Sunday, March 9, 2008

England 5: York

Another of our day trips was to York, where there was lots to see and do.

When we got off the train, we walked up the hill to the Cathedral. It's a beautiful space. (What an understatement.) We appreciated the open spaces, the stained glass windows (many with notes regarding who took responsibility for their preservation during WWII, or for their restoration over hundreds of years), the organ, the fact that it's a working faith community, the atmosphere in general... I really liked the fact that there was an atmosphere of worship that nonetheless welcomed tourists; that combination felt really nice. And the docents were lovely to visitors.

I particularly noticed the stained-glass window "sacred to the memory of the women of the empire who gave their lives in the European war of 1914-1918."

In general, the mix of old and new, historical and present-day, was much less awkward in the parts of England I visited than what I've experienced in the US. (And -- aside from places like the pueblos in Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico -- "old things" in Europe are definitely older than "old things" in the States!)

We took the dare of climbing to the top of the tower. I like taking pictures of spiral staircases, but the two staircases to the tower are closed, not open, so I did not get any nautilus-type pictures of the spirals. Given just how long the climb is, it's probably better that way: I couldn't tell how much further we had to go up. Down, of course, took much less time and effort...

The stairs up the tower are so narrow that you can't pass while on them. Therefore, they only let people up every half hour. Everyone who's going in that time slot goes up, and nobody else goes up til they've all come down.

There's a lovely stop in the middle, where you walk along the outside edge of the roof, over to the second set of stairs. Also a nice place for a picture.

Happily, there are chairs at the top for wimps like me... Actually, I can't claim wimpdom on this one: the docents recognized us later as folks who'd made the climb. "Are we so memorable?" I asked. "No," one docent answered, "we just haven't had many people go up today," in a (Britishly understated) tone of admiration.

We had a lovely lunch of Cornish pasties, which we ate outside in St. Helen's Square. Then we wandered around the old part of the city, including the Shambles.

From the Shambles, we walked to the other side of the old part of town and visited Clifford's Tower, the remaining part of the Castle of York. More stairs -- first, up to the tower, then, in the tower. As my wife pointed out to me, there was a theme to our day... However, I did get a partial spiral stair picture out of the climb.

After Clifford's Tower, we crossed the River Foss, one of York's two rivers, and walked along most of the remaining city walls. This was fun.

And then we had afternoon tea in a Tea Room. Hee. Yum. We had lovely tea, accompanied by divine sultana scones and a Yorkshire curd tart. This made me happy.

We discovered mention of the Quaker Meetinghouse in a tourist map's list of "places to eat your lunch out of the rain." I insisted we go find it, and find it we did. Friargate Meeting is a lovely place, and visiting it -- especially so unexpectedly -- was one of the highlights of my day. The warden was also very hospitable, and we were very glad we stopped in. The Meetingroom itself is a place with a deep sense of peace, and it was a centering experience for me to spend a few minutes there. As I said, a highlight.

The warden showed us a picture of the interior of the old Meetingroom -- destroyed in WWII? I don't quite remember -- and Arch Street Meeting in Philadelphia is a spitting image of it.

I felt very welcomed and at home among British Friends, when we worshipped in Manchester, and when we visited Friargate and Briggflatts.

After visiting Friargate Meeting, we dashed back up the hill to the Minster for choral evensong, which was beautiful. (The organ was amazing!) Beloved Wife noted with amusement the addition of scripture regarding earthquakes. She also clearly found evensong a centering experience, a good end to our day in York.

(My reaction, particularly coming right after being in the Friargate Meetingroom, was, "Thank you, Goddess, for making me a Quaker!")

We crossed the River Ouse at sunset, on our way back down the hill to the train station.

For more pictures of our day in York:

2008-02 England 5: York


chavala said...

"Thank you, Goddess, for making me a Quaker!"

Well said! Sounds like a lovely trip.

staśa said...


It was -- I'm really glad I had the opportunity. (Plus, it was very nice to spend almost an entire week with Beloved Wife!)