Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 9: Doncaster
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Day 8: Doncaster
Day 9: Doncaster
Day 10: Edinburgh
Day 11: Edinburgh
Day 12: Alfreton
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Overcast morning but sunny afternoon with a high of 22°C

Day 9: Wednesday, September 13, 2006     Doncaster, England

York, a City Layered With History, Beauty and Variety

It started out as an overcast day but it was sunny and warm by the afternoon.  We drove to the walled city of York, which is Yorkshire’s most visited city.  Exploring York's historic city centre is like taking a trip back in time. We joined a two-hour walking tour of the city which included a walk along its 4 km of thirteenth and fourteenth century city walls.  Our guide was pretty knowledgeable and made the tour interesting.

Walking the Walls of York

York is dominated by the imposing bulk of York Minster with its superb stained glass windows - the equal of Canterbury Cathedral in the south.  The famous glass windows of the East End of York Minster were covered in scaffolding as it is undergoing a £30 million, ten-year renovation.  We decided not to pay to see the inside of another cathedral – impressive though it might be – so I could not get a photo of the east wall.  I found this one on the internet.  The city's rich cultural heritage dates back to Roman times, but the flavour of the old Viking Jorvik is still alive at the outstanding Jorvik Viking Centre, and the medieval architecture of the city is superior.  By now it was lunch time and we headed for Russells of Coppergate for a Carvery lunch, which consisted of mouth-watering roast beef and Yorkshire pudding - of course. 

5 Sisters Wall, York Minister

After lunch, we visited the National Railway Museum, the largest railway museum in the world, and York Castle Museum, a superb museum with realistic historical street scenes from the past.  We also took a stroll down The Shambles, often called Europe's best preserved medieval street; although the name is also used to collectively refer to the surrounding maze of narrow, twisting lanes and alleys as well. The street itself is mentioned in the Domesday Book, so we know that it has been in continuous existence for over 900 years. 

Russells of Coppergate

Kathryn in York Castle Museum

Kathryn in the Shambles

The Shambles has the effect of a time machine, transporting you back to the Elizabethan period. The houses that jostle for space along the Shambles project out over the lane in their upper stories, as if trying to meet their neighbours opposite.   In some places the street is so narrow that if you stand with arms outstretched you can touch the houses on both sides. 

The name "Shambles" comes from the Saxon "Fleshammels", which means, "the street of the butchers", for it was here that the city's butcher's market was located.  The butcher's shops have now been replaced with shops catering to visitors, including jewelry and antiques; indeed, the Shambles is now one of the premier shopping areas in the city of York.


Fast Fact:

A short detour from The Shambles leads to York's shortest and most unforgettably named street, "Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate". 

A word about York street names: You will notice that many streets end in the suffix "gate", such as Stonegate, Coppergate, and Skeldergate. This does NOT mean that the "gate" in question was a part of the old York city walls.  In York they have a saying: “all the streets are Gates, all the gates are Bars and all the bars are Pubs”. ‘Gate’ is from the Viking ‘Gata’ meaning a street; ‘Bar’ is French ‘Barre’ meaning a barrier or toll bar; and ‘Pub’ is of course a Public House.

By now, Ken’s knees were quite swollen and so we headed back to the car.  Instead of going back to the hotel, we headed northwest to the coast, driving through the southern edge of the North York Moors.  We arrived on the North Sea coast at Scarborough and then drove south along the coastline to Bridlington before heading inland toward Doncaster.  The scenery was breath-taking but unfortunately, there were no places to pull over on the narrow roads to take photos, and it was late afternoon and the sun was going down.  We stopped at several stores and gas stations to try and buy ice for Ken’s knees but we had no luck.  Unfortunately, ‘we’ didn’t check the gas gauge until it was dark and we were on little side roads in sparsely populated east Yorkshire.  ‘We’ then missed a turn and were headed the wrong way south on the M1 Motorway.  After several kilometers, we managed to get turned around and headed back to the hotel.  Ken drove white-knuckled with visions of walking along the M1 back to the service station near the hotel to get gas for the car.  Luckily, we had enough fumes to make it home and had a much needed sleep.

Click here for a slide show of Day 9 photos.

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