After our trip to small cities like Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds, we were looking forward to this short trip with much excitement and anticipation. It sure did live up to our expectations and we wished we had more time to explore this stunning city.
Our journey began on an early Saturday morning in a train from Waverly station at Edinburgh to York. It would take us 2 hours to reach there. The route is very scenic with the North Sea on one side and lush green fields on the other. The sonny was quite excited what with the early morning taxi ride to the station and then the empty train compartment. Even though sleepy-eyed, he wanted to view the scenery and enjoy it all. He enjoyed watching the windmills, horses, sheep and other cattle across the fields.
We reached York at around 9:30 am. York is a small walled city in North Yorkshire, England. A cultural getaway with its exquisite architecture, tangle of quaint cobbled streets and a vibrant cafe culture, York has a wealth of attractions including the iconic Gothic cathedral York Minster, Jorvik, National Railway Museum and many more.
You can explore the city on foot in around 2 hours or you can take one of those city sight seeing tours to check out the main attractions. We first visited the York Minster situated at the city’s centre. It is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. The present building was begun in about 1230 and the construction was completed in 1472. The Minster is 158 metres long and each of its three towers are 60 metres high.
It has a total of 128 stained glass windows which include the largest medieval stained glass in the world. If you happen to visit on a clear and sunny day, you can clearly see the stunning beauty of it.
After lunch, we took the city tour bus to the Clifford Tower. It is the ruins of the medieval Normal castle. It was used as a jail and prison until 1930s. You get a beautiful view of the old York city from the top.
It was then time for a coffee break. My blog reading was a big help in this matter. Searching for the best cafes in York, I had come across Cafe harlequin in many search results and food blogs that I read. I had eagerly noted down the address on a piece of paper and had religiously forgotten to carry it along. Strolling in the old city with cobbled pathways and marvelling at the architecture, we had come across this cafe quite suddenly. It is quite easy to miss really since it has a tiny door and is next to a huge Cafe Nero. I was more than happy for my good fortune. It is located on Kings Square and is at walking distance from Minster and opposite The Shambles. The cafe itself is on the first floor. It is light and airy and for the first time in this one year, I saw ceiling fans. I opted to try out their House Blend Harlequin coffee while the husband chose frappe mocha. The FIL joined me for the same coffee while the MIL chose a mocha. The service was very quick and friendly. I was also offered the choice of hot/cold milk or lemon with my coffee. The coffee was very good, I couldn’t find any bitter taste to it as with other coffees that I have tried here. Refills for hot milk kept coming as if on cue. We took photos of the interior and at one point the waitress even offered to take a family picture. Do make it a point to visit this cafe at 2 Kings Square, York.
With renewed spirits and energy, we continued our walk through York market and the famous Shambles. The Shambles is an old street with twisting narrowing lanes which makes it so charming to walk through. It has timber-framed buildings alongside it, some of them dating back to the fourteenth century. In medieval times, it was a street with butchers’ shops and houses, most of them with slaughterhouse at the back of the premises to supply fresh meat. The name ‘Shambles’ is thought to derive from ‘Shammel’, an Anglo-Saxon word for the shelves which were a prominent feature of the open shop-fronts. The narrow lanes have some of the famous handmade chocolate shops, tea rooms and ice cream parlours. The open space between the shambles is a daily market place. It was most fascinating to walk through these lanes. Even our Mumbai Crawford market streets would look big compared to these cramped lanes bumping into people. 🙂
Afterward, we walked through the York city walls. They are 2.5 miles long and if you walk through, you get an insight into the rich history, the cafes and medieval beauty of York. If you ever travel to UK, you must definitely visit York and be inspired!