York, England (Two Weeks in England: Part 1)

Get ready for a post that’s as light and bouncy as a bubble of gum.

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Oh, you have no idea what I’m saying? Me neither, it’s just something I saw in England that appears to mean it’s a lot of fun. I collected these British-isms on my iPhone during my trip, because they were just too good. The first thing I heard when I stepped off the plane in England was an old British lady turning to her friend and saying in the most prim and proper English accent ever, “Shall we toilet first?”

I knew it was going to be a great trip.

Two Weeks in England:

Back in January I made a list of 10 things I wanted to do this year, and #7 was to visit a new European country, preferably Greece, since I’m a total geek about ruins and ancient history. Since Pete and I could only travel in July, we decided to skip Greece and do a less-overrun northern European country. With the state that Greece has been in lately, what luck that we went to England instead.

England was absolutely spectacular. Our vacation was 15 days and at no point did I get homesick or itchy to return back to the US. The pacing of the trip felt right, and we loved nearly all of the places we went to (only one of the cities I was kind of “meh” about).

We had incredible food during our trip (yes, really, totally inspiring food), saw fascinating historical sites and museums, heard incredible stories about past kings and queens, and enjoyed seeing all types of landscapes, from bustling London to the English countryside The Cotswolds. I have been to 27 countries now and England is for sure in my top 3.

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(Beet cured salmon from OXO’s Restaurant in York)

Why we didn’t do Scotland or Wales:

While a lot of people couple England with Scotland and Wales, I’m glad Pete and I decided to stick with England only. There is SO much to see in England, and we didn’t even get to cover it all. Someday we will go back to explore those other countries, as well as the parts of England we didn’t get to see.

Our Game Plan:

We flew into Manchester and went in a big circle: to York, London, Oxford, Bath, The Cotswolds, then back out of Manchester.

Why did we fly to Manchester, you ask? Because flights were $600 cheaper than London, and they were direct flights from NYC. We knew we’d be going in a circle around the country anyway, so it was certainly worth the cost savings. I always recommend checking out alternate airports when traveling to other countries.

Two Days in York:

We arrived in Manchester off a redeye very early, around 7:30am. We immediately took a 90-minute train to York, our northernmost destination.

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(Walking the raised city walls of York, looking at the town and York Minster)

Originally we planned to visit Fountains Abbey, about an hour away from York, but discovered that the only way to get there on short-notice was with a rental car. We knew we’d be driving in the Cotswolds later on our trip, but we didn’t feel ready to take on the task of driving yet, so we spent two leisurely days in York instead.

While our time in York was slow-paced, I do think York deserves two days. There are enough major attractions here to fill the typical 10-5 museum and sight opening hours, and we spent the evenings having dinner and taking long walks by the river.

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Where we ate:

  • Shambles Kitchen: Get the pork sandwich here for a quick bite, while you’re exploring the Shambles and doing some shopping. Tasty, well-made, fresh and inexpensive.
  • OXO’s Restaurant: Good for dinner, a bit expensive. The beet dish pictured above was from this restaurant, and we had a great venison dish here too.
  • Brew & Brownie: Good for breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon snack. Delicious coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches. Photos below.
  • Quinii’s Restaurant: We went here for dinner, and it was decent. Good Asian and Thai food, reasonably priced.
  • Crumbs Cupcakery: We wanted to stop for an afternoon snack and some tea, and one of the Yelp reviewers said this place had the best cupcakes of her life. The shop was absolutely adorable and they had a wide variety of cupcakes, but the cupcakes were so-so. I don’t think the woman from Yelp has visited many cupcake shops. Nevertheless, the cupcake was decent and we enjoyed the break.

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(A cappuccino and Raspberry Coconut Sponge Cake Square from Brew & Brownie)

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(3-cheese and leek toastie with potato salad and chutney from Brew & Brownie)

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(Caramel Chocolate Cupcake from Crumbs Cupcakery in York)

What we did:

  • York Minster – This is the jewel attraction of the city, in my opinion. Spend time walking around the outside admiring the Gothic architecture, and spend a moment in the park behind York Minster. Then when you’re inside make sure to catch one of their tours. Our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
  • York Castle – If you dine at Quinii’s, you’ll see York Castle is right outside on a hill. We didn’t actually go in since it was closed, but walk the steps to see the cool door (picture below) and the view from the hill.
  • National Railway Museum – If you’re into trains and how they work, it’s worth a visit. My husband enjoyed this one a lot more than I did.
  • Walk the York City Walls and the Ouse River In the evening when the shops are closed is a perfect time to walk the city walls and river. Beautiful views.
  • Walking/Shopping in the Shambles Pete and I don’t like shopping, so this was mainly walking around for us. But there are some adorable shops along cobblestone streets.
  • St. Mary’s Abbey This will only take a minute to look at (picture below) but it’s in a beautiful park and right by the…
  • Yorkshire Museum It’s a small museum with a hodge podge of things, but we enjoyed it. Cool archeology sections and a variety of artifacts.

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(York Minster)

DSC_0282(The door of York Castle)

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(A lovely house I saw while walking behind York Minster)

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(There are flowers on windowsills everywhere in England. I love the brick and the colorful blooms)

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(There are entertaining and informative rescued birds of prey shows right outside the Yorkshire Museum. How magnificent is this owl?)

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That’s it for York! Next time I’ll cover London (where we spent a week of our trip). London was AMAZING!!!! I will also cover Oxford, Bath, and The Cotswolds. Stay tuned! I will also be sharing more travel thoughts, like why this was the first and last time I’ll be doing AirBnB.

Before I go, here’s the list of British-isms I collected in England. Some of their phrases are so funny (and I imagine they’d say the same about us). I realize that every language must have their own sayings, but since Englanders also speak English, we can actually understand these.

In England…

  • What we call a ladybug, they call a ladybird
  • Homemade Chunky Chips = thick-cut fries. Something about homemade chunky chips cracked me up.
  • They say “proper” a lot when describing food. A proper handburger, proper tea, etc. Yorkshire Tea’s slogan is “Let’s have a proper brew.” LOL.
  • If the toilet is engaged, that doesn’t mean it’s got a ring on it. It means it’s occupied.
  • They like to say “mind your head” and “mind the step” while we say “watch your step.”
  • “I’ll be with you in a tick.” Took me a second to realize that means be right back.
  • And of course my favorite from the beginning of the post, “as light and bouncy as a bubble of gum” was referring to the musical Hairspray. That’s some funny praise there.