Monthly Archives: August 2013

What I saw in York – in one day!

9th June 2013

Micklegate Bar, York

Micklegate Bar, York

York is one of those places with their defensive walls around the city still intact, actually more so than lots of others I’ve seen. There’s a set of stairs not far from the B&B so I headed along the top to the town centre. I came across the Micklegate Bar Museum on the way and stopped in for a quick look – £4 I think off my York Pass total. I’m a shocker for not reading things if I’m not really interested, but I did read it was used for a long time to hold prisoner for their last 24 hours before execution and they were then executed nearby – I’m guessing one of those “speak to the dead” people would get a lot of custom around there. Anyhow, they had lots of costumes that you could dress up in and take photos of yourself looking like a half-baked idiot if you wanted to – I thought about doing it decided that wasn’t really up my alley, so just took a few pics and left again.

St Mary's Abbey ruins, York

St Mary’s Abbey ruins, York

York has a wheel, like the London Eye, I didn’t try it out, but it made for some cool photos! Next stop was the Yorkshire Museum, masses of Roman history again, extremely well done, and quite a bit for the natural history buffs, even a skeleton of the poor old dodo bird. The museum is set in the city’s Botanical Gardens with the ruins of a Roman fort dating from about 107AD, St Leonard’s Hospital from about 1200 AD and St Mary’s Abbey built around 1080 all sharing the space. It’s quite a gorgeous place and true to form hundreds of people were out having picnics, walking or just plain old sitting watching the world go by, I just loved the whole place.

At York Minster

At York Minster

Well, the York Minster (cathedral) is right up there on everyone’s list of places you HAVE to see in York – not surprisingly, given my earlier track record, it didn’t rate that highly on my scale. Maybe if the big wall of stained glass windows wasn’t covered for renovation I would have been more impressed but great big ornate cathedrals just don’t do if for me, I think it might have more to do with the religious thing than the buildings themselves. I mean, anyone would agree, it is a work of art, but I tend to always come back to that theme of – what for, why, couldn’t the money be better spent? What I have found now though, is that I like reading the memorial stones, some of them give little bits of stories, they’d have fascinating history behind them if you only knew.

So, having got that one out of the way early I was then able to pick and choose which of the vast number of places my pass would get me into to visit – apparently the York Pass is loaded with well over £100 worth of entry fees – I hadn’t even started to put a dent in it yet.

The blue room (of course) of Treasurer's House, York

The blue room (of course) of Treasurer’s House, York

Not far from the cathedral I found the Treasurer’s House. Way back in the 1500’s it was the treasurer of York Minster’s house, hence the name. It’s a strange sort of place, there are Roman ruins in the basement, which is now a cute little café. The rest of the house has been kept how it was when Frank Green gave it to the National Trust in 1930. He had bought it in 1897 when it was in a sorry state and renovated it to suit his own little vision. From what I could gather he didn’t really live in the flash parts, they were more just for entertaining or for visitors – maybe eccentric would describe him best. Anyhow, it was interesting and the walled garden a great place to sit and have coffee and cake.

I hardly believe how much I saw in one day, but there’s more – Barley Hall, in amongst the little old alleyways with old timber clad buildings hanging over the streets all crooked and cute. Barley Hall was only discovered to be of medieval origins, probably early 1500’s, in the 1980’s – amazing that it has survived all that time isn’t it? It was another quite short visit because there’s not really that much to see, but they have ingeniously geared it towards children, with dress up clothes and games.

Pimm's central!!

Pimm’s central!!

Wow, what a day, I had a simply marvellous day, although I reckon sometimes I must look like one of those clowns in the side-shows, with my mouth open, head constantly going from one side to the other. I felt the walk home needed to be broken in two, my feet were badly in need of a rest, so a stop at the café on the bridge for a Pimms or two and some people watching sounded like a plan!

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I didn’t see the Grand Old Duke of York, just the town.

8th June 2013

The colours are amazing on good days

The colours are amazing on good days

I had a taste of first class train travel today, and I liked it very much. Nice and quiet and roomy, complementary drinks and food, and for some reason, when I booked it, the first class ticket was only £8 more than economy – what’s not to like? I guess the fact it was only a two and a half hour trip was why it didn’t cost much extra for first class, but, wow it was nice for a change.

Cool buildings in York

Cool buildings in York

I also wussed out and got a cab from the station when I arrived, but then went for a few hours wander around the town, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty then. I’m not sure if this is a fitting description, but, to me, York seems a very English city. It’s a university town so that could explain it, but it just seems very tidy and correct and how I expected English cities to be. The people at the B&B were lovely and the town feels the same.

Mind you, it’s a bit like Edinburgh, in that you have to pay to visit most of the interesting places. I bought a 3 day York Pass straight away but will start using it one morning so I get a full three days use. The river banks were full to overflowing this afternoon, it was a beautiful sunny day and they were out making the most of it. I probably take good weather much more for granted than most residents of the UK!

 

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Art in Edinburgh–galleries and t-shirts

6th June 2013

Taking the sun in Edinburgh

Taking the sun in Edinburgh

The centre of Edinburgh really is a lovely place on a nice day, I can imagine it would be awfully cold in winter, especially if the wind was howling up through the middle. The gardens run through the centre of the city, sort of dividing the Old and New Town – I played ladies and had a coffee and cake there this morning while watching the world go by before heading to the Art Gallery.

