How true is it that we expend lots of our time, energy and money to find secret foreign places, while ignoring gems on our doorstep?
Take York for instance. Okay, so it’s in Yorkshire and being a Lancastrian, I have a blind spot where the White Rose County is concerned. Actually, if you go back far enough, my Rhodes family came from Yorkshire, but then they came to Lancashire to get civilised!
Hoping to change my intolerant nature, Pat booked a couple of days away in York (and from the kids) as a birthday treat. One of those birthdays with a nought on the end, but let’s not open that door.
We actually managed an early-ish start, having got the home and office sorted out, and arrived in York about noon. It would have been sooner but for the really crap road signage around Leeds.
We signed in at the Moat House Hotel. Best get the worst bit out of the way. How can I describe the Moat House? Well, it is right on the River Ouse which should be a good start. Except that you can almost hear the architect looking at a plan of ancient York muttering, as he scratches his chin, “You know, what that place needs is a bit of concrete.”
Nice room. Warm. Too bloody warm to be truthful. What is it about hotel radiators that theyâ€™re either full on or full off?
And the food! Breakfast was okay but dinner was a disaster. Starter: salmon in mustard, honey and dill mayonnaise. No. Salmon in salad cream. Main course: from the carvery, leg of lamb. It may have been, but there wasnâ€™t enough taste to tell if it was lamb, beef, turkey or tofu.
Must be the noughts in my age creeping up on me. But I had to get the whining out of the way first for what was otherwise a great break.
As above, we arrived in York at lunchtime. Even in October, it is a busy place, a mixture of locals shopping at the market, tourists (like us) and students. First stop was All Saints Pavement on High Ousegate. It’s amazing that as you step into a place of total peace and quiet with the bustle of the street just a few yards away.
Then to the Shambles, the city’s ancient market. The name tells you that this was where once slaughtered and butchered, but they rely more on the tourist trade today.
We were peckish by then and good chance took us into the Last Drop Inn, one of only three pubs owned by the York Brewery. The ham sandwiches were fine, but the beer was really, really excellent. Two pints of Dark Knight much enjoyed!
More meandering around York. We were tempted to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre, but resisted! This proved a good move in retrospect as people I have spoken to about it have all told me it’s not worth the effort.
The afternoon found us at York Minster. I’ve seen these places on tv and thought, gosh, that’s big. Then you experience real thing, and it’s, â€œbloody gigantic.’
We went back at 5.30 for evensong. There are times to be uplifted, and this was one of them. Taking out cue from a regular, we bobbed up and down like good uns. The Minster choir was on half-term holiday, but the subs from Harrogate were excellent.
The Minster’s proportions are awe-inspiring. Tall beyond belief, even in our high-rise times, it is a jaw-dropper. What it must have done to the locals of the time has to be imagined.
Thoroughly inspired, we trekked to join the York Ghost Hunt at 7.30. It was raining be this time and we didn’t expect there to be a big crowd for this tour of the city’s macabre past. How wrong we were! There must have been 150 to 200 waiting to start the £3 a head tour. The guide (in undertaker’s outfit) must make a handsome living from it.
We called in at a couple of pubs and then back to the hotel by nine for the uninspired repast described earlier. And my beloved Man U made the evening complete by beating Leeds 3-2 in extra time in the cup.
The morning sky was grey and threatening, but the rain began to ease up, so more touring the city, particularly the Merchant Adventurers’ Guild House which had closed before we found it the previous day.
Then to the Last Drop for a last drop of good beer, but as we re-emerged, the sun had come out and the sky was blue, so we had to do a quick resume of the city to re-take the photos that look so much better in lots of sunlight.
We got home about tea-time absolutely exhausted but pleased with the visit. So much so that we hope to go again before Christmas.