fifteenth-century buildings leaning over so they almost touch in the middle. It was originally a street full of butchers; the pavements are raised on either side to create a channel for the offal and blood to drain away.
It really is easy to see why York is one of the countries most-visited Cities. Compact but filled with nooks and crannies and history around every corner waiting to be explored, is it too big a statement to say it’s the UK’s version of Rome?!
We managed to squeeze us all in for a rest and a pint at the Blue Bell, on Fossgate. I think this #hometourist idea is a great one and we are going to make sure we explore new places across Yorkshire as often as we can.