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A birthday weekend in York

We were surprised to discover that York is only a 90 minute drive from our house. It's somewhere we'd been thinking of going for a few years, but I'd assumed it was much further away. So when we wanted to go away for the weekend to celebrate my birthday in January, York was the obvious choice. The city did not disappoint us.

I'd been to York years ago, and my only clear memory was of a tower on top of a grassy mound. That was Clifford's Tower, owned by English Heritage, and recently updated with a rather snazzy series of platforms and staircases inside. We saw a 13th century toilet which had been inaccessible for 400 years (I think I was more excited about this than the boys) and got a great view of York from the rooftop viewing platform.

View from the top of Clifford's Tower

Most people's memories of York probably involve the Shambles - an ancient street of shops - and York Minster. Apparently there isn't a clear difference between a minster and a cathedral, so don't even ask. Whatever you call it, it's impressively spectacular. 

We spent some time sitting in the niches in the Chapter House, pretending to be bishops and wondering what a prebendary is (it's a type of canon, but if you search for canon you just get cameras). Theo discovered a seat in the choir with his name on it, and we admired the new statue of HM Queen Elizabeth II on the West Front.

The Chapter House

Theologus, it says, but close enough

After all that, it was time to refuel. We walked past the famous Betty's Tea Rooms, which had mounds of macarons in the the window and a large queue at the door, and found a more modest place round the corner. Mannetti's was tiny but well stocked with interesting teas and cakes. We wedged ourselves into a corner table and enjoyed some of them.

Outside Betty's

Inside Mannetti's

York runs a very efficient Park and Ride system. The electric double-decker buses were a highlight of the trip, Toby and Theo agreed. And the car park was conveniently close to our hotel.

On the bus

Probably best not to mention the evening meal. We ordered a takeaway curry, and it was not a success. Still, the Holiday Inn breakfast the next morning made up for it. There was almost everything you could possibly imagine for breakfast - and you could eat as much as you wanted.

Suitably fortified, we got back on the electric bus for another day in York. It was much quieter on a Sunday morning, so we spent a little while looking around some shops. Toby bought a colour-changing potion lamp in The Shop Which Must Not Be Named.

The main activity for the day, however, was walking the medieval city walls. We started off at Bootham Bar, one of the old city gates - and promptly bumped into some friends from Derby! I rather wondered who we would see next, but we completed the loop without recognizing anyone else. 

It was a beautiful day for the walk; sunny and not too cold. Much of the walk took us along the top of the walls, with some sections at street level, and we saw everything from Roman ruins and manicured gardens, to dual carriageways and an old waste incinerator chimney. There was a short detour owing to the River Ouse being in flood - but as it isn't every day that you see benches and bins up to their necks in water, that rather added to the excitement.

Can't go this way...

By the time we were on the final section, going past the railway station and dropping down to cross Lendal Bridge, lunch was feeling decidedly overdue. However, each of us had a different idea of what to eat. So we found an outdoor table at the Shambles Market, and purchased crepes, Thai curry, sandwiches, burritos, and a nice hot cup of Hebden Tea Company tea. That kept everyone happy!

We drove home listing all the places in York that we hadn't been to that weekend, as well as discussing which bits we'd enjoyed the most. York will definitely need a return visit at some point. After all, it's only 90 minutes up the road!


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