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York: Minster & Railroad Museum

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Ø July 13 York (Saturday)

[Google album pictures can be seen here]

Leaving the flat in Leeds at 8:40, I was at the station within 10 minutes. My train to #York was the Middleborough train, 3 coaches, and moved location before allowing passengers to board just before departure time. So I had to scamper and get the bag into the carriage furthest away, just making the closing doors. (British trains close doors about a minute prior to actual departure.) York was a 30-minute ride, first stop, so I was on the street and only headed off in the wrong direction for 50-feet. At the T-intersection on Station Road, I initially headed away from the River Ouse, corrected that and found the alley to North Street and The Park Inn by Radisson. As it was still before 10, the room wasn’t ready, so I left luggage, used the facilities, grabbed a map and headed further down North Street to Bridge Street.

Thinking to wander, I checked my notes and realized that I wanted to take the Chapter House roof tour at 11, so I headed to the Cathedral and Metropolitan Church of St Peter. Crossing the river, I passed All Saints, the York Opera House, went through the Shambles Market. Fully book (booking recommended 3-4 weeks in advance), I got a ticket for the 12:30 middle tower tour, and then joined the free 10:30 floor tour. Apparently, I took no pictures during that tour.

During the intervening hour, I made my own tour, getting 90 pictures of massive stained-glass windows, carvings of grotesques, the astronomical clock, vaults, and the like, working my way around the scaffolding in the crossing.

The Great East Window, recently restored, depicts the creation and apocalypse stories. The Chapter House ceiling is brilliant, and a model shows how the spire was constructed. Etched and decorated pipes had been removed from the grand organ under restoration, and were displayed against yet more scaffolding. My snaps of the rose window in the south transept couldn’t capture the majesty and beauty. Opposite, the five tall panels in the stained-glass window of the north transept were composed of fragments of glass from destroyed windows during the Dissolution and Cromwellian periods.

Model - frame of the Chapter House spire

The middle tower tour had 275 steps, and 50 participants. A nice climb, the highlights were the midpoint cross and the spectacular views. Being close to the supporting buttresses when walking from the west tower to the access for the middle tower was a particular treat. Looking out over the Dean’s Park to the north, I scanned for a vantage point. We looked down to the lead-covered roof of the chapter house spire. Looking at the south transept (again covered with scaffolding), I could detect the newness of the lead roof, replaced after the disastrous fire of July 1984, caused by a lightning bolt.

Back on the floor, I continued to get pictures, visited the undercroft, into the quire for the second cathedra. The undercroft has old tombs, sections of the ornate column carvings, and other recovered pieces of stones from earlier iterations of the building. A tall carved stone screen separates the east end from the sanctuary, with a large, long high altar set simply up three steps. A cathedra in a cherry-like wood officiates in the quire, lighter than the “boxed” version to the side of the nave altar. The Victorian reproductions of the stalls, destroyed by arson in 1829, bearing shields of northern parish churches.

I captured details of windows and bosses as I continued my wander inside. Among my last shots were the “Semaphore Saints” – headless figures signing the message “Christ is Here” – and a last attempt at the rose window.

Out after visiting the shop to collect a few more pins, I walked my external circuit striving to find that perfect angle of this huge cathedral in a limited space with large mature trees. There are medieval walls around the close and Dean’s Park which afforded that shot of #YorkMinster that I was looking for. With a bit more than an hour until Evensong, I walked into Keystone’s Pub to grab a late lunch of a chicken melt burger with fries and an ale from Brew Dog. Coming back, I passed through one of the gates in the old wall and enjoyed the flower market along the table-filled pedestrian walks.

Evensong required queuing and passing through the screen from the nave into the quire. I found the service superb, with a spectacular Britten anthem. I was able to speak with the Assistant Dean afterwards. While in the entry queue, I met a couple from Benecia; inside, two women choristers from Dallas, and on leaving, an A’s fan with a $7K camera from Danville: lots of Yanks in town. Exiting, I did another circuit, this time focusing on details, mainly those above my head. There were interesting juxtapositions, modern profiles and statues mixed with older gargoyles.