While I was at the Art Gallery I overheard one of the staff explaining to someone the free shuttle bus between there and their GOMA site.  I’d actually been wondering how to get there, so another problem solved. There was a wonderful thee man band busking outside the gallery while I waited for the shuttle, so even waiting time was put to good use today.

Part of the outdoor land art at Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery

Part of the outdoor land art at Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery

It’s funny how sometimes a grumpy person can make everyone else feel the same way and other times everyone just laughs at them. The guy driving the bus really wasn’t picked for his personality, he had absolutely no interest in anyone or anything on that bus, just grumped every time someone came along to ask a question and drove the bus like a madman. There were lots of half laughs and raised eyebrows along the way, another great people watching episode. Anyway, surprisingly, we all arrived in one piece. Of the modern art museums I’ve visited recently this was probably my least favourite. I’m not sure why but the quirky signs outside grabbed me more than anything else. Caught the courtesy (that’s a misnomer) bus back with mostly the same people and we all commented when we got off that it must have been close to finishing time because his driving was even more speedy this time. Oh well, he gave us something to laugh about.

I wandered in and out of a few souvenir shops back in the city before heading home, what a hard life!!

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The place where it doesn’t matter if you have a lisp

7th June 2013

Sometimes this being high tech just doesn’t pay off, I booked a bus and boat tour to the Forth of Fife online and kept a copy of the confirmation on my phone and ipad – no room for a printer in the backpack. You can fly all over the place without a printed ticket but  the ticket booth attendant where all the tourist buses pick up HAD to have a piece of paper before they would give me my ticket. The fact that they could plainly see my confirmation meant nothing – without it printed out they weren’t going to do anything.

Thank goodness again for my OCD need to arrive with miles of time to spare. The ticket guy told me about a place where I could print an email, so off I went at a million miles an hour. Got there and asked, no, they don’t have anywhere to print it, but she pointed me up the hill a couple of blocks to another place where she thought they would be able to do it. Another heart attack inducing sprint later I got the same answer – this was not looking good! But then another guy at this place poked his head around the corner and said he was pretty sure a cafe just another half a block further up had an internet cafe upstairs. By this time I was almost ready to give up and just go buy another ticket but I figured I still had time so I’d give it a go – yay, third time lucky!! A couple of pounds later and I was set – and my return trip back to the ticket booth was downhill!!

Cruise boat leaving us on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Cruise boat leaving us on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Whew, got back with about 5 minutes to spare! Then it was a nice half hour ride down to the bridge with commentary along the way. There didn’t seem to be that many people on the bus for the size of the boat but another bus arrived and all these little old ladies started pouring out, chattering away in the most gorgeous Scottish accents, the boat was certainly full once they all boarded. I perched on the end of one of their seats and ended up having a wonderful chat with some of them, then ran up and down the stairs getting brochures for one of them, then another two, then another eight – because, of course, they all wanted one each to take home!! They were really lovely though and kept passing everything I said down the line like Chinese whispers – “she’s Australian, you know”, “travelling on her own, you know”, “ooooh, very brave lass isn’t she”!!

Forth of Fife rail bridge, Scotland

Forth of Fife rail bridge, Scotland

The gorgeous rail bridge was the main thing I wanted to see. I hadn’t even heard of it until we drove into Edinburgh the other day, but it’s an amazing structure, built way back in 1890 and still going strong.

I also took the opportunity to spend some time on Inchcolm Island, it’s in the middle of the harbour and has ruins of an old abbey as well as some WW2 remnants to explore. The boat lets you off and you catch the next one going back an hour or two later. I asked one of the island staff if it was okay to head up the hill to some of the WW” bunkers because there seemed to be an awful lot of seagulls flying around. She said I’d be fine so long as I stuck to the mowed path – that should have been warning enough, really, I should have read more into those words than what she said.

Seagulls on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Seagulls on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

I headed off (along the mowed path) and not too long later seagulls started squawking and flying around but I thought they’d get used to me. Then a bit further on, I got my first seagull poo down the front of my coat, but I thought, okay, that’s a bit of bad luck, I’ll put my hood up and kept going. Then they started dive bombing me, so I put my bag on top of my head and went a bit further. But they weren’t giving in, and I didn’t know what to do, I must have looked an absolute dill, with my bag on top of my head, doing circles, trying to decide whether to keep going or give in and go back. I finally used some common sense gave in and started back down the way I’d come, yelling at them like a bloody loony tune. I honestly thought they wouldn’t keep it up but they got worse and by the time I got away from them my coat and bag were absolutely covered in seagull poo.

So, back to the island staff office to try and clean up – guess what, they have no running water. They gave me a bucket, a couple of bottles of water and some disinfectant wipe things and left me to it. Oh my god, have you ever smelt seagull poo – it pongs. I wouldn’t have worried so much about cleaning my coat then and there except I really needed to wear it as it was freezing, and also because it smelt so bad. I kept finding new bits everywhere I looked, down the back of my jeans, on my joggers – but I was so relieved to have had the hood, none on my hair, that really would have been the pits.

That little episode put paid to my plan of spending some quiet time sketching the abbey ruins, although I still had time for a good look around them. The boat trip back was much quieter without the dear old ladies for company, just a few seals and puffins as well as the bridges to admire.

Even though seagulls have slipped even further on my list of bird I like, sometime you can be lucky – this is only, I think, the third time I’ve had access to a washing machine where I’ve stayed – so coat, bag, jeans and joggers all went in together for a good clean. Lesson learnt for today – don’t trust bloody seagulls, EVER.

 

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