Saturday, September 4, 2010

York - a slight confession

We managed to get away for a few days hols, at last - for some reason holiday planning has been a little more complicated than in past years. There were the usual complications of agreeing (or not) where to go, exam results and people coming to stay with us. In the end we decided upon a last minute "staycation". As it was only for few days we did not want to travel too far afield, we also wanted somewhere we hadn't been to before/a while. In the end we picked York and about a week before heading off I picked a hotel and after getting executive approval (wife and daughter) I booked it. How did we manage before the Internet - er well we used phones actually.

I picked the Royal York Hotel it looked interesting on the web - i.e. not one of the big chains and it was fairly central and had its own garden space. Now York has a reputation for not being a bad place to cycle so, with full "permission" I put my Brompton into the boot of the car along with our luggage. I thought that |I might get up early once or twice and go out for a bit of exploring. Looking at the Map it seemed we would be quite close to Sustrans 65 and both North and South were billed as largely traffic-free, at least for some distance.

Normally I would check and plan a route on the (paper) map, but this time around I just plugged the address into the SatNav and let it take the strain. I would have taken the A1 from Cambridge - but the M1 route it suggested was straightforward and there were no traffic problems. Even more importantly, the hard bit, finding our way around York to the hotel was also painless. SatNavs certainly reduce the driver's (me) exasperation with the navigator (my wife) to the benefit of all in the car!

The hotel looked ok, as billed on the Web and on the edge of the City centre - so a good walking distance but perhaps not so noisy as the very centre. The first challenge was the long time it took to check in. We wanted two rooms, they offered one room with an extra bed. Now I had booked and paid a deposit - so was not best pleased. In the end they found two rooms and we dumped our stuff and went for a walk.

The City centre is actually quite small and even more congested than Cambridge - the old City walls are still very much in evidence and contain the centre - quite a few churches and church buildings and the Minster also play their part. So my first impression was that in the centre cycling was probably not very inviting. As you can see in this picture motorists ignore the ASL boxes in York just as they do in other places.


York Minster looked as I expected it, although it seemed to have less space around it than some cathedrals - such as Wells Cathedral. Mind you just like Wells there seemed to be a lot of missing statues on the front.


Good to see that the Ambulance Service uses bicycle mounted responders. He wasn't rushing to the aid of those youths by the steps though. He had stopped for a cup of tea - cycling around is thirsty work!


After the thirsty business of walking we also needed some refreshments so we popped into the Team Rooms at the 15th-Century St William's College. We sat in a courtyard here is the view back out onto the street.


The centre was dotted with ecclesiastical buildings (including churches).


This is a view of Scarborough Bridge taken from Lendal Bridge. Wikipedia conveniently have an article on the Bridges of Scarborough. Scarborough Bridge is a railway bridge, there is also a footbridge alongside the tracks and is the route of Sustrans 65. Apparently before the new footpath was built pedestrians would walk between the two tracks.


The Royal York Hotel - it is actually connected to the railway station behind. On this trip I was out-voted two females, one male otherwise I would have visited the Railway Museum, also just nearby. Now I don't go around taking numbers or obsessively visiting every Steam Train running, I have enough obsessions as it is. I do like the concept of Steam powered trains though and the noise and smell - it is a very evocative.


Now if I had gotten my act together I would have booked a Balloon ride - they are a great way to travel floating in the sky. I have been in a balloon once - in the Napa Valley, California. A popular tourist thing to do we flew along with 10 or so other balloons. The building is the Hotel - or one end of the hotel.


hobbies are cycling and photography, my wife enjoys gardening so we took the opportunity to visit a few gardens in the area. Once was called Breezy Knees. There is a nursery and 14 acres of gardens on the outskirts of York. Although we saw it in a Tourist Leaflet there weren't actually any road signs until we got to the entrance. (Good old Satnav.) When we got there, there was little on-site signage indicating where to go and at a fork in the track there was a barrier - but no indication, that we saw, of where to go. So we headed to the nursery where my wife paid and we were told to drive up to the barrier and it would open. We did, it didn't! After a bit of playing around we went back to the nursery - where someone else said we should have been given a token. By now our expectations were somewhat diminished - but it was an eye opener - with over 6,000 varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees we had a really enjoyable stroll around the gardens. Apparently the planning had started a long-time ago with the planting of tree screens and the garden is only in its second season of being open to the public. It was well worth the visit.