Walking through the market again, I kept an eye out for a cheese monger, as I was hoping to get some English cheddar – no luck. Gaining the river, I spied a pontoon boat in the river, the men aboard had hoisted a Jolly Roger and they seemed to be enjoying the beautiful day. I did find bananas before returning to the hotel to check into room 816 on the top floor, facing southwest. I observed what I thought was approaching rain, but decided to tempt it by leaving only with my jacket. Searching for the York Brewery, Google Maps revealed it was permanently closed. So into Distillery, between the Inn and the train station, for a pint. As it was Saturday evening, their kitchen was closed, and food choices were nuts or crisps. I sat and spoke with a local couple, hoping for a restaurant recommendation.

Staying on the same side of the river, in a light rain, I walked down George Hudson Street. An Italian place looked good, but as I turned to go in, a dozen half-inebriated men barreled past. A horseracing event was going on outside town, which apparently involves much booze. In addition, there seemed to be a lot of “hen parties”, with women being as foolish as men at a bachelor party. Deciding to weather on, I found Ihida Thai Cuisine. Varying, I had Tom Ka soup (coconut milk-based) with prawns, and Pad Gratiem Prik Thai, also with prawns. A glass of the house white accompanied. The soup was hot and spicy, but the main had whole chunks of ginger and mature (inedible) pieces of lemongrass. Still, a decent meal with just enough food. I headed back to the room for the night.

Ø July 14 York (Sunday)

Sleeping in a little late, I was awake at 8:30, out within an hour and on my way to the Minster for 10am Choral Eucharist. I found it to be a great service, with some new (for me) elements I hadn’t heard before: from the Common Order before the Preface, there was an analogy starting with seeds to bread and grapes to wine, so we would be changed. The sermon had been on the Good Samaritan as a basis for reflecting back on the ordinations which had happened weeks earlier: how Facebook had been full of smiles – I noted that it didn’t weave together too tightly. The congregation was invited to the Chapter House after the service for coffee and tea, and I had a chance to speak with Pastor Michael about my quest.

West End Window

Leaving about noon, I crossed the Ouse, walking under a railroad bridge as I skirted the train station to reach the #NationalRailwayMuseum. In several buildings which looked like aircraft hangers, rolling stock going back nearly 200 years has been preserved and is on display. Steam and diesel engines, parlor and dining cars, I saw carriages used to transport Victoria and Albert over parts of Britain. Baggage cars and mail trains were also on display. I spent about two plus hours checking out trains from around the world, including model setups and a ride for kids, taking over 200 photos.

Heading back into tourist-land, on the river there appeared to be dragon boat racing – I watched as several shells of 15 rowers, a steersman and a drummer positioned their boats for a race against the current up the river. I stopped in Thomas’s of York, a pub, for a pint of Venus and Mars, an ale from Black Sheep Brewery.

Evensong was at 4, so back to the Minster. Crowded, the Auden-Walton anthem was superb. The Voluntary, also by Walton, at the end was spectacular, keeping many in their seats in awe. Out for a walk, I needed a rest break, so I went into The Cross Keys, a pub, for a Trooper from Nicholson. The Cricket World Cup was on the TV, and I gradually got mesmerized in the action. A Scots couple, Craig and Sue, with Sue also not understanding the rules and strategy, took me underwing and I gradually got the gist of it. Watching only the last hour (of 5), the Brits and Kiwis ended in a tie! We’d been chatting, covering topics from politics, religion, cathedrals, the EU and Trump. They took off, and I ordered another Trooper with a lamb pie. A large table of Aussies cheering for Britain explained the next process, a Super Over, a much-abbreviated match. It also ended in a tie, so Britain was awarded the title based on statistics. To my mind, both teams were champions having played a great match.

Returning to my room, I relaxed and put up my feet. About 10:30, not visible from my window, fireworks were set off for about 2-3 minutes. I couldn’t tell whether it was Bastille Day, the Cricket win, or just the end of the horseracing weekend.

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