We were pining for a short break away from familiar surroundings and decided to head to York for a few days. It’s a stunning city – Timo commented that any of its main buildings would be THE “good” building in almost any other place. I scoured TripAdvisor for attractions, restaurants and tips in advance and we found a nice little hotel via the Visit York website.
The two main disappointments: 1. Every restaurant or cafe I had selected based purely on TripAdvisor reviews turned out to be poor (food, service, ambience or all of the above). I guess I must have just been unlucky or there are hundreds of fake reviewers squirreling away at TripAdvisor. One does wonder. 2. The Jorvik Viking Centre smells of hot, boiled piss. It’s also completely underground and has low ceilings, so you’re trapped in a stinky dungeon. Whilst this might probably make it the ideal location for an 18-year old lad’s birthday party, it wasn’t a pleasant “historical experience” as much as it was the waiting room for Hades. Apparently they have chosen to “pump out the authentic smell of Viking times” throughout the centre but I really feel that one room of it or a special smelling cubicles might have been a better choice. It wasn’t too far from what I had imagined the Bog of Eternal Stench to smell like although that aroma would have needed more boiled cabbage. I wasn’t the only one who was distressed; there was a little girl in the queue outside, getting increasingly anxious at the smell wafting from the entrance. Her mother reassured her “it’s coffee you can smell, now be quiet.” No. It’s boiled piss you can smell. If you are sensitive to bad smells, don’t go. I wasn’t able to focus on any of the historical artefacts or storytelling and we missed out on a lot of it.
The absolute highlight of the trip was the National Railway Museum. I think making a trip to York is worth it for it alone. As a fan of the Poirot-aesthetic I was able to get my fill of glossy steam engines and twee English train carriages of yore. They also have an art gallery charting the development of railway advertising, ranging from Art Deco posters to a new Virgin Trains one that mimics them. Of course one can also sit inside a Japanese bullet train and learn more about Eurostar (my feet are itching to hop on it to Paris but my credit card has given me a stern talking to and reminded me of how dangerous that would be, given the perfumeries there). Incidentally, we also had the best meal of our trip at their “food carriage” restaurant in the central room (chicken chasseur with broad beans and new potatoes, followed by a strawberry tart).
The York Museum was also brilliant, had a fun exhibit about mass extinctions and many interesting Roman artefacts. I also did a bit of shopping and visited Burgin’s Perfumery and the Travelling Man comic book shop. We went to the cinema, too, and saw Pacific Rim. One has to balance the museums somehow. I feared it might have been another “Transformers”, but no – it managed to take itself above the rim (badoom-tish) of its genre and provide the expected entertainment with a bit of flair and without taking itself too seriously. I also really enjoyed having a central female character do something other than need rescuing.