Yesterday Miranda and I got up very early, bundled ourselves up very warmly, and boarded a train from beautiful King’s Cross to even more beautiful York. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly you can whizz up and down the country these days; in just over two hours we pulled into York station, whose cathedral like proportions and vaulted iron and glass ceiling is a perfect example of the Victorian worship of steam. Breathing in the fresh, slightly manure scented air (you don’t get that in London!), we set off for the city centre, walking over the city walls and a very pretty bridge in the process. In the distance we could see the tower of York Minster standing proudly above the rooftops, and we were entranced by the beautiful Georgian architecture and intriguing cobbled lanes that run off the main streets. We wandered along until we came to a square of shops, one of which was the famous Betty’s tearoom. Betty’s has been a Yorkshire staple since 1919, and I had the great pleasure of visiting the Harrogate branch last year. As we were hungry, we decided that we may as well start our York experience with a spot of lunch, and into Betty’s we went. Lots of tea and delicious food in the sumptuous Art Deco surroundings later, and we were ready to explore.
We had tickets for a talk and tour of York based artist Mark Hearld’s home/studio, which was the reason for our visit, but we also wanted to see as much of York as possible while we were there. We walked along very Dickensian looking streets, with cobbled pavements, medieval shop fronts that leaned in all sorts of directions, and gorgeous Victorian bow windows filled with lovely displays of goods that reminded me of Cranford. We just had time to pop into a very posh Oxfam books that had some real treats inside before heading out of the city walls and along a main road lined with beautiful four storey Georgian houses and an amazing art deco Odeon cinema. We knew immediately when we had reached Mark’s house; the quirky fox door knocker was a dead giveaway! The talk and tour were absolutely wonderful and so inspiring; I learned so much and had my imagination fired up by the incredible array of objets trouves that fill the house. Mark Hearld and his girlfriend Emily Sutton are superb artists; I will post more on them and their home another time, as they certainly deserve a post of their own!
We left Mark’s house as twilight was beginning to fall, lending an even more Dickensian feel to the streets of this ancient city. On our way back to the centre, we passed some lovely bookshops, where we found cards made by Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton that we swiftly snapped up (much more affordable than originals!) and I bought a handful of orange Penguins for a song. As we walked back through the gates of the city walls, we heard the cathedral bells tolling five o clock, and we made a beeline back through the maze of cobbled streets for its now illuminated tower. The cathedral closes to visitors at 5, but thankfully there was a prayer service at 5.15, so we were still able to go inside (advance warning – York Minster costs £9 normally, so if you can go in during a service, do!). It is a beautiful building, filled with the usual features one would expect, and somehow feels quite intimate despite its size. We very much enjoyed taking part in the service amidst the flickering of candles and the hushed atmosphere; I imagined how many people must have done the same over the years, and the thought of all those voices thickening the air with their secrets and petitions was quite awe inspiring.
We had one last stop to make before we went to catch our train; Betty’s shop. We picked up fat rascals, which are divine giant scones native to Yorkshire and beautiful mugs and tea caddies designed by Emily Sutton. Laden with goodies, we walked back through the darkened streets and across the river lined with Victorian wharfs to the station, from which we were swiftly borne back to the mean streets of the capital. Reflecting on our day whilst on the train, I decided that York is a place where I could definitely live. There is beauty everywhere, and plenty to see and do. There are so many nooks and crannies that you could probably explore for years and still be able to find somewhere new, and there is a lively artistic scene that finds much inspiration in the quirky, historic surroundings. I’d love to go back for a longer visit, and also explore some more of the local area. I can see myself renting a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales this summer!
ps. I’ve had a half term book clearout as Miranda sent me home with a load of lovely books she was getting rid of, plus I bought a few in York, so I had to make some room…if you fancy something exciting to read, check out my shop!