July 9, Thursday
When Shakespeare wrote “made glorious summer by this son of York,” he was not referring to the skittish appearances of Helios. An azure sky can turn cloudy and gray in the few moments it takes to peruse a pub’s lunch menu, and vise versa. We got caught in a moderate evening rain while trying to find a particular restaurant. We settled for less.
The streets are just wide enough for the rain to sneak between the oddly angled walls of the storefronts. There are crooks and nannies, like English muffins, in which to seek momentary shelter, but the stones are slippery and the rain persistent.
York is a medieval town with a stone wall that once provided some level of security against Vikings or Scots, but now serves the curious tourists who are encouraged to see the city from the long segments of wall that run from riverside to riverside. I doubt whether a crossbow touting Yorkshireman would actually recognize this well-tended, clean-swept, safety-railed stroll along the impotent battlements of yore.
Here the wall is suspended were a modern bridge risks exposure to the hungry mobs laying siege. In a city where restaurants outnumber houses, hungry mobs are less feared.
Guard towers barely maintain their dignity over passing cell phone users.
Cars and busses pierce the walls at various gates (called “bars” like our hotel “Monkbar,” which is hard to avoid calling “Monkeybar”), but few are allowed more than a single block’s intrusion.
We had the good fortune of visiting the Railway Museum one morning. It is large, as it needs to be to house these wonderful old trains. Much of the museum is devoted to how royalty travelled in the early days of rail service.
A second museum recreates the Yorkshire streets of a few hundred year ago, with facsimiles of dinning, wedding, dying, farming, and penury (debtor’s prison). The reproduced streets, shops, barns, and homes have the fascination of a HO-scale model train set, but at full scale. There’s even the smell of horse shit where one might presume it would have been.
Our last meal in York was memorable: