A Family Trip to the UK and Paris Part 2 by Kathy Pettit

Part 2

15 Days, 3 countries, and 3 Children by Kathy Pettit

Part 2

York is a must-see destination, especially for history buffs.  The cobbled city is nestled inside huge, stone walls that have been there since about the 12th century.  From Vikings, to Romans, to modern day museums – the city boasts spectacular experiences sure to please all ages.  Visually, it is everything you would expect in a quaint, stereotypical English town.

The city itself is quite large, but very easy to navigate with a map of the city.  You will see so much more walking the city core, rather than using transit.  If you are able, I would highly encourage you to take on the full experience and wander on foot.  Many of the old roads and streets are actually cobblestone (seriously stereotypical – I did warn you!), so wear good walking shoes that are comfortable and sturdy (and quick word of advice – carry an umbrella at all times).  You will find coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants galore in York, so the choices are plentiful.  Keep an eye out for closing times, as they tend to be much earlier than we are used to in Canada.  A great affordable and yummy option is to grab a locally made pastie (meat pie) or sausage roll, and make yourself comfortable on a bench and watch the world go by.  The kids loved doing impromptu picnics of bakery items or take away – made them feel a part of the city.

Don’t be fooled by peddlers (referred to as Gypsys by the locals) with a sad look about them asking for money.  They alternate their get-up to include a straggly looking dog, a child, multiple children, or torn clothing.  They rotate the scene if what they are doing is not working, and they have it down to a science.  In the middle of asking us for money, one girl ‘s grubby bag started ringing, and she pulled out a newer phone than I have, answered it, gathered her gear and walked away to merrily chat with a friend!  These scenarios were very common throughout our travels, and can be used as a way to determine where you keep your money, and set you up to be unknowingly accosted by pick-pockets.  We had no trouble, as we were cautious of the risk, and followed the advice of the locals by not giving anything.

On average, eating out for a meal will cost about $20-$30 Canadian a meal, per person.  And coffee from a well-known American chain will run you about $7 Canadian for a medium cup.  That is why, I am told, the locals don’t eat out very much, other than take-away meals.  But even take-aways add up quickly, given the low value of our Canadian dollar.  A fast food chains’ typical “dollar value menu” is suddenly costing double what it would cost us at home.  Instead, we took advantage of staying with a friend, and shopping at the local grocery store for most of our meals and snacks.  This is easy enough to do, even if you are in a hotel, as satellite stores are all over the city.  Sainsbury or Tesco were our favourites.  Proper planning will save you money.

As far as attractions go, beware that you can ask to pay the admission only.  Often they will lump a special “donation” to the fund of preservation in the admittance price, but you can ask to have that removed.

Here is a list of our “Must-Dos”:

-Buy a York city pass so you can see almost all of the attractions for free using the card (and get in faster in some instances)

-Walk the city’s fortified walls – they provide a stunning view of the city, and the kids loved the medieval feeling of being on a castle (and it’s a free adventure)

-York Minster is a huge, stunning building and church that is open to the public.  You can get in for a fee or use the York pass.  You can watch the masons remake some of the original gargoyles the same way they did it back then.  Be sure to go into the basement and see the ruins of a Roman street through a glass floor under your feet that is from approximately 300AD.  This was a highlight for us.

-Check out the Museum of York that includes the prison walk (watch for hologram prisoners and gaolers as they tell you their stories!) Kids are free and the underground, old time city is very well done, magically transforming into night and day.

-Check out Clifford’s Tower on the top of the hill, across from the museum.  (Don’t bother paying the admission price to see the ruins and climb the stairs to the top.  It is impressive enough to see the outside for free.

-Wander the streets – especially the Shambles area, it is very old and they say the most visited street in all of Europe.  The doorways are so tiny, and the shops interesting.  Peek into each one if you can.  Don’t forget a stop at their famed store Marks and Spencer (otherwise known as M&S as their shortened name) where you can grab prepared food, treats, stylish clothing, shoes, toiletry items…the list goes on and on.

-Eat ice cream at Monk’s Bar in Shambles…trust me…

-Jorvik Viking Centre – if you have the pass, it is worth using it.  Younger kids may be unnerved by the realistic moving wax figures representing villagers of the Viking era.  You sit on a pod and get moved along a working village, with sights, sounds and smells (rather pungent, if I might add) of the time period and listen to your pod talk about each scene.  The entire experience lasts for about 25 minutes.  There are discovered Viking artifacts to explore when the ride is completed, if desired.  As it is indoors, this is a great option when the weather doesn’t want to co-operate with wandering on foot!

Overall, York was a city that I could return to again and again, and would be certain to find new nooks and crannies to explore.  From the market lane hocking souvenirs, to the pubs and bakeries, and to the stories that I imagine must be embedded into the very walls of each historic landmark – there really is something for everyone in York.  Definitely not to be missed.

The story continues when we all head to London for the day (did I mention we didn’t like crowds?!)  – then veer off to Liverpool for a date with Beatles history!

I want to go to United Kingdom



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