As the last leg of my father in law’s Summer stay in the UK, we decided to go up north, to the land where the Yorkshire tea, Rascal scones, Ham of York and Yorkshire puddings come from.
After a short and comfortable train ride from London’s Kings Cross Station, arriving at York station sets up the backdrop to what will be a weekend to remember.
A quick walk around the station took us to the most wonderful collection of British engineering I have ever seen. The National Railway Museum of York is , how can i put it, a child’s wonder attended by many children at heart.
Divided in two main areas, it showcases the finest examples that the land has produced as well as a wonderful collection of posters, photographs and railway related memorabilia that transports you through the ages.
At the moment, in one of its areas, it also displays a photographic exhibition “Open for business” which showcases the lives of those working within British manufacture . The portraits and the insights they provide were a wonderful surprise to me.
Another short walk (York is very pedestrian friendly) from the museum you will find York’s cathedral, Yorkminster, a fine example of Gothic masonry .Its colossal scale contrasts with the refined light touch of its finishes.
My personal favorite detail was the Five sisters window on the north transept, which I have since read that is the largest “grisaille” glass (in a single window) in the world. Despite having been completed on the 13th century, the design feels strangely contemporary .
‘Grisaille’ means ‘grey in background’, and in this particular example, it is enhanced by the strategically located touches of color dotted across the windows.
Not too far from the old town, and set on an almost surreal mount, you will find a reminder of the original York castle: the Clifford’s Tower . Originally built by William the Conqueror, it has been reincarnated in many forms since (including a very dark one under Henry the VIII ‘s reign… one may say, that this is hardly a surprise)
Another wonderful find was the city wall of York, which despite being interrupted provides a very nice scenic route through the city’s history.
The wall, which first appeared in Roman times has since changed configuration a few times but managed to retain its charm and give the city a unique character. I particularly enjoyed the varied styles of the gate houses or “bars” now often used as little tea rooms.
After a less than satisfactory lunch at a chain pub by the river, we thought long and hard where to have dinner. And in the end , we choose “Nineteen“, a lovely looking restaurant in a beautiful building and decided (all three of us) to have steak and chips.
In my defence I have to say that we had , by then, spent close to a month and a half eating fish and it seemed to be make sense to enjoy the local produce. It was a lovely cut which the waitress recommended and we had never tested before called “bar”
By the way. I have not said yet this but the service was extremely knowledgeable and attentive. They made us feel welcome and were only to happy to assist with any queries (food or wine).
I was the only one with enough courage to face a desert. I cannot claim that I was still hungry but the carrot cake was calling me. Ironically, the bits I enjoyed most were the ones that surrounded it. The orange jelly was delicious and so was the orange sorbet.
We enjoyed our dinner, but I do have to confess that in looking at the other plates that were going to nearby tables , I think we missed the point a bit.
(Based on what I saw, next time my choices would be : Harrogate blue panna cotta, home made fettuccine)
From a very architectural geek point of view, I would recommend that you visit the CityScreen Cinema’s cafe designed by Panter Hudspith Architects. Set by the river, it is a fantastic place where you can have a lovely drink without stag/hen nights to disturb your peace. It is also full of great constructive details everywhere you look.
My final tip in York is Betty’s Tearooms… if you like high tea, this is a wonderfully quaint place where you will be able to enjoy a variety of teas and sweets, but even if you don’t you MUST try their delicious Yorkshire Fat Rascal Scones.
If you are not going for the full afternoon tea, a tip i can give you is that the Betty’s shop nearby the Minster has no queues whilst at the one by the tea room you will have to get through a crow to make any purchases. (Just saying)
Let me share with you that I am a bit of a scone expert and this one has (without a doubt) been my personal favorite. (In case you cannot visit… here is the recipe )
After such a wonderful time in York we moved to Leeds.
In truth we wanted to have gone to the Yorkshire dales for the day but it was Sunday and the only bus that takes you from York to the Dales returned to York after our trains departure. It was therefore a fortune of public transport time tables that took us to what turned out to be a great city!
On arrival to Leeds we took the bus to the airport which took us to Kirkstall Abbey, a Cistercian abbey in the outskirts of Leeds.
What a magnificent place! The sheer scale of the roofless walls was impressive enough, but the sense of historical context that one has at the centre of it was.
We were lucky enough to have chosen a market day which made the place even more charming. There were food stalls, farm stalls, children book and/or toy stalls, clothing stalls and more.
We enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich, freshly made for us, under a tree and purchased a variety of local honeys surrounded by happy people music by a local band .
Both had stupendous collections that inspired us and made us want to return… Henry Moore’s Institute has a wonderful exhibition about place making and art, a very current topic among those of us who work in the built environment. They also had and exhibition exploring “line as object” . Whilst the gallery has a beautiful selection of 20th century artworks in the most stunning setting.
Overall, our weekend in Yorkshire was a success and left us full of wonderful memories that we took back to London in a very peaceful journey back.
Photographs by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Writing by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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