York, England (July 2017)

October 30, 2017

York Minster

It was time to venture up north. 

I’ve only been north of Birmingham (where my dad is from) a handful of times, and most of those times were when I was small so we could have been anywhere, I wouldn’t have known… Well, that’s a lie. I’ve always been obsessed with maps and, before the times of phones, apps, and SatNavs, I used to track our journeys in the back of the car with my finger running along the motorway. My dad had a big, black leathered map book that we used to replace every Christmas for him from WHSmith, and I loved our car running off the page and having to frantically find the next page for the next part of the journey.

WHAT A NERD. Anyway the point is, we more often went down south rather than up north, so Ryan and I decided that our next British getaway would take the plunge upwards to the land of hills and cheap house prices.

Accommodation is often the middling priority on our list when planning a trip away but, lads, let me just dedicate a fair number of words to the gloriously quaint B&B we stayed in, Southlands Guest House. This place is #1 on Trip Advisor for B&Bs in York and with that label came assumptions of high prices, large rooms, lots of people, and gold plated breakfast tables or some shit. But no, Southlands was rather ordinary, really. It’s a converted house down a normal street, just a 10 minute walk from the city centre, and cost us £264 for four days including breakfast and a parking space. Not bad for the best B&B in York. It has four bedrooms, parking space on the street, and the best couple running this beauty you could ask for. The place is spotless. It’s kept so tidy and clean, but still feels homely. You note down what you’d like for breakfast the next morning on the piece of paper left in the hallway, just like the set-up I used to have as a kid when my grandparents stayed for Christmas. 


The owners, Ron and Nicole, know their stuff when it comes to their city. They leave their recommendations for a range of restaurants, bars, and pubs in your room, and are always interested in what you’re doing for the day, and how that day then went. They really care about their guests’ stay and will always make sure you’re set up well for the day with an incredible decent breakfast and homemade bread. I’ll just say that again: HOMEMADE BREAD. EVERY MORNING. THREE TYPES OF BREAD. HOMEMADE. EVERY. MORNING. They also leave biscuits and Lindt chocolates in your room every morning and honestly, reader, I could have stayed indefinitely. 

We arrived in York at lunchtime and, after a thorough introduction from Ron and Nicole, we headed out to explore for the afternoon. It was an incredibly warm day and the weather looked temperamental for the rest of the week so I needed my blue-skied Instagrams as soon as possible, obviously. #obviously

York's City Walls

York was/is a walled city, and you can walk the majority of the wall around the centre. It’s like a cheat route. You don’t have to cross roads. Like a monorail. A DLR in the sky. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but it’s cool. We walked into the city a few times via the walls until we got fed up of having to walk up all the stone steps. It was nice while it lasted. 

Our afternoon saw us at Clifford’s Tower - the last remaining part of York Castle (we didn’t go in), finding the infamous Bettys, around York Minster (also didn’t go in), down The Shambles, and in the garden* of a pub drinking three mini beers again. Some real Riga déjà vu. 

(*a tiny concrete bit out the back, near the bins.)



Clifford's Tower 



The Shambles

That evening we took one of Ron and Nicole’s recommendations and went to the French restaurant, Rustique. We sat upstairs just by the open door to the terrace and it was beautiful. This was my favourite meal of the week. Just look at that duck leg. Look at it. 

 Rustique 

 Croquette de crabe (coriander and lemon crab cake with chilli salsa)

Confit de canard and dauphinoise potatoes

The next day was even warmer. After our beautiful breakfast with HOMEMADE BREAD, we hot-footed it to the National Railway Museum (free) and spent a good 10 minutes sitting down fanning ourselves with the museum’s brochure before nerding out over trains for an hour. 

National Railway Museum

We then hot-footed it back to the B&B and jumped in the car to go and see old family friends for lunch, just south of York. They have a beautiful cockapoo called Millie and a beautiful house, so I spent most the afternoon dreaming of moving out of London one day and being able to afford both. Sigh. We had lunch in their local pub, The Fat Abbot, and spoke about travelling, careers, family, running, mental health, and old memories. I’m still getting used to being an adult and going to see my parents’ friends and having adult conversations without the founding element: my parents. 


The Fat Abbot

After the big lunch, we didn’t want a big dinner so decided on tapas at Ambiente and spent £50 in the process. Whoops. Slipped and fell on these filthy little dishes. I also had my first sherry in a cocktail and wow, that was a ride. 

