York is about a four hour drive north of London by car or two hours by train. It has a history as long and important as London, and was home to three kings. The House of York was a branch of the Plantagenets, represented by a white rose. The dynasty was troubled by war and ended with the death of Richard III and the rise of the Tudors. It was once a bustling city of great power lined with shops and industry. The Romans had a settlement there, and much of the wall that they built still stands. It is a unique place well worth the effort in getting there.
We set out for York on a Tuesday morning and arrived by early afternoon. Brother Pat was so adept at driving on the highways by then that we were rather carefree on the journey, spending most of our time enjoying the the landscape which became more and more magnificent the farther north we traveled.
We had rented a flat for the night in York that housed all six of us. It boasted a full kitchen, three large bedrooms, two baths and a living area all for less than two hundred pounds a day. It was clean and modern and within walking distance of all of the major attractions. We all agreed that we had done well in finding it even though we were generally unfamiliar with the area, relying only on photos to give us an idea of what we were getting.
Since we had tickets to visit York Minster, a magnificent medieval church, the following day we headed to the old town area known as the Shambles. Some say that it’s ancient cobbled streets lined with quaint shops were the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter stories. The hooks where butchers once hung their meat still hand over the walkways, and the tiny stores are filled with all sorts of interesting delights.
At the edge of the old town area was an open market place where vendors sold baked goods, antiques, jewelry, crafts, and even fresh meat. I came upon some Willow Ware dishes that included teacups, plates, a pitcher and a bowl. They were exactly like the traditional ones that I collect save for a different hue of blue. I was quite taken by them and knew that I had to purchase them when the seller offered the entire set to me for only twenty two pounds. It was a real bargain.
As she bubble wrapped each dish for me we spoke of York and the things to do there. Then she mentioned that if we had time we should definitely take a short side trip to a place called Robin Hood’s Bay that was just east of the area on the North Sea. She explained that she always took visitors there because it is a unique and beautiful place. By the time I was ready to leave with my purchases she had convinced me that we needed to find a way to include the town as one of our destinations.
We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting Christmas stores, sampling fudge, sipping on tea, eating ice cream, and laughing in magic shops. I purchased several art prints of both York Minster and the Shambles to go with the pictures from other cities that I have gathered over the years. I felt as though I really was in another world in another place and time until we eventually found our way back onto modern streets.
We decided to cook some spaghetti for dinner, so we purchased some fresh ground beef, known as crumbly beef in England, from the open market meat vendor, some fresh loaves of bread from a little bakery, and the rest of our food from a tiny grocery store. We walked back to our flat enjoying the beautiful weather and the flowers that seemed to be blooming everywhere.
It was a very pleasant stroll even with our heavy parcels. By then we had grown accustomed to walking several miles each day, and the views in York were particularly enchanting. I saw trees, bushes and flowers unlike any that I have ever known and we all stopped often to snap images of the loveliness that was so bountiful.
We spent the evening enjoying a great meal made by my brother Pat. His skills in firefighting and driving are only outdone by his abilities as a chef. We ate his home cooked meal with gusto and then we played games and laughed and joked until late into the night. It is amazing how relaxed we had become and how much we had adapted to a slower way of life. It felt as though we had landed in a happy little bubble where there were no problems, and no bad feelings. Everything and everyone seemed as quaint as the programs on PBS that feature little villages where folks are friendly and life unfolds at a slower pace.
Of course we understood that real England is no doubt different from vacation England. We had set aside all of our worries and cares for a time, but indeed they must exist for those who live there. Still, it was nice to be free from any sort of concerns and to just live fully and happily in the moment. Best of all was the opportunity to spend so much time with my brothers and sister-in-laws. There is something quite magical about sharing a trip with people that I love. The memories will now and forever bring a smile to my face.
We retired that evening feeling quite content but also excited about visiting the magnificent church that so dominates York. We were also more than curious about what we might find if we actually decided to travel to Robin Hood’s Bay.