Monday, 17 September 2012

Day trip to (Old) York

Hiya Readers,
I treated myself to a rare midday movie this week, The Sweeney.  It is a British movie based on 1970's cop show of the same name starring the well known Brit actor John Thaw.  The Sweeney is a slang term for Scotland Yard's Robbery and Violent Crimes division based off of the nickname "The Flying Squad".  Pretty confusing huh?  I would explain more but it would get more confusing explaining "The Flying Squad" so I'll just include a Wiki link for the 70's TV show and for the movie another Wiki link.  Concisely put it is an action cop movie set in London.  I wanted to watch it to see if I would understand the Brit slang and cultural references plus Rotten Tomatoes gave it a fresh (good) rating.  (Rotten Tomatoes is a movie rating site for the uninformed.)  Overall the movie was pretty good although there were a couple spots that didn't seem plausible to me.  I understood all of the slang and other references although I have to admit I would have been pretty confused if I saw the movie without having lived over here for almost a year.  A bonus of the movie was seeing the excellent British actor Damian Lewis (Wiki link), who was also in Band of Brothers (played Major Dick Winters) and Homeland (playing US Marine Sergeant Brody).  This is the first movie/show I have seen him in with a British accent which was interesting since he is British.  Overall it was a nice break from my busy retiree lifestyle.     

Saturday was mid 60's and sunny which may be the last time for the year so we decided to drive up to (Old) York.  The temperatures are falling into the 50's now so a mid 60/mostly sunny/Saturday combination may not happen again until spring.  My weather fears were confirmed by the chillingly brisk wind in the evening at York so I am glad we checked it out now.  I forget the exact details but I read somewhere that York is one of the six or eight major Roman cities that have significant structural or archaeological ties to Roman times.  The others I remember were London, Bath, and Chester.  The city history was great - The Shambles date to 1400, the City Walls date to 1200's, some Wall structures date to First Century, the York Minster site dates to 600's, there are various Roman and Viking excavations around, it goes on and on.  The sights were worthwhile but this was one of those days where almost nothing went right for us.  The morning and drive up went well but it all started to crumble shortly upon arrival.

First up was the York City Walls (link).  The main wall sections date to 1226 although there were fortifications along/by the walls that date back to the Romans in the First Century.  The walls are over three miles long so we opted not to walk all of them.  What we did walk was amazing when I stopped to consider the sturdy construction and when they were built. 

Wall section showing a defence column and earten base support. 

Wall construction picture.  The day's plan is still looking good.
The York Minster in the distance.  York is mainly known for the Minster and the City Walls and they were both impressive.
Now that we've finished the walls and are at the Minster our day starts avalanching downhill.  Thanks to our impeccable timing we stumbled upon The Bishop of Beverly addressing a large clergy gathering in the Minster which closed the Minster for half of the day.  Also in York this weekend was an Armed Forces memorial/gathering/parade of some sort and a Food & Drink Festival which crowded the streets and businesses with people.  Yeah for jam packed streets!  To top it off Lori and I had a disagreement which dampened the mood for some of the afternoon.  What a day. 

Mulberry Hall from 1434.

Not sure who she is but I saw her on a postcard so she must be famous.  No her name is not High Petergate.
Next up was The Shambles (link), a famous street that was voted Most Picturesque in Britain 2010.  It is full of crookedly built shops and was as picturesque as advertised.  I think this may have been my favourite part of York.
Info plaque.

Looking down The Shambles.

How can you not love this street?

Off of The Shambles is The Golden Fleece (see the dangling sheep?) sandwiched between two character filled buildings.  The Golden Fleece is York's most haunted pub and is also York's oldest inn dating to 1503.  Since it is a pub we didn't try it.  For lunch we did try The House of the Trembling Madness but it was another pub so I failed again on lunch.  We ended eating at a forgettable place.
Since we were only in York for a day we missed a lot of the recommended attractions due to time constraints.  We missed any of the numerous ghost walks, the National Railway Museum, numerous Viking sites/exhibits, the Castle Museum & Prison, the Dungeon, and many more.  We also skipped a few houses/halls that were either English Heritage or National Trust sites since I forgot the memberships cards at home and wasn't sure if the places would be worth the time to visit and/or cost of admission.  <Sigh>  Just one of those days.

The Guy Fawkes Inn - supposedly the place where Guy was born (before the site was an inn of course).  Guy was one of the Parliament bombers and was mentioned in one of my first posts from Tutbury Castle (Guy Fawkes night blog entry).  Yup England celebrates a failed bombing attempt by shutting down businesses for the day and shooting fireworks off at night.  Am I the only who finds it strange that they celebrate the failed attempt by doing exactly what the bomber was trying to do?

Hall info board.  It was closed down for a private function.  Yup the luck continues.

Hall from placard above.

Plaque in front of Clifford's Tower.  This reminded the kids of Masada on our Israel trip - they are learning on our travels!  YEAH!!!! 

Clifford's Tower, completed in 1265 AD by King Henry III.  Another fail with me forgetting our English Heritage and National Trust cards.
After lunch we strolled York for a while waiting for Bishop Beverly to finish his long winded sermon.  We didn't have time to visit a larger/longer exhibition as it was mid afternoon now so we stopped at Valhalla which covered some of the Viking excavation finds in York.  Short and somewhat interesting. 

Info board about York during the Viking times.  The Vikings called York Jorvik.