 Pulpo a la gellega (octopus on confit potatoes)

 Quesco de cabra e hinojo (battered goat's cheese drizzled with honey with braised fennel and beetroot crisps)

 Silla de cordero (lamb with broad beans)

 Berenjenas fritas (aubergine fritters in garlic, mint and chilli syrup)

 Tiras de carne (steak with chilli, rosemary, and garlic, with roast shallot purée)

Merluza rebozada (spiced battered hake with tomato chutney and pea purée)

Wednesday was our fourth anniversary and after much congratulating that we hadn’t yet killed each other, we set out for a true tourist day. York Castle Museum, Bettys, and York’s Chocolate Story. 

York Castle Museum very much has the ‘school trip’ vibe, but was cute to look around all the same. The Victorian Street was pretty cool, with people dressed up in the shops and businesses to tell you (the kids) all about them olden days. Entry to the whole museum cost £10 for Ryan and £5 for me because I was under 24 at the time, but the website doesn’t mention that offer unless you’re a York resident so I don’t know how I got away with that one… 

York Castle Museum

We made the smart decision to go to Bettys just before lunchtime so we dodged the snaking queue around the building that would soon appear. We only had to wait about 5/10 minutes for a table and then proceeded to spend a decent amount of money on a tiny, quaint macaroon. I won’t tell you how much it was. I nibbled that piece of gold for about 20 minutes. Ryan, on the other hand, had a fancy tea for one and got a lot for his money. He was sweating tea for the rest of the week. 




York’s Chocolate Story looks like a big ice cream shop in the middle of the city centre. I couldn’t quite understand how they could fit a museum in there, but turns out they’re very clever with how they use their space. My mum would be proud. 

It’s basically Rowntree’s, Craven’s, and Terry’s version of Cadbury World. We had an engaging, funny guide who took us around the fancy, dark, modern experience that’s beautifully interactive, and he gave us free chocolate. It’s great. At the end, you get to make your own chocolate lolly, like a more sugary Pizza Express. Really you only choose your decorations but I STILL MADE MY OWN CHOCOLATE LOLLY, OK. Then we had ice cream and I wrote my postcard to my nan with shaky sugar hands.



Back at Southlands, Ron and Nicole’s dedication to their guests shone again as they’d left a little bottle of bubbly in our room for our anniversary. Adorable. We enjoyed that while getting ready, then went for more pre-dinner drinks at Dyls, a little bar inside part of one of the bridges over the River Ouse… it’s hard to explain, but it was cool.


Dyls

Dinner saw us at The Whippet Inn, a small pub famous for its steaks. I’m talking spend-your-monthly-wage-on-these-steaks steaks. We did not have the steaks. BUT, what we did have was beautiful. Masterchef shit. It was an expensive meal but it was a special occasion so I tried my hardest to stop my hands from getting clammy. Our idea was then to go for more drinks afterwards but we’re old and boring so went back to the B&B and watched old re-runs of Eggheads until we fell asleep at 10pm instead. Happy anniversary to us.

 Heritage tomatoes in garlic and thyme, basil jelly, and goat's cheese mousse

Lamb rump and slow cooked lamb belly with caper, shallot, and rosemary stuffing, with Lyonnaise potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, broad beans, and mint and pea purée

When I told my nan we were going to York, she insisted we go to Scarborough, so we went to Scarborough. It rained. A lot. Like, it really rained. We caught the train and went down to the beach, then swiftly got the cliff railway back up to the town for 90p. We were in Scarborough for approximately 40 minutes. Then we got the train to Filey. Ryan used to go to Filey a lot as a kid and wanted us to have lunch in the famous fish and chip shop, Inghams. So we battled the rain and wind in Filey too, taking photos on the beach and making our fish and chips last so we could stay inside. We didn’t stay in Filey for long either. 



Back in York, we settled the bill, packed up the car, and headed off to Hull. I know, this trip is a whirlwind. You have no idea where we’re going next. I won’t talk about Hull because it was another family friends visit, but we went to the first Hull Pride, had pizza, had a BBQ, went to a museum with a wonderfully weird exhibition, went to a fancy arts centre thing where I had the strongest cocktail OF MY LIFE, and did Hull parkrun. So now you know. 

York is lovely. I’m glad we chose to go to York. There’s more to do than I imagined, a lot of incredibly decent restaurants, and HOMEMADE BREAD. But, in all honesty, I was exhausted by the time we came home. My stomach played up and my skin was a mess. Sometimes I plan too much. We did a lot. Going from doing-fuck-all-by-the-poolside holidays to city breaks has been great, but I think I may need to find a balance. We don’t need to do everything. We can have a 10/10 holiday by running at a chill 7/10 and doing 5/10 of the things. I won’t remember any of this for the next trip, obviously. 

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