Monday 26th June 2006
A regretful parting from Jan and Chris at “The Wheatsheaf” Hotel. We enjoyed the welcome we’d been given – and being spoiled.
First stop on our way to Chollerford where we are staying tonight was “The Alnwick Garden.” Norm had visited earlier in deep winter when the only real attraction had been the stunning water features. What a difference it was today in its summer glory.
Our first visit was to the Rose garden – most noticeable was the perfume from the huge array of mostly old-fashioned roses along pergola-lined paths and banks of multi-coloured blooms.
Apart from the roses, the two most appealing feature of this garden, for us, are the myriad of water sculptures hidden behind tailored hedges, and the large “Treehouse” featuring rope bridges and walkways through the trees. The Treehouse is large enough to contain a restaurant which unfortunately was booked out at the time we were there.
We settled for cappuccinos and chocolate fudge cake in the pavilion of the newly-completed visitors’ centre. We spent a most enjoyable couple of hours there and would happily revisit it in the future.
Then on to Chesters Roman Fort and Museum, which entailed a lovely drive through beautiful scenery from Alnwick all the way to Corbridge. The fort is quite impressive as it contains the best visible remains of a Roman cavalry fort in Britain. It includes the commandant’s house, and the military bathhouse, one of the best-preserved buildings along the line of Hadrian’s Wall.
Carol was fascinated with the Museum which displays an extensive array of local Roman archaeological exhibits. We both felt however that the Museum is in need of expanding and updating so that the artefacts were more interestingly and informatively displayed.
By 5:00 pm, realising that time had got away from us a bit, we made our way into Chollerford and the “George Hotel” for some well-deserved food and drink.
Foodie News: Carol had an entrée of fetta and tomato salad, followed by a main of smoked haddock on a chive and garlic mash; Norm’s entrée was so memorable that he can’t even recall what it was, followed by an old favourite – not one of Carol’s – lambs liver and bacon on a chive mash.
After dinner we took a walk along the riverfront as far as the site of Chesters Bridge just opposite the fort we had visited earlier. We found this impressive too, not least because we didn’t know it was there.
Tuesday 27th June 2006.
After quite a long drive from Chollerford we arrived at Fountains Abbey – one of Norm’s favourite places. Sustained by cappuccinos and goats cheese and herb scones, we walked the two-mile circuit around Studley Royal Gardens before succumbing to the photographic opportunities offered by the Abbey itself.
We unintentionally followed a somewhat roundabout route – but finally arrived at the York Marriott (opposite the picturesque York Racecourse) where we’ll be staying for the next three nights.
Foodie news: Carol had a main of baby spinach, blush tomato and Portobello mushroom salad with Madeira vinaigrette; Norm had a traditional Caesar salad with garlic ciabatta croutons, char-grilled chicken and shaved parmesan. We finished with a trio of crème brulées (raspberry, cinnamon and vanilla). Gorgeous!
Needless to say, we forwent our evening constitutional.
Wednesday 28th June 2006
Mainly due to a sudden and heavy downpour, our first stop this morning was at Micklegate Bar Museum. This was a chance discovery while trying to escape the rain – and a “happy” one. Unprepossessing at first sight, its very simplicity and folksiness added to the appeal of what was being exhibited.
For the uninitiated a “bar” – no, not that one – is a gateway “to let you in, but which can also bar your entry”. York has four gateways or bars some of which are connected by the carefully restored and maintained medieval walls which now encircle the old city. The Micklegate Bar was traditionally the monarch’s entrance – and where traitors’ heads were displayed.
We “walked the wall” from Micklegate to near the Minster, which being the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, we couldn’t resist the temptation of visiting.
Our visit to this beautiful church was enhanced by being part of a small audience to hear the York University Symphony Orchestra rehearse for a concert in the Minster that evening. We were both entranced by the beauty of the music played under the soaring arches of the Minster’s nave.
We were treated to Walton’s “Crown Imperial” and parts of Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, and were sorry when it ended.
