DAY 21: Second Day in York
Muggy out; A commonality in England. The walk from the station last night made navigating York effortless. The city resembles Bruges in it’s compactness, winding roads and towering cathedrals. The city provided an array of visual checkpoints to find my way back “home”.
York’s castle walls made finding your way around a simple task. The wall has existed since Roman times. There’s four main gatehouses at various points throughout the city: Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and finally Micklegate Bar. Miniature castles, really. The wall stretches for nearly 3 miles, covering about 263 acres of York’s land. For the Game of Thrones geeks out there, York is where George R. R. Martin got his inspiration for what would become Winterfell. The wall made having to memorize street names unnecessary. If you found yourself lost, you could always retreat back to the wall.
The first place on my itinerary was called the Museum Gardens. My York-friend recommended this place first-thing and upon passing through it's entrance gates, it became clear why. There’s an immediate shift in energy when you enter. Children on a field trip in line for ice cream cones. Young couples making out on their picnic blankets. Students working on their papers, buried in their books by the Medieval ruins. Elderly couples strolling through the park with their pets.
Museum Gardens may be the most blissful, positive place I’ve ever stepped foot in. Stress has no place here. They had a tented booth with owls and ravens that you could perch on your hand for 3 pounds. Donations for their conservation. Beautiful creatures. I didn’t take many photographs here. I was more interested in letting go of my thoughts and insecurities and stresses. I wanted to absorb the energy of this place as much as I could...
Then, hunger crept in. That I could not deny. I was craving pizza. It hadn’t occurred to me until today that I was inadvertently trying local pizza places in every city thus far. I’m a fiend for pizza. Specifically Pepperoni, which has been disappointing as most places in Europe use Salami as a substitute. Some refer to their Salami pizzas as Pepperoni; So wrong. The best pizza has yet to come, I feel.
Proceeded to the Cathedral in the center of York known as York Minster. One of the largest in Northern Europe. 102 feet in height and 173 yards in length. There was a youth choir rehearsing in the center of the Cathedral. Their soft, elegant voices eerily echoing through the vast hallways during my entire visit. The entrance separating the choir from the main crossing was closed off but on either side of the door stood these fifteen stone sculptures depicting the kings of England; William I to Henry VI towering over you.
I climbed the narrow steps to the roof of the central tower. It was dangerously narrow and a helluva cardio workout. I had my hand tightly wrapped around the railing, ready for the young woman ahead of me to fall back should her knees give out. Got close a few times. There wasn’t anything comparable in height to York Minster’s central tower anywhere in sight. We towered over the entire city. Made me take notice of York’s dominant red color palette amongst it’s buildings. Watched an organ player on the ground-level near the Cathedral’s entrance playing music for the same group of kids I spotted at the Museum Gardens. Everyone was dancing. Smiling. Negative energy doesn’t exist in York and if it does, I haven’t witnessed it.
Headed back down the stairs. Some of the women, elderly and young, were waiting until I lead the group should their legs give out. We all made it safely. Exited the Cathedral’s West entrance to find a statue of Constantine the Great in a "sassy" pose atop his throne. There were trusses and scaffolding built along the exterior of the Cathedral. I later found out that they were placed there to prevent the place from total collapse.
The entire Cathedral was elevated off the ground to give way to a museum beneath the structure. They had to place hydrolauics beneath every pillar and corner of the Cathedral to elevate it, down to a precise measurement. Could you imagine? You’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time planning, placing, timing and working with a crew and it all comes down to pressing a button, hoping the entire Cathedral doesn’t collapse on itself. Talk about pressure. Many renovations had been completed and we’re still in the process of being completed. Sculptors with headphones on worked tirelessly in a shed nearby.
Met with my friends in York. We ate at a spot loved by the locals called Betty’s. I was recommended the club sandwich. All three of us ordered it. But it was the strawberry fruit tart and the scoop of chocolate ice cream that won me over. My friend has been trying tirelessly to buy a container of their chocolate ice cream but they don’t sell it. He went as far as attempting to make it himself but it was irrelevant whether you had the exact ingredients. With ice cream, the process itself is as important as the ingredients, such as how fast it’s churned and for what length of time you churn it. He was clearly disheartened by this and I don’t blame him; It was fucking delicious. The tart and ice cream were so strong in flavor that switching back and forth between bites would make it as though I was eating each one for the first time again, over and over.
We headed to a local pub that I can’t recall the name of but I do remember the decorations on the wall. Ace Ventura would’ve had a temper tantrum had he walked in. Stuffed animal heads covered the discolored brick walls. The structure must’ve been over a century old. Ordered a local pale ale, which was smooth. Couldn’t have been happier in general, really. The friends I’m staying with in town are two of my favorite human beings on the planet and they only continued to prove that the more time I spent with them.
The people, the texture, the atmosphere... All of it, really… I love York. My favorite city thus far. Easily. Not to sightsee per se but… to feel. To relax. To be. I haven’t felt more at ease anywhere than I do here. It’s a magical city and one that benefits from it’s lack of tourist activity… So, let’s keep this place a secret between you and I.