As someone who spent almost every major school holiday in Yorkshire, I should have visited York at least a handful of times by now and yet my visit earlier this year was my very first - shameful, no? So it was with great enthusiasm and excitement that I accepted an invite from Visit York, to discover 'Britain's most beautiful city'.
For more images of my visit to York, visit my blog.
Ambling along the city walls (the most intact city walls in all of England) en route to our lunch destination, my companions and I feasted on the magnificent city scenery. With two miles of wall to stroll through, York's city walls provide the perfect seat to magical landscapes and a trail to hidden treasures, as well as a unique perspective of the city.
Stepping down from the wall via one of its many interval medieval steps, we found ourselves in the beautiful gardens of Grays Court. Had we not been behind schedule, I would have gladly strayed there and enjoyed the tranquility of its luscious green and floral carpet, but alas an afternoon tea befitting royalty was awaiting us inside and we could not delay.
An English Heritage site, Grays Court was bound to be special and disappointed we were not. We were seated at a long table in the Sterne (named after Jacques Sterne) room; a Georgian dining room looking onto the splendid garden and city wall, reminiscent of scenes from coveted period dramas.
What ensued as we settled down for afternoon tea was a presentation of platter after platter after platter of delectable savoury and sweet bites. "More?" we asked in bewilderment, as yet another concoction of delight joined the table. We began with obligatory finger sandwiches, with my companions enjoying some liver parfait. Salmon fishcakes, Yorkshire Fettle cheese & leek tartlets and blue cheese stuffed mushrooms followed - I'm not keen on blue cheese, but the tartlets and especially the fishcakes, were delicious. I tried to brace myself, but it would have been rude not to try one (or two) of everything, no?
The savories were succeeded by course after course of enticing sweets. We enjoyed wonderfully warm scones, the most exquisite strawberry tarts and a fruitcake with cheese. But our afternoon tea did not stop there and I wished I had worn my cookie pants as we were served an array of handmade chocolates and a rich chocolate drink to finish with. The tour of the city thereafter had never been so yearned, as we tried to wake from a blissful food coma.
Over the next couple of days, we explored the medieval, Viking and Roman streets of York, paused at York Minster, hula hooped at the Castle Museum, had our nostrils violated by the unique Viking scents of the Jorvik centre and discovered the wealth of vintage and antiques stores York is not traditionally known for.
We began our search for vintage bargains (and there were most certainly bargains there to be had!) at the York Open Air Market which, offered a considerable stock of 60s and 70s shirts and dresses, ranging from 5 to 20 pounds and an array of 1 to 3 pound vintage scarves. I picked up three scarves, including an immaculate silk scarf by Laura Ashley for just £8.
At the Antiques Centre I found myself a lovely vintage felt hat for the very reasonable price of £10. The jumble of vintage clothes at the Antiques Centre are displayed within a couple of rooms in the basement - definitely worth a browse.
We could have spent hours at Vintage Emporium on Fishergate. A vintage store chock full of late 20s to 60s attire, homeware and accessories at excellent prices and super friendly customer service to boot!
York is also home to the York Designer Outlet, so if you're wanting to take a break from sightseeing or a sheltered shopping spree (Yorkshire is prone to frequent spells of rain), this is the place!
On our first evening in York, we dined at the Golden Fleece; popular York pub of the 'most haunted' variety. The pub itself looked far from scary, but upon getting lost we happened upon ghost ridden guest rooms, which I'm sure promise a far more frightening experience. The food at the venue was hearty and tasty pub fare of humongous portions and we left with our tummies contented.
With our handy York pass, we enjoyed an injection of history and culture at a number of tourist spots in the city. The Jorvik Centre insists on providing their guests with an authentic experience of Viking York - this includes a putrid smell that inhabits every crevice of the museum - do not enter if you have a weak stomach!
The Barley Hallhttp://www.yorkpass.com/attractions/barley-hall/?mode=interest&tags=&page=1 proved a much more comfortable exploit; a grand medieval house exhibiting costumes from Shakespearean plays, BBC period dramas and recent Hollywood successes. As you can imagine, the costumes were not to be touched, but we thoroughly enjoyed trying on the range of hats on display.
To fully immerse yourself in York's history, I would recommend the exceptional York Castle Museum; a museum depicting every-day life in the form of Victorian streets, a variety of shops, model 1940s and 50s living spaces and even prison cells. My favourite part of the museum was the Sixties gallery, where we explored the colourful culture, music and fashion of the decade. We even danced to the Beatles, played on a genuine 60s jukebox. Groovy!
Meltons Too was our choice of dinner venue on our last evening in the historical city; a café bistro priding itself on serving regional produce. I enjoyed a tasty main of sea bass, saffron cream sauce and purple sprouting broccoli - fresh, perfectly cooked and filling. This was followed by dessert of sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream - good, but nothing special. All in all, a tasty, reasonably
York has so very much to offer and my journal barely taps into its treasures. Next time, I hope to stay much longer as this city deserves to be explored at leisure and to the fullest.
Thank you to the Holiday Inn for accommodating us on a bank holiday weekend when every other York hotel was full.
We traveled to York First Class with East Coast Trains. East Coast operates 72 services each weekday between London King's Cross and York. Customers travelling First Class can enjoy East Coast's complimentary food and drinks offer plus unlimited Wi-Fi. Advanced return fares, booked online at www.eastcoast.co.uk: start from £26 Standard Class or £79 First Class. Times and fares can also be found via 08457 225225 or from any staffed stations.
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