Our resumed tour of the Minster included a visit to the Undercroft, Treasury and Crypt. Much of the Undercroft and the Crypt has been turned into a museum showcasing artefacts found on the site during the excavation in 1967-72 to shore up the Minster’s foundations. Below the ground are the remains of a Roman fortress, Viking, Norman and medieval carvings, together with treasures and jewels of the Archbishop’s. It is also the final resting place of St William of York.
Time had gone very quickly and we only had time to put in Carol’s camera’s memory card for transfer to CD before the shops closed and it was time for us to return to the Marriott for a well-earned drink – and tucker!
Foodie news: This one’s easy. Just reverse the meals and delete dessert! Halos shining brightly – all that “green stuff”.
Thursday 29th June 2006
This morning we walked into York to explore the pedestrian city precincts. These included a meander through the “Shambles” and the markets. For those of you who don’t know, the Shambles is a bustling centre-piece of historic York.
The street today is one of the UK’s most visited, and has become a centre of shopping, tourist attractions, restaurants and many other things to see and do, including tours, ghost walks and historic talks. If you want to know York, you need to get to know the Shambles. The way that 15th century buildings lean into the middle of the cobbled street means that the roofs almost touch in the middle.
Mentioned in the Doomsday book (making it over 900 years old), we know Shambles to be York’s oldest street, and Europe’s best preserved Medieval street. It really is a very special place. Although you probably won’t want to know this, the word Shambles originates from the medieval word Shamel, which meant booth or bench. It was once also referred to as Flesshammel, a word with meaning around flesh; this is because Shambles was historically a street of butchers’ shops.
We also visited the Markets which covered a large area and offered a huge assortment of goods, but which didn’t tempt us to buy! We decided to get an overview of York on the “Hop-on-hop-off Bus” which for the first time in our experience didn’t have a live guide – the commentary being pre-recorded.
Our only “hop-off” was at “Clifford’s Tower” which stands on a high mound erected by William the Conqueror as part of his campaign to overthrow the North. He threw up two mottes (mounds) with wooden keeps on top – one became Clifford’s Tower and the other, Baille Hill, which can be seen on the side of the river, although the tower there has long since disappeared. Clifford’s Tower was the scene of what was perhaps one of the most terrible events in York’s history. In 1190 the Jews of York sought refuge there after being attacked by a local mob. They were given the choice of being either baptised or killed – but took a third option and committed mass suicide. At this time the tower was built of timber and was burned to the ground. It was only later rebuilt in stone.
Not far away is the Jorvik Viking Centre. Here we journeyed through a reconstruction of the actual Viking-Age streets which once stood on this site, still with sounds and smells!! The houses and shops are laid out in exactly the same pattern as they were in the year AD 975 – and even the faces of the people you see have been reconstructed from Viking skulls. Well worth a visit. All “archaelogicalled out”, we felt the need for sustenance and visited Starbucks for a large Java Choc Chip Frappé each. Now there’s indulgence – but well recommended nonetheless.
From there we picked up Carol’s photo CDs, and trudged our weary way back to the Marriott. Norm’s the only one admitting to the “trudging” bit!
Foodie news: For both, baby spinach, blush tomato and Portobello mushroom salad with Madeira vinaigrette. If you assume we liked it – you’re right again!
Friday 30th June 2006
Our travels between York and Manchester took us through the Peak District National Park as far as Glossop and included a side-trip up past Ladybower Reservoir and back. We then tempted fate – at least for LRC – by “racing up” a steep and narrow B road which had been closed last time Norm passed this way.
As so often has been the case, Clio was up to the task – though at one stage we thought that one or other of us might have to get out and walk!
Eventually finding our Manchester B&B, “Didsbury House” turned out not to be a B&B after all, but a hotel where we were able to indulge ourselves sufficiently well to do a “Foodie news” report without stirring a muscle, so to speak.
And so, to Foodie news: we shared a plate of antipasti of assorted Italian meats (both leg and prosciutto ham), grilled vegetables, salad with fetta and freshly shaved parmesan and served with crusty bread rolls. As a main, Norm had “fish pie”, which turned out to be quite a variety of fish in a tasty creamy vegetable sauce and mashed potato crust. For dessert Norm had chocolate mousse with almond crust and fresh raspberries, and Carol apple shortcake with fresh apple slices and caramel drizzle.