Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Shopping In York

Good Lord, can someone roll me to the nearest gym please, I'm fit to burst. The festive over-indulgence has already taken it's toll. Forget starting afresh in the new year, it will be nothing but salad for me tomorrow I think.

It's hard to believe I've been away from New York for 9-days already. Time flies when you are laying around watching festive television and scoffing mince pies eh. I've really been a bit of a lazy arse since I've been up at my parents' place in Yorkshire, but starting tomorrow I am hoping to actually use one of the 4 fitness DVDs I brought with me. Yes FOUR, highly optimistic of me eh given I haven't so much as cracked the box on a single one of them.

Anyway no visit home would be complete without a trip into York, which is where my mother, nephew and I went on Thursday last week to do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping.

York is a walled city in the north of England, about 210 miles from London, founded by the Romans in 71AD or thereabouts as the legionary fortress of Eboracum. The city sits at the meeting point of the Foss and Ouse rivers and was a centre of world importance with the Emperor Septimius Severus governing the Roman Empire from the city between 208 and his death in 211 AD, however by 400AD the city lay abandoned owing to frequent flooding, a problem the city still deals with today as can be seen in this photo via the BBC.

The river Ouse could not be more aptly named since ooze it certainly does after heavy rainfall. Do you see what I did there? Ghosts of Roman soldiers are still said to haunt the Treasurers House in Minster Yard.

On November 1st, 866AD York, as it is now known, but Jorvik as it came to be known at the time, was captured by the Vikings when a huge armada of Danish pirates, sailed up the Ouse and seized Eorforwick - as it was then known - under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless - love the monicker. Apparently Ivar was known for his gangling frame - and his brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson (Halfdene) and Ubbe Ragnarsson (Hubba).

In 876 the Vikings made York their capital. The conquest lasted until 954 when the last Viking ruler, the equally colourfully monikered Eric Bloodaxe, the deposed King of Norway, was driven out by the English King Eadred. