Lost in York


I’ve spent the day today in York (the old one founded by the Romans in CE 71). My son is off to university there, so I drove him there yesterday.

Today we did a big shop in the morning so that he can now hibernate for the winter in his dorm as he studies. We then went into the city and checked out the sites (the free bits). You would need to seriously consider a new mortgage if you actually considered entering all the museums. I can only conclude that the primary industry that keeps the town rolling is farming tourists (OK, I’m being polite, the term I’d prefer to use is fleece). Each and every time we approached a display or museum it resulted in a cry of, “How Much?”, parting our lips … no exceptions.

So we took the zero-cost option and walked the walls. They are indeed impressive, the original city walls still more or less surround the city (well OK, about 2/3), and you can climb up and walk around. It took us a couple of hours to successfully circle the entire city.

Cynical Observation: Most of the gate houses along the wall have been turned into coffee shops. OK, there are a few exceptions, the room over Monk gate is yet another tourist trap.

Recommendation: There are some nice pubs. We found one place near the Minster on Stonegate street. We were not too sure what to have, so the landlord went off and came back with samples of a few ale’s he thought were good. This was impressive for a couple of reasons, he was busy, very busy, but he still did it, also no charge. They deserve a quick plug, so here it is … (cut and pasted from here).

You will find The Punch Bowl in Stonegate York within a short stroll of York Minster, Blake Street and St Helens Square – however you won’t find another like it.

Step in to discover a traditional pub of unique character, revered for its eclectic range of real ales and its quality pub food, which are served, as they should be, with a generous measure of famous British hospitality.

Said to be haunted [Yea right, every building in town makes that claim], The Punch Bowl has been a pub for over four centuries, or perhaps we should say pubs, as we have suffered two major fires. We have a historical connection with the Whig Party from the 17th Century. Punch was the preferred drink of the Whigs, whilst the Tories liked their claret. Any pub displaying a punch bowl sign was therefore declaring its political allegiance.

The Punch Bowl is one of many rare gems in the Nicholson’s collection of great British pubs, reputed for their distinctive buildings, intriguing history and vibrant atmosphere.

There are a couple of interesting second-hand bookshops as well that we managed to loose ourselves in for a bit. If you are into books, then you will understand the joy in finding them.

OK, so what is the reference to lost in the post title? Well, when we called into the tourist office to pick up bus timetables, we notices one rather distressed couple were in there seeking help. They were completely lost and unable to find their car. The best they could do was, “We parked near a stone gate”. The entire city is completely surrounded by walls with stone gates … take your pick!!! We left them to sort that one out, there was not much we could do to help. The staff were doing well and taking them through a rather large catalog of pictures in the hope that they would spot one with their specific gate in it.

It was going to be a long day for the staff there, because to a casual visitor, all the gates look very much the same. If I was to choose a place to be lost in, York is indeed the place to be. While I might gripe about the prices of some stuff, it’s still a nice town and has retained a lot of its historical past.

Interesting Historical snippet: The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, became emperor of the entire Roman empire in York. In the late spring or early summer of 305, Constantius (his father) requested leave for his son, to help him campaign in Britain. So at his father’s side, they battled against the Picts beyond Hadrian’s Wall from Eboracum (York), capital of the province of Britannia Secunda and home to a large military base. There Constantius¬† became severely sick, and died on 25 July 306 in Eboracum (York). Before dying, he declared his support for raising Constantine to the rank of full Augustus, and the rest is the story of Constantine’s various battles that finally enabled him to obtain absolute power.

In many ways it is perhaps ironic that it is a story that starts at one side of a vast empire and then ends with his death in the new capital named after him at the other fringe of the empire in Constantinople.

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