From Edinburgh to York – Castles, Cathedrals, and Clash of the Titans

Once again, we were departing early in the morning, this time to travel from Edinburgh to York on July 16th. At this point in the trip, having been on the go for a week straight, travelers look forward to these long bus trips as a chance to catch up on sleep. We tried to get everyone to postpone nappy time because we would be hugging the coast for the first part of the trip.

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In order to make extra sure that everyone would see the awesomeness of the North Sea, we had them stand up, walk off of the bus, and stand by the sea, figuring that this would give decrease the odds that they would stay asleep.

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Clearly, as you can see in this picture, James beat the odds.

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Once we got going, our tour manager, Stan, did allow everyone to go back to sleep. When we crossed back into England, it was with much less fanfare than our first crossing so as not to interrupt the bus sleep.

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“Hey, look, it’s the bord-“

We were on a tight schedule to make an touring reservation in York, but Stan had us make a surprise stop at Alnwick Castle.

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This castle had appeared in a Downton Abbey holiday special (or “season finale” as the holiday specials are known in ‘Merica) and was used to film scenes from Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter movie.

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Even more significantly, it was the site where all nineteen people in our group woke up and agreed to take a group picture. Many even smiled.

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Since we had 2pm reservations at the Minster in York, we only had time for a quick look at the castle and could not tour the inside.

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There was a grocery store in the town by the castle. Many European grocery stores have “American” sections, where they sell all of the foods that they believe best represent the United States – things like potato chips, Cocoa Puffs, and Snickers. This grocery store did not have such a section, and our travelers did their best to fill this void.

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The rare “Oreo chocolate bar/Texas BBQ Pringles/Capri Sun” combo

Recharged, we made it to York on time, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and headed to the city center. York was the smallest of the three cities we had visited at this point, and it had more of a medieval feel, with its narrow roads and old architecture.

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And there were no tricky cars in this section driving on the wrong side of the road.

We headed directly to the Gothic cathedral at the heart of the city, a cathedral known as a “Minster” because it was a center of missionary activity.

Thanks to our reservation, we jumped past the line to see the interior.

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A series of earlier churches had been built (and destroyed) on the same site, and the Gothic style cathedral was built several centuries after the original church. Construction started at the late date of 1220, and the cathedral was consecrated in 1472.

The guys who had to get the stone to the ceiling without modern cranes deserve statues.


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Instead, these kings get all of the statues.


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Including Bad-Hair Day William the Conqueror. See? Everyone in medieval England had it rough. Some had to transport heavy stones hundreds of feet up without being crushed or falling to their deaths, and some had to deal with hair that was so frizzy from humidity, it couldn’t be covered even by a huge crown.

Below the main level of the cathedral were several levels of crypts.

One of the most important rooms is the Chapter House, which is where important meetings took (and take) place.

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York still has a portion of its medieval walls, which were built on top of the original Roman walls. The tops of the walls can be walked by tourists and provide a great place from which to see the city.

York has lots of little shops in the old town. It is most famous for its tea houses, like the one below.

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There was a line around the corner to get into this tea shop, which is why we only took pictures of the exterior.

York is also famous for chocolate, and one shop actually gives chocolate tours.

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Not going in the tea house saved us time to sample chocolate in the name of science. We had to see if York’s reputation for chocolate production was deserved.

And, most importantly, there is the shop with the owl from the movie Clash of the Titans.

By the time we had explored all of the shops and taken pictures to remind us of the time we spent with the Clash of the Titans owl, we were ready for dinner. And in north England, you know the type of cuisine we were likely to be served…

The dinner was beef stew with a desert that many of our travelers had never heard of or tried before this night. What was this exotic dish? Creme brulee, a flavor so outside of the American mainstream that you can find it here.  Even more importantly to our travelers than strange semi-edible deserts was the fact that the restaurant was not air conditioned, and the mix of the heat and sleeping as little as possible hit some of our travelers hard, and they headed back to the hotel after dinner. For these travelers, this combination found at a local restaurant was all too real.

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Abbott Doom Tours – the name we will use for all future student travel

The rest of us got a short tour of York at night.

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I’ll confess that the highlight of this evening tour for me was watching “ineffective Bike Delivery” guy. Ineffective Bike Delivery guy was so unable to carry his package and pedal at the same time that at first I thought he was some kind of especially awful street performer. Marcia Balzer noted that he probably works for dad’s company. It’s the only possible explanation. I’m afraid the video below doesn’t do him justice.

Next up – Windsor Castle and London!

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