[Barley House or Hogwarts?!, York, England, Kerry N.]
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Durham or even go anywhere near Newcastle (with or without coals) because our train from Edinburgh was cancelled. After dragging myself out of bed to make it to the train station in time, we found out we wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile.
Luckily, we were able to eventually catch a substitute train. Unluckily, this second train got delayed for over an hour because another train (likely our first one that had been cancelled) was broken down on the tracks! This meant that we didn’t have time for Durham, and would be heading straight for York.
Despite the delay, the train ride treated us to gorgeous views of Scotland and northern England, with the North sea on one side and rolling hills of green on the other. When we arrived in York, I almost wanted to stay on the train! Instead, we headed to Betty’s to have our first-ever High Tea!
[I forgot to put my pinkie up, whoops!, York, England, Josh S.]
After Tea, we got to wander around the shopping district of York. Of course, we made a beeline for Lush! I was good and only bought a few things since we had decided to go to the mega-Lush in London the next day. Still, everything is cheaper at Lush UK, so if you’re ever tempted while you’re there…do it!
The ghost walk was the last item on the list for the night. I expected the tales to be cheesy and fake, but many of the real-life ghost stories were more terrifying than the obviously fake ones. One of the most disturbing was the Jewish Massacre at Clifford’s Tower, which was an extremely sad story I had never even known about. On the other end of the spectrum, another tale was told about viking ghosts pillaging The Body Shop!
[Stained glass in the Minster, York, England]
The highlight of the next day was visiting the York Minster. The architecture was magnificent! The flying buttresses, stained glass windows, and vaulted ceilings were gorgeous, but what really impacted me at the Minster was the tower climb.
Normally, small spiral staircases and extreme heights are the opposite of my thing, but for some reason, I raised my hand when my professor took count to buy the tickets. I wasn’t even really nervous about it until I was in the middle of doing it. The climb was a lot harder than I had expected. The 125(ish) stairs to the first stop were uneven and at different heights, not to mention too small for my giant feet. The spindly (when even present) handrail didn’t help much except to keep me from the indignity of deciding to clamber up on all fours. The first stop wasn’t exactly what I was used to, either. Winds threatened to take us over the hip-high railing as we emerged from the darkness of the staircase and stepped across the narrow ledge. I took pictures to keep myself from true panic.
[Despite my shaky hands, this one turned out alright, York, England]
The next half of the stairs was only narrower and steeper, but we kept on despite the fear clogging my throat. When we got to the top, my lungs burned, but the wind quickly dried the sweat at my collar and I forgot about the impending climb down because of the view of all of York.
[Pro tip: If you’re not an Olympic athlete, you’ll want water at this point, so bring some, York, England]
The climb down wasn’t as physically hard despite my wobbling legs, but it was definitely more terrifying. If Josh hadn’t been as kind as he was to stay close in front of me, I don’t know how I would have gotten down without having at least two panic attacks. I’m very proud of myself for doing it, and I think the climb really illustrated how much I had grown on the trip thus far.
[Can you see the fear still in my face?, York, England, Hannah]
Of course, we stopped by the gift shop on the way out. After, we were set free for lunch. We chose a fancy restaurant called La Vecchia Scuola that had a great deal, and I had fantastic tomato soup, Victorian lemonade, and pasta arrabiata for under twenty pounds.
[*Heart eyes emojis*, York, England]
The next stop of our York adventure was Barley Hall, a reconstructed Medieval house. It was small, but fun to see how people used to live, make wands, and try on cloaks.
[Ready for Hogwarts, York, England, Kerry]
The Jorvik Viking Center was a bit bigger and a lot worse-smelling (apparently, to make it authentic). It was almost like burning wood chips, goat, and warm honey, and it didn’t exactly make me want to stay in the gift shop very long. Besides the smell, the first room of the exhibit featured a clear floor to see the real excavation site and viking artifacts undisturbed beneath. We got in a Disney-esque ride for a tour of a viking village with animatronics and one real man who gave us a funny face when we realized he was real and pointed it out. After the ride, the highlights included some creepy bodies and a necklace worn by a sorceress.
After dinner at Patisserie Valerie (yes, again!), we continued to explore “Diagon Alley” and went into a Harry Potter shop, potions shop, and more Harry Potter-themed stores. On the way back to the hotel we wanted gelato, but everywhere was closed so we got Starbucks instead. Luckily, we also stopped into a fantastic little book store and I got Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine, which I started reading on the train ride.
On to London!