York is one of my favourite places in England – it is a perfect blend of the past and present blended into one in its charming hidden streets, quirky little shops and grand historic sites.
My trip began, as all trips should, with a much needed breakfast. The day started a very wet one, so quickly after arriving I needed something hot and comforting at such an early and cold hour of the morning. Breakfast was served by a very smily and friendly lady at the Little Shambles: Tearoom and Coffee House, in which I quickly engulfed a homely helping of poached eggs on brown toast and coffee, simple but perfect for an early pick-me-up that hits the spot. Enjoying the last sips of my coffee, I happily watched the shops and stalls of Shambles Market come to life, as people quickly bustled about with fresh bread, cakes, chocolates and meats, indulging in a part of York life not often seen by tourists.
(photo taken from Traveller Photos on Trip Advisor, taken by Kim. M Oct 2015
Pleasantly full from a hot breakfast, I then guarded myself with my Mac coat and went an-exloring around the Shambles, one of my favourite parts of York. The Shambles is a historic maze of winding, cobbled streets with overhanging timber-framed houses, some dating as far back as the 14th century. With its twisting alleys and assortment of weird and wonderful shops, it is a part of York that still feels like there is magic lurking in the corners, reminding me of very much of Diagon Alley. It is as if you have stubbled into another time or place, beyond the modern world of high-street chains and huge corporations only a few streets away. On such a rainy day, you could almost feel the magic crackling in the damp air. I felt like I needed to go and buy a wand.
Unfortunately, there were no wand shops about, so I comforted myself with a few almond truffles from Monk Bar Chocolatiers, artisan chocolatiers in the Shambles. Through the grey curtain of rain, the beautiful rows of luxury chocolates and truffles looked too inviting to resist. It certainly warmed me up a little to eat something so lovely!
Also worth a visit is Roly’s Fudge Pantry – York is absolutely filled with fudge makers, but this one I would highly recommend going into and watching the batches of fudge being made and cut up right in front of your hungry eyes.
After exploring the meandering Shambles’ streets, I wandered back to where I had eaten breakfast to buy a small pastry from the bakery opposite. I had watched the Bluebird Bakery set up and open while enjoying my poached eggs, and made a mental note to return later when I got peckish. The bakery specialises in home-made baked treats, from fresh bread to baked goods a little bit smaller to nibble on. Having the look of old, local bakeries that once stood on every shopping street, it is a nice pit-stop that compliments a morning of delving into the past.
My feet then took me to York Minister, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and a key historic sight to see when visiting York. It is an enormous, hugely impressive building that takes your breath away looking at its sheer size and architectural detail. On such a rainy day, the Minister looks particularly striking and darkly gothic, set against the grey sky. There are also different events and activities inside the Minister, as well as opportunities to go to the top of the building to get a city-wide view. It is definitely a sight worth-seeing!
Within eye-sight of the Minister is the wonderful Minster Gate Book Shop. This was my next destination on my wanderings, and I happily spent an hour or so browsing the 7 rooms of book bursting shelves. The shop is a tiny sliver of a building squished on Minister Gate that can easily be missed. But for any bookworm fond of rooms filled to the brim with books of all genres and ages, this is the place to go. Unfortunately, it does not stock the latest books that you can easily find in chain bookshops, so I had to leave this bookish treasure trove for the Waterstones on Coney Street.
This Waterstones is ranked second on my list of favourite Watersones (the first being the Watersontes on Princes Street in Edinburgh) because it has the feel of an independent bookshop instead of a more corporate feel that some Waterstones give off. It is also deceivingly small from the outside, a bit like a Tardis, providing a large selection of fiction and non-fiction alike. The staff I have always found to be extremely friendly, always ready to give advice about book suggestions and help solve my indecisiveness. The best best is the light and spacious cafe on the first floor, with plenty of window seats to people-watch the street below. You are also allowed to bring your books into the cafe so you can mull over your critical reading decisions with a hot drink and some cake. This was my dilemma – while munching on a scrumious Fat Rascal I was trying to decide which books out of my selection of two non-fiction books and four fiction books I should buy. I finally decided upon the two non-fiction books: Spor by Mary Beard and The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, then bought three more fiction books from Waterstones Marketplace, avoiding the tough decision completely.
Books in hand, so concluded my trip to York. Despite the heavy rain, I really enjoyed wandering around this historic and magical city, as I always do every time I visit, and I hope to return to it again soon.