My face was hurting. Stood at the top of Clifford Tower, looking over the city of York, I was a little disappointed that the weather had taken a turn since the YES SPRING IS FINALLY HERE excitement of the day before, when I’d left London in a thin cardigan, the sun high in the sky as I travelled through the countryside.
Now, with my hair dancing wildly in the wind, my cheeks burning with the cold, I wrapped my coat a little tighter around me and took in the view. Then, pretty sure that if I didn’t get myself back on the ground soon I’d be blown over the railings, I made my way down the steep stone staircase, and wandered into the city.
It was then that I noticed that everyone else seemed to be wearing t-shirts and realised that perhaps I’d spent a little too long living down south. That I could no longer cope with the colder weather of the north.
The Shambles, with its buildings leaning inwards, was a little more sheltered. Little shops were crammed together in that haphazard, quaint way that makes you stop and ponder in front of every store, and I wandered the cobbled streets until, suddenly, the tower of York Minster could be seen peeking over the rooftops.
I’d been to York Minster before with my parents when I was about 14 and I had vague memories of climbing the steep tower, taking in the views over York. It had been windy then, I remembered, and today was no different except for the fact that today’s wind meant all but one of the tower trips had been cancelled and I’d missed out on a place.
My disappointment was forgotten, though, as I walked around the inside of the building, craning my neck at the stained glass windows, the huge organ, the intricate detailing of the wooden panelling in the Quire, the splashes of colour in the ceiling bosses holding the beams together.
Then I wandered into the church’s Chapter House where I sat for over half an hour in the calmness, staring at the domed ceiling, before a group of children started running around and screaming, ruining the atmosphere.
I explored the rest of York Minster and, when I stepped outside the sun had come out. I still got blown this way and that as I looked around Dean’s Park, though, and got used to blowing my hair out of my mouth.
York was busy, but not like London is, not overwhelmingly. I stopped for lunch in a cafe then spent the early afternoon wandering, looking up at the black and white Tudor buildings, the quaint little cafes and pubs, the pretty streets leading to more just like them,
I found myself in the gardens of the museum and, seeing the River Ouse , I made my way towards the water, dodging a goose on the way. I considered taking a boat trip down the river; the boat seemed to be pretty frequent and seeing a city from the water is always nice, but decided to walk, instead, knowing I’d want to stop to take photos every 5 seconds which would surely annoy the hell out of everyone else on the boat.
This top part of the river was quiet, really, in comparison to the parts lined with pubs and restaurants, their terraces jutting out over the water, further down. I was on the other side of the river so I could have been wrong, but I could have sworn that everyone out on those terraces had bare legs and arms. I shivered inside my winter coat.
I’d thought it earlier, walking through the city streets, but the view from Ouse Bridge confirmed, for me, how beautiful York is. The mismatched roofs, the little boats bopping on the river, the pub right next to the water with chairs full of people taking advantage of the Saturday afternoon sun. I didn’t join them, but I did sit on the river banks, just like I had in Amsterdam, with a book on my lap and my feet dangling towards the water below.
Later I found a restaurant overlooking the river and, if I craned my neck a little bit, I could see the water. Although, when I did that, the people at nearby tables started giving me funny looks so I concentrated on this brilliant book I’ve been reading that I’ve not been able to put down.
“Oh, God, I read that book in 3 days!” the waitress said, pointing to the paperback in my hand, then taking my order: a big glass of red and a big bowl of spicy, tomatoey pasta. Followed by, oh GO ON then, chocolate cheesecake with mascarpone and a pot of earl grey tea.
I read, drank, ate, tried to be discreet when I craned by neck to watch the lights of the buildings opposite dance on the water and failed. Then walked back to my hotel, full and happy.
Rain. I woke to rain pattering on my window and a frown almost immediately appeared on my face. The bane of the weekend traveller: beautiful weather for the week leading up to the trip, horrible weather ON the actual trip. You might say that a little rain never hurt anyone, and you’d probably be right, but when you’re trying to take pretty photos, and perhaps write in a notebook as you walk, or not lose your iPhone over the side of a tower due to a large gust of wind (see, aforementioned visit to Clifford Tower, above) it’s kind of a bummer.
Anyway, I busied myself in a cafe for an hour or two, watching people outside the window while I worked away, their brollies blowing this way and that, their flimsy rain ponchos billowing in the breeze. Then I realised that I still had my ticket to York Minster from yesterday – they’re valid for a year once you’ve bought one, for £10 (I know, bargain).
So off I went to the Minster, and it turned out to be the best decision I’d made, well, that day at least.
I realised as soon as I walked through the large glass door and heard the singing. The Quire, right in the heart of the building, had been closed for a service, and the Minster was filled with the sounds of the organ, and a choir of men and women’s voices.
I had to sit down on a bench just outside the Quire. It felt a bit wrong to be walking around when such beautiful sounds were echoing around the church. I sat through the current service, then evensong, then realised that if I didn’t leave soon I was probably going to miss my train back to London.
Outside, a made a quick trip around The Shambles again, hoping they’d be less busy and I’d be able to take some good photos (note: The Shambles is never NOT busy. They’re like The Lanes in Brighton, always teaming with people).
I walked to the train station, bought a sandwich and another book, having finished the one I’d been reading at dinner the night before, and settled into my window seat, a cup of tea cooling on the little flip-down table in front of me. Perfect.
I said goodbye to York, in my head, and hoped that on my next visit I’d be able to climb Clifford Tower without the fear of losing my phone in the wind or, perhaps, join the rest of the city in not wearing a winter coat.
Would you like to spend a weekend in York?
Disclosure: my accommodation and transport to York were kindly provided by Travelodge UK. As ever, all opinions are my own.