Monday, 1 June 2015

A Tudor townhouse and the National Railway Museum - we're in York!

We were inspired to visit York back when we did a rail tour of Scotland.
The goddess Minerva leans on a pile of books 
The train from Polegate to Edinburgh passed through York giving us a fascinating glimpse of the city's architecture. Today we made our entrance by way of the Askham Bar Park and Ride - a large free car park and a reasonable £2.80 return fare for me right into the city centre. Dave did even better as his bus pass entitled him to a £1 return fare! And, while we waited for the bus, we picked up a visitor's booklet which included a city centre map so didn't need to start our visit by trying to find the tourist information centre.

We started by walking the streets to get a feel for the place. I loved all the independent shops and boutiques in the Shambles area and we had a look around the market there too. If we hadn't been going to be walking around the rest of the day, I could have definitely bought some of the fresh meat and fish. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of bookshops too and, when we return tomorrow, may well have a good browse in as many as I can get away with. The above statue of the goddess Minerva is from 1801 and shows here leaning on a pile of books. There were various plaques around the walls detailing men of note - I didn't see any women mentioned - including this one for the eighteenth century astronomer, John Goodricke.

Plaque commemorating the discoveries of John Goodricke 

Betty's provided us with quaint teashop refreshments before our first museum visit was to Barley Hall, a restored Tudor townhouse which includes various rooms set out as they would have been. There was a school party there - which we mostly managed to avoid - and they were all dressed up and with guides in full costume too! The pictured feast table includes delights such as boar's head, peacock and suckling pig, as well as a whole fairytale castle made of marchpane which I think is a forerunner of marzipan. Actually the foods are models, but looked realistic enough from a distance. Barley Hall exhibits a half-dozen or so costumes from BBC productions of the Henry VIII story. Most are from the Annette Crosbie/Patrick Troughton one, but there's a Jonathan Rhys Meyers costume too. They are all very ornate and detailed. We both enjoyed Barley Hall and I think the £10.50 admission for us both was good value.

Feast at Barley Hall 

By contrast, we baulked at the £19 required to get into York Minster! We did walk all around the outside as the architecture is certainly dramatic and the whole building is outrageously huge. I wondered if there have ever been enough worshippers at a service to fill it? We then got lucky on our wanders as, heading towards the railway station and in need of lunch, we stumbled across Cafe 74 at The Lawrence just as rain started to fall. I highly recommend this little cafe. Dave had a hot chorizo and chicken sandwich which he liked and said had lots of filling. I had a ploughman's plate which had very fresh bread, ham, three cheeses, olives, pickles, sweet pickle, apple, tomato and grapes. I couldn't actually finish it all which for me ... !

The National Railway Museum was recommended to us by our friend
Jim Tipler who raved about his visit there last Christmas. And he was right! It's a fantastic site with so many classic trains to peer up at and into. We sat in a Japanese bullet train, saw the Mallard, listened to an explanation of how a steam train works and generally overdosed on rail related memorabilia. And that was before we discovered the warehouse of all the bits and pieces that won't fit in the main museum. We also belatedly found the signalling displays above the workshop. Signals are Dave's favourite bit of the rail network and I think he would like to be a 1950s signalman if given the chance! Amazingly the National Railway Museum is free to enter so we gave a donation on the way out instead. I could have spent quite a bit in their good shop, but it was getting late and the staff wanted to close up and go home!

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