Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A second day in York - St Mary's Abbey and York Museum

A later start today as we didn't set out for the Park and Ride until after an
Ruins of St Mary's Abbey 
early lunch of toast and cheese. We have been having problems with the electricity here at our Bishopthorpe campsite. Yesterday, the CL owners needed to reset the site boxes from the main switch - in a locked shed at the far end of their garden! And today, our travel kettle finally gave up the ghost. It started caravanning at the same time we did so has boiled a fair few cuppas, but still only lasted about two years. I saw a new one at Go Outdoors for £15, but we weighed up that against the similar cost in gas and decided to just use our trusty old camping kettle on the gas hob for the time being. And Dave asked about the birds on the CL - they are guinea fowl which I had heard of but am not sure I've ever seen before.

Our first port of call was York Museum and, as the sun was out, we took a stroll around the extensive gardens to see the ruins of St Mary's Abbey. This vast complex was, of course, destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII and the forlorn crumbling structures reminded me of the same story seen at Bury St Edmunds just a few weeks ago. It's amazing how much of British history seems to pivot on that time!

Ruins of St Mary's Abbey 
York Museum is built over part of the Abbey remains and the monks' fireplace can be seen on the lowest floor, together with its gargoyle-type face to encourage said monks not to linger in the warmth. Comfort was probably sinful! The museum has an odd range of exhibits spread thinly over a fairly large area. There are lots of archaeological finds which are logically displayed in their time periods - Roman, Viking, Medieval, etc. Not everything is identified which was irritating. The special exhibition of Richard III Man or Myth displayed one of the very earliest collections of Shakespeare plays in book form which was interesting, but otherwise didn't reveal much at all about the man himself. Both rooms focused more on the myth. I liked the Extinction exhibition which examines not only the human impact on animal species over the past couple of centuries, but also looks at five previous mass extinctions millions of years ago. Not just the dinosaurs then! There is an ichthyosaur skeleton which reminded me of years ago hearing the novelisation of Mary Anning's discovery of the species in an excellent Audible download of Remarkable Creatures.

A paperback copy of that same book was in the upstairs Reading Room where I finally found what I really wanted to see - William Smith's 200 year old geological map. It is kept under glass and we did think that the conservators had done an unbelievably good job of the restoration as the map looks brand new. What the museum fails to mention on site, although I did find it on the website once we got home, is that what we saw IS only a copy. The real map is underneath and should have been revealed for its hour's afternoon showing while we were there, but wasn't so I feel cheated about that. We did get to see a lot of stuffed animals including a life-size brown bear and the skeleton of a dodo though! And I bookcrossed my copy of Ferney in the Reading Room so if you'd like to read the book, visit soon to pick it up.

Caree Risover commented on my blog post yesterday advising us to look out for Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate - the shortest street in York that has the longest street name while walking around. We did head back around the Shambles area in search of a cute coffee shop, but didn't see the street sign. In hindsight, I think we were very close. One to remember for next time around! The Fossgate Social was our coffee shop of choice today. A good flat white served with a little amaretto biscuit in chilled surroundings. I liked the jazz playing and the rough wood and brick wall decor.

Finally, I went to the OXFAM bookshop on Petergate which has a really good selection of fiction and non-fiction and fiction books. I left three and only bought two which I thought was pretty restrained! Look forward to my reviews of Argentinian-set novel The Ministry Of Special Cases by Nathan Englander and Israeli novel Weeping Susannah by Alona Kimhi.

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