The place did live up to its name - it was Breezy - so taking pictures was a little tricky (well the multi-exposure ones) as the plants moved around. I did take a few though.


In the middle a "Gardner's Statues"


One of the other things we did was climb up the top York Minster Tower. Actually my daughter and I did this, my wife decided to have a rest at the bottom. There were 275 steps although around a third of the way up we transferred from one tower to another via a roof-walk. It is incredible that they were able to build such a massive structure - according to the blurb it weighs as much as 40 jumbo jets, 16,000 tonnes - about the same as 73 millions cans of beans ;-)


One of the spectacular views from the top. Despite my power to weight ratio declining (I am getting heavier) my regular cycling means that the steps were not difficult to climb.


The view of the River Ouse at night - and no it is nothing to do with the River Great Ouse in the flatlands. Ouse is a common name for rivers in England, apparently deriving from the Celtic word 'usa' which means water. So it is the River Water!


I spent my early childhood growing up nearby (before moving to Somerset) and we used to go to the seaside around here so we had to have a trip to the seaside. In the end we went to Scarborough - around 40miles from York but the roads weren't too bad. The day we choice was lovely and sunny and we had lunch in the sun in one the cafes along the front. The beaches are sandy and there were quite a few families with young children out playing. Apparently it is the largest seaside resort on the Yorkshire Coast with a population of around 50,000. It is not normally the sort of place I would visit - |I prefer something a little more secluded - but this was a bit of a nostalgia trip and once again we were pleasantly surprised.


The sandy beaches - that is quite a hotel with a commanding view of the sea, it is the Grand Hotel with 355 rooms and this is the South Bay there is a North Bay as well.


As you can imagine in such places fishing played and important role and still does with a working fish market


It looks as if Dr Who popped in to enjoy the seaside as well.


We then walked up to Scarborough Castle (a National Heritage site) where there were great views of both the North and South bays. Here is the North bay seen through an archway over which is the entrance to the castle.


The North Bay - not seen through the Archway.


The 12th-century Keep. During WWII there was a secret listening post here.


The South Bay, seen from the Castle.


Back to a picture of the North Bay.


We were heading for another less busy seaside spot (from my childhood) but my SatNav seemed to refuse to route us the obvious way - it turned out that there had been a serious accident that closed the road so rather than struggle through heavy, Bank Holiday traffic we headed back to York. Whilst resting and before going out for dinner there was a short, sharp shower. The result was a rainbow over York Minster- seen from our hotel bedroom window. The window would only open up a small way and was low to the ground so I had to crawl on the floor round the bed to get the picture without glass in the way. (Window glass that is, there was of course glass in the camera lens.)


We had a delicious curry that evening and on the way back the post-rain showers resulted in some dramatic skies. We also managed to squeeze in a boat trip on the river - a large boat although you can hire small 2-4 people self-drive boats. The lady piloting our boat also gave a runing commentary. Her ability to give an interesting talk and steer a large boat effortlessly down the river was pretty good.


I could not resist taking a picture on the way back to the hotel as we cross Lendal Bridge.


All in all we enjoyed our visit to York - there was lots to do - and oh yes, the slight confession. Well although I took my Brompton up with me I did not actually go out for a ride on it. A couple of times I woke early and thought that it looked nice, but I am afraid I just rolled over and went back to sleep. My only excuse was that one night there was a Wedding reception held in the Hotel and the noise kept me awake - which is not really true- it kept my wife awake though. She heard a couple of altercations in the gardens late in the evening, which Hotel Staff had quieten down apparently.

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