Right. My York holiday was way back in February 2010.  Now February 2010 really seems like a long time ago.  Then, I had the windows closed and the heater running all day.  Daily temperatures were around 2 or 3 degrees.  Compare this to now when daily temperatures are like 12 or 13 degrees Celsius.  And the windows wide open.

I loved York.  I think I like it even better than Bath.  I really liked Bath too, so this is saying a lot for York.  York for me is a lot more down to earth than Bath.  Bath is posh, well heeled individuals walking about.  York has a mix of people, including the well heeled individuals. But more than that, York has the character of a city that has seen battles, and intrigue in its day.

York city walls.

So far in my travels, I’ve been looking for a walled medieval city, and I found it in York. There is something quite exciting when entering through the city gate, and wondering what it would have been like for the citizens of yesteryear.  Of course, chances are I would have been a peasant or a serf, so I might never have entered and was probably slaving off my Lord’s land somewhere far away, which would have been no more than 10 miles.  That was probably a whole world away.

Cholera burial ground just outside the city walls.

Getting to York is quite easy from Kings Cross station.  It was a 2 hour express train ride all the way up north.  We came very prepared not to starve on the train, and brought all sorts of goodies, drinks and sandwiches.  Needless to say, we only ate one-quarter of it.  Catching the East Coast train for the first time, we initially had trouble finding the right platform.  East Coast announce the platforms quite late, about 15 minutes before the train is due to leave.  This means when the platform is announced, there is quite a rush to get to the right carriage.  If you have a big bag, like we did, you want to get it into the luggage hold quickly.  Ah yes, all my years of growing up in Singapore have trained me well.  I am as “kiasu” as ever.

Nourishment to keep us going - just in case there was a famine in ye'olde Yorvik.

From York station, it’s an easy 15 to 20 minute walk to our accommodation. We were staying at the Hilton Hotel, which is just in front of Clifford Tower, the original one being built by William The Conqueror himself.  Checking in at the hotel was a nightmare.  I think it was a nightmare for the staff too.  Their entire computer system was unstable, and only one computer was checking guests in and out.  Needless to say, we stood in a queue for a long time before we were checked in.

Clifford Tower
Clifford Tower

Clifford Tower is interesting to visit, though there is not much to see other than the main ruin.  The ceiling has long since fallen in, and though you can climb up to the embattlement via the narrow stairs, that is about it.  I guess it’s all about atmosphere, and you do get a sense of the lie of the land and what William might have seen a thousand years ago. There are still a couple of small rooms, and they have exhibits on its history. They say Clifford Tower has a grisly history, but I think all towers/castles have grisly histories.

View from the battlement of Clifford Tower.

We also visited York Castle Museum.  This was quite enjoyable and had a range of exhibits that includes showing the household furnishings through the different periods:  Georgian, Victorian, turn of the century and through the 60s.  All different and very interesting.  I really do like looking at exhibits that show the day to day and how people live.

Victorian parlour or Modern studio?

The Museum had also created a great streetscape from the Victorian era.  It was so realistic, and other than a whole lot of tourists wandering around in modern clothes, you could imagine yourself back in time.  They even had day lighting and night lighting, and it changed the whole mood of the place.  That was really cool.  For the time we had, we only did half the museum, with plans to revisit on another day, which we didn’t end up doing, as the boys aren’t into museums and made all sorts of excuses not to go.

York Castle Museum's Victorian streetscape recreation is very cool.

The thing about being in a new city with no guidebook is that often we struggle looking for a place to eat. Having a kid in tow also makes it difficult.  It wasn’t until I went to Bath and York that I realised how many restaurants have bars in the front area, meaning that kids aren’t allowed.  That and the fact that we weren’t keen on Italian pasta, pizza and sandwiches meant that we didn’t have much to choose from.  In the end, we settled for British pub fare at a pub with a dining room to the side.  After all, we were doing the “Ye olde English” thing, so why not “Ye olde English food”.  Dishes were lovely (fish and chips, sausages and pork belly)  but I have to admit, I am now a little over British food.

Pork belly from a "Ye Olde English" fancy pub.