One of the most memorable journeys I have taken to the U.K. included walking the walls of York. I hadn’t planned to do so. Coming in by train, I saw York Minster first, built in 637 A.D., a testament to the endurance of faith, and it was my primary destination. I went there as soon as I had settled in to the B & B. It was March and still a bit chilly. The cathedral, though, was in bright sunlight. I had been inside cathedrals before, but none like this. As I entered, the organist was rehearsing a piece and the music thundered through the massive space. The stained glass windows held me in thrall, and for a few minutes that was all I did, listen to the music and gaze on the color and light that filled the space.
I went out after a couple of hours, aware that the place had entered my spirit and would never leave.
I then went strolling through the center of York, itself a delight. There were lace shops and narrow medieval streets in The Shambles and the people were welcoming and friendly. A highlight was having a cream tea in Betty’s Café Tea Room in St. Helen’s Square, not far from the Minster. I still remember the luxury of it, the warm environment, the feeling of all being right with the world. York seemed to emanate that feeling. I know I was happy there, watching the world go by amidst sunlight and tea, and on a chair beside me were precious gifts made by local artists to bring home.
When I left Betty’s I wandered through what I thought was an alleyway, but it wasn’t. I kept seeing people walking up stone stairs, dressed in business suits, some of them, others casual, but all of them obviously climbing up to the walls. It was the shortest way to get where they wanted to go! The walls were originally built to protect the city against the constant sea of invaders who coursed over to the British Isles to pillage and conquer (not all successfully, but alas, most were). Gatehouses like the Monk’s Bar and Micklegate Bar still exist, once used to control traffic (walking and animal) in medieval times and also to serve as toll houses—extracting monies from travelers.
There was nothing for it but that I had to see the walls for myself, and I went up to them somewhere near Lendal Bridge, I think. I didn’t come back down again until I had walked the whole 2.6 miles, which took about an hour. The whole time I could see York Minster rising up, and the city itself and lands beyond it for miles and miles. What I recall most of all were the daffodils growing wild everywhere. Some parts of the wall were not traveled much and I was alone for a short while in those places, with only the stones and the green grass and daffodils to see, and it felt as if I could be walking in medieval times, and sometimes I have wondered if, for an interval, perhaps I was.
York is a grand place to see and know and experience.
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