We arrived in York after a three-hour drive south from Durham. All the time, repeating our mantra, “Drive on the left, Drive on the left….”
Consistent with most of our time in Britain, the sky was filled with beautiful clouds and patches of blue sky. We were hit with torrents of rain followed by dry roads, followed by soft mist.
The locals will tell you it has been a wet summer in England, but not unusual. Compared to the recent heat in Italy, we found it refreshing and the sky was so interesting.
For our two night visit to York, we stayed in a modern two-story apartment in the central historic area. Since the area is pedestrian-only during the day, we had to park about six blocks away. Our new landlord met us at the car and walked us to our apartment.
Often in a new city we will seek out a “free” walking tour. They are often organized by a private tour company. For instance, Sandemans is an excellent tour company that is in many major cities we have visited. Of the 18 cities where they offer free tours, we have done 13 with them. No charge for the tour, but tips for the guide are expected at the end. This means that the tour guides are giving it their all during the tour.
York is too small for Sandemans, but the local historical society did offer their own free tours, put on by volunteers, with no tips accepted. So we showed up for the evening tour our first night. Two hours strolling this historic area, led by a local.
It was the first tour for our new guide Margaret who was fresh from her training. It was precious. She was nervous and bubbling over with enthusiasm for her city at the same time. She was actually relieved that only four of us showed up for her first tour.
York has some fascinating old sections that are perfect for a walking tour. A highlight was the Shambles area, dating back to William the Conqueror. It is a quaint and ancient section of town where butchers and other shopkeepers would sell their goods. Now it is mostly chocolates and souvenirs. Many of the storefronts still have the meat hooks in front of the stores, under the eaves.
York Minster Cathedral
A visual and historic highlight of many European cities is their main Cathedral. Many of them survived bombings in WWII because enemy pilots, prior to sophisticated GPS systems, used their tall towers as reference points for strategic strikes within the city, so they purposely left them intact.
York’s Minster Cathedral is a breathtaking structure both inside and out.
As we did in both Bath and Durham, we attended an hour-long service called Evensong. A service of choral music, a few readings and prayers.
As picture-taking was not allowed in the cathedral, and especially during the service, here is a snapshot from the internet which captures the scene. The available pews for a thousand congregants were empty as we all fit comfortably in the choir area.
York was a perfect sized city for a two-day visit. Everything was withing walking distance of our apartment.
On to Cambridge!
We chose to stay in Cambridge on our last night in Britain, as it is a legendary university town and only an hour from London’s Luton airport.
We arrived in the early afternoon after a four-hour drive south from York, mostly along the A1.
We checked into our Bed and Breakfast, dropped our bags, and walked into town. It was a pleasant walk, across the ring road where we were staying, through a quaint neighborhood of small row houses, then across a footbridge spanning the river.
On the opposite shore was an extensive green field called Jesus Green.
We traversed the green and found our way into the heart of the university district.
As one would expect, Cambridge was a combination of students and tourists. Given that it was still the end of summer, it tipped the scale towards tourists. Visitors were on the young side, mostly British and Chinese. There were very few Americans in town.
The University is broken into many separate colleges (Kings, Trinity, etc.). The major ones charge up to ten pounds entrance fee, just to look around. Those we approached, as far as their gates (where we took some photos), but no farther, cheap bastards that we are. The lesser colleges are free and still fascinating.
Later, while Frank went back to our B&B to handle some legal work, Brian continued with a visit to a museum and to tour a few of the lesser and free college campuses.
After Frank’s business was done, we went to a local pub for our final British dinner and a couple of pints.
We slept well that night, awoke early, and soon were back on the road for the hour’s drive to London’s Luton Airport.
“Stay to the left, stay to the left…”