Thursday, May 22, 2008

How Many More Stairs are there? And Do Vikings Always Smell this bad?

April 13 - York

I'm shocked we even made it up after all the alcohol we consumed. I did smell the burnt kit a little in the corner of the room, but in waking up, all I wanted to do was make my head stop hurting. It was about 9:00 AM and we were expecting Gary about 10 AM to head to York. I tried to gulp through some water and yogurt, and after a quick shower and girl getting ready, Gary and Oddie were at our door ready to go at 10. Gary didn't seem like he was hurting that bad, but it could have just been an act. We hopped in the car, and prepared for our journey south.

York UK is about an hour and a half south of Seaham, and has a unique history amongst British cities. Occupied through the ages by Romans, Saxons and Vikings, the city is home to a wealth of buildings, museums and medieval streets, even having a wall surround major portions of the city. As we head south of town, we pass by Middlesborough, which I didn't realize was this close to Sunderland. But yes, while Newcastle and Sunderland are bitter rivals, there is rivalry with the folks in Middlesborough as well. The sun is trying to poke out, but instead we are greeting with drizzle and clouds that get thicker as we head further south. The weather actually reminds me a lot of home, so I don't mind it at all.

We arrive in York about 11:30 and park near one of the wall sections just near the river Ouse and we walk near the banks. There is a water front, but even today, the water is fairly close to the top of sidewalk. Gary soon points out a pub near one of the bridges that is famous for being flooded every spring, sometimes even two to three times a year. We walk on top of one of the castle walls for a bit, then head to the National Railway Museum. Rail travel is huge in Britain, and this museum shows trains from various lines in Britain, Europe, and even Japan. I have always enjoyed riding the train, as it seems a very relaxed way to travel. Admittedly it's easier to set up train lines when your country is about the size of Oregon total, but it was fascinating to see them all. Even one of the trains the Queen used was showing there.

We then caught a mini-train from the museum into downtown York just near the York Minster. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. The place is immense, full of statues, altars, and stained glass work almost 300 feet tall, and yet, it's quiet as people respect the sacred nature of the place. We took a self guided museum tour in the basement, learning about the history of the cathedral, and then wandered around more artwork that I'd seen up to this point. Our ticket also allowed us to climb to the top of the cathedral tower, so we thought why not? The allowed people up every half an hour, and said you must be in good shape to climb to the top.

Ok, to say the stairway was narrow was an understatement. It was a windy circular staircase with a diameter of about 4 feet and you could really only see about 5 to 10 feet ahead because of it being circular. And it is 280 steps to the top, with a bit of a break about half way up to walk along the top of the cathedral. I'm not entirely sure what force allowed us to climb to the top, but I've never seen 4 people so relieved to be at the top of anything than when we hit the final steps. You could see for miles, and that isn't an understatement. We saw their football ground, most of the wall stretching about the city, and thousands of homes and roads. Truly a breath taking sight, and I'm glad we made it up there. And yes, going down was a bit easier, but I was afraid of tripping while climbing down. Needless to say, my shoelaces were double knotted to avoid an issue.

We climbed to the bottom, and then headed into the main streets of York to see the shops. There was a lot of bustle about town, as the rain had let up a bit and the sun was actually out for a while. We decided to head more towards the Jorvik Viking center to see what that is all about. While walking towards there, one of the store fronts had a very freaky clown picture in the window. While I avoided most eye contact with it, girl saw it and in her attempt to avoid the offending picture, ran into a pole barrier near a crosswalk. It seemed to hurt her a bit, but she shook it off and we arrived at the Jorvik Center. York was occupied by Vikings for a while, and there's lots of their heritage left in town. The tour consisted of going into a room that looked like something from Forbidden Planet, seeing some video about time traveling to Viking times, and then being taken to a ride to show what York was like in viking times, showing the commerce, people, pets, and displaying the clothes, food, smells, and houses. Yes, folks, somehow they determined what Vikings smelled like and it's about as bad as Barnacle after a chili bender. But again, it was great to see the history of the town.

We headed towards our car since it was getting close to 5 PM, and we stopped for a quick bite at Greggs' before heading back to our car. Gary had said that Sundays they usually ordered out for Chinese, and so we were invited to stay for food and some telly when we got back. The trip back didn't seem all that long, but that could have been cause I slept through most of it. But feeling a bit more rested, we arrived at the house and ordered some Chinese food. It was actually really good and authentic, and for what we ordered it took about 15 minutes to arrive which was impressive. And I managed to eat a lot of food, which was necessary to soak up any remaining booze. After eating and some telly, Gary mentioned a pub near there that does karaoke on Sundays hosted by a friend of his. Our original plan was to be his guests at the karaoke night he hosts on Saturdays in town, but Robbie was here so we went with plan B. We headed up there after Paul had joined up for some singing.

Mind you, I have a rather terrible singing voice even with my mom being a trained singer. I just never inherited the singing gene, but girl on the other hand had some skills. She won a few singing awards back in her younger days, so she has some chops. We arrive and get a pint, and pore through the song book for choices. Gary's friend said he had more songs than what was in the book, so we perused and perused. Gary sang a few of his standards, and he has a very nice voice. Then, girl decided on a Tori Amos song, and really did a great job with it. Tori is an amazing artist, but some of her songs the notes are all over and girl kept up rather nicely. I, on the other hand, butchered I'm Too Sexy in a mumbly, chanting, German thing that was just not that good. But I didn't care cause I told myself I would sing and if it was bad so be it. Paul took on a difficult tune, but knocked it out of the park. The karaoke shut down at about 10:30 PM, so we were soon heading back towards Gary's house. The Monday plan was sort of up in the air at this time, not knowing if we were just going to hang out in town or see if Sunderland was practicing and go watch them. But as we left the house, Gary said that we could lie in for a bit, and to check in with him in the morning.

Girl and I stayed up for a bit watching TV and just talking about the events we'd seen so far, and up to this point, it was a truly amazing time. We'd managed to squeeze in a lot of things to do and see, but we wouldn't have changed it for anything. My head hit the pillow late, and I nodded off to thoughts about what our next adventure might be.

Next Time - It's Fucking Cold Out Here, But These Guys are Really Nice, and Saying Goodbye to our time in Seaham.

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