The female skeleton 49 carbon dated to 870-980 AD.

Interesting info board.

Remember above when I said there was a few extra people in town this weekend?  We were told that we had to try this place but the five or six times we passed it the line was out the door.  Brilliant!   
Windy the Bishop is finally done so we split up.  I went to the Minster (link) while Lori and the kids went to a chocolate making class at the York Cocoa House (link).  The kids are done with cathedrals so they opted for the chocolate experience.  I wanted to see it since it is rated as one of the best in Britain.  It's website claims it is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe which could be true because it is a huge cathedral.  From its website and pamphlets:  The site dates to 71 AD when the Romans constructed the headquarters of their legionary fortress here.  The first Minster is built in 627 AD for the baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria, but the exact site is unknown.  The existing structure building started in 1220 AD and was completed in 1465 AD.

Standing in line outside the West End.

Interesting pictoral display of the cathedral's histroty.

The Five Sisters Window was completed in 1250 AD, this is in the North Transept.

Not sure what clock this is but it chimed while I was in there.

Chapter House built in 1270's & 80's.  Most of the windows in here were the original windows.

For the picture below.

For the picture above. 
And introducing a new feature - the Auntie "B" Word of the Week.  Iconoclasts is an easy one for you this week Auntie "B".  I'll try and do better next week.

Token stained glass window pic.

Stained glass close up.

Stone work close up.  The guy is wrestling/riding a mythical lion beast in the middle.  On the right is a blindfolded woman and a gazing man lost in thought.  Under them is a leaf ensemble.  On the left is a lizard crawling on a man's head and bandaged faced woman.  Under them are some dancing birds and more leaves.  These surrounded the room as you see two pictures above. 

Another stained glass figure holding a sword.  Maybe there are more swords in cathedral windows than I thought but just haven't noticed them.

The biblical King David.

Prince William of Hatfield, son of King Edward III and Queen Phillipa.  Died in the 1300's.

Another colourful stained glass window pic.

Tomb of Walter de Gray, Archbishop from 1215-1255 AD.  According to Wiki he was made Archbishop in 1215 and ordered a Gothic style cathedral comparable to Canterbury built.  Viola - we in it.

The omnipresent William the Conqueror.

The heroic King Richard the Lionheart on left, the scoundrel King John on right.  It was during John's reign that the English Lords drew up the Magna Carta which became the basis for many government documents including our Declaration of Independence (some of you may remember that from my Lincoln post last December).  Looks like John is about to whack him with his sword.

A screen of the English Kings who ruled during the cathedral construction.  The screen closes off the quire from the rest of the cathedral.  To make the day even worse there was quior practice in there so the quire was closed off.  York is trying really hard to be unlikable.

The (round) Rose Window on top, from about 1500 AD, in the South Transept.

View down the Nave.  Yes it is indeed a massive cathedral.

Another stained glass window pic, this one has a heart design at the top of the window.
The chocolate class ended early so Lori and the kids made it to the Minster for a cursory glance before it closed and they kicked everyone out.  The class ended up being a hit and the best part was the huge chocolate bar each person made and kept.  By huge I mean an inch thick by four inches wide by six inches long.  Kalle spotted the place and wanted to try the class.  Karl was presented with an option of Minster or class and he chose class.  Lori was the considerate parent who went along for the ride.  The Grinch chose the Minster.

The kids and Lori picking up their chocolate bars.

A final Minster shot on our way out of town.  It is so big and the surrounding buildings so close I couldn't take a decent outside cathedral pic.

The outside view of one of the gates along the City Walls.  Looking pretty good for being a thousand years old.

And the best part of the week?  FOOTBALL BABY!  For a Jeff Seppanen sports update we had a Sling Adaptor installed at the in-laws last year to watch US TV but after a lot of problems I just gave up on it.  So this summer the provider swapped out the Sling Adaptor receiver (after a little back and forth) and so far we have been able to watch US TV.  Fast forward to Saturday night and I was able to watch college football and Nascar.  On Sunday night I watched NFL with Steve and Todd.  Todd is our new US neighbour who works at Rolls and was just happy to be able to watch a game like me.  Steve was lucky enough to watch his boy Luck lead the Colts to a late victory although there were a few tense minutes as the Colts almost collapsed in the fourth quarter.  The only negative of the night was this week's "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" - the number of commercials while watching US TV.  The football games and race had commercials every ten minutes it seemed.  Brit TV has commercials every half an hour typically and their football games only have commercials at half time.  C'mon America, you can do better.

Finally a Carol Seppanen book update.  I breezed through The Silent Army by James Knapp, 372 pages.  It was as hard to put down as the first book so now all I have left is the conclusion of the trilogy.  But before I get there I will read The Castle by Franz Kafka.  Hopefully I will have a status report on the Kafka book next week as well as a school update from the kids.

Thanks for listening,


  1. Nice post. York looks cool. The walls remind me of Chester. It's on our list of places to go.

    1. York had more to offer than a day trip, this was one of the most interesting English towns I've been to visit. We may have to go back once more before we go back.

  2. Seeing these pictures of York makes me kind of miss England. Hope you guys are doing well and tell everyone I said hi at your next lunch!

    1. Will do Tracey.

      How is Andrew doing? Glad to see his play mates again? Tell him I said hi and miss him at our lunches. Are you and Mark adjusted back to US life?