York Pass offers great value
The next day, we picked-up the “Welcome to York” pass which includes a guidebook and map as well as entry to over 50 sites— great savings if you plan on doing some major sightseeing. We started at the Viking Museum, built on the remains of the city of Jorvik and took the Disney-like capsule ride which takes you back in time to see, smell and hear about life in 975 A.D.
Then it was off to the York Dungeon. Spookily real actors scared the bejesus out of us, bringing York’s horrible history to life by reenacting all sorts of gory tales, such as the gruesome story of the murderous Dick Turpin’s trip to the gallows.
My sister nearly became a corpse herself when a bloody costumed soldier snuck up from behind and invited her to be his “wench for the night.”
Tip: This ia not a tour for wusses, or small children.
York Hog Roast
There is no shortage of cute cafes, ethnic restaurants, lively pubs and bakeries (one sign advertised politically correct “Ginger People” cookies) buried in every nook and cranny. I spied a couple of tourists on the street scarfing down a scrumptious looking sandwich, so I immediately darted over to get the details. It came from a wildly popular take-out shop, the York Hog Roast, that serves mind-blowingly delish hot meat sandwiches (go for the namesake pork) on a soft squidgy bun topped with mint sauce, apple sauce, and stuffing. We couldn’t resist an order of the brown crusty-but still soft in the middle-roasted potatoes that were sheer heaven.
The amazing saga of Bar Convent
After our impromptu picnic, we hurried off to Bar Convent, the oldest living convent in England, originally established as a Catholic girls’ school back in 1686. We had pre-arranged a meeting with Sister Agatha(see picture below) the chief religious honcho there, whom everyone kept describing as a “real character”. Our mouths dropped open as this astonishing woman regaled us with her life story, filled with numerous Hitchcockian plot twists ( from securing donations from millionaire Paul Getty after a chance meeting on a train, to tales of incest, murder, and stolen works of art—all in an effort to keep the convent open at any cost.)
Today, the convent houses a unique B & B (with 15 simple but adequate rooms, some en-suite with large shared-kitchens) and a fascinating museum. But most important to Sister Agatha is the private living quarters, including a magnificent garden, at the back of the grounds, which serves as home to her “darlings” (which is how she refers to the order’s sick and elderly sisters that she tends to daily with the help of “The One Above.”)
The next morning we wanted to polish off afew more sites so we checked out the National Railway Museum, known as the world’s biggest and best railway museum, the York Castle Museum which highlights period costumes, jewelry, and weapons and then took a relaxing river boat cruise, all courtesy of our passes. They can also be used for entrance to numerous historic houses, gardens, and medieval ruins dotted throughout the beautiful countryside surrounding York.
Where to stay
During our wanderings, we found two perfect hotels for a girlfriend getaway home-base.
Don’t pooh pooh this as just a boring chain hotel. Besides boasting a peachy location, directly across the street from the Minstry, this contemporary hotel is made up of three former houses and clerical residences. Each of the 40 rooms is decorated in a unique style, so check out a few before you decide. The hotel is filled with fabulous flowers and offers very good, reasonably priced food. Bonus points for the cordial, warm service.
2. Another fine option is the stately Churchill Hotel, about a 5 minute walk outside of town perched on beautiful private grounds. Don’t let the three- star rating dissuade you (some bureaucratic Catch-22.) This luxury hotel, a country manor built around 1827, offers five star glamour at fantastic savings.
York’s tourist center has an excellent one-stop website for all your planning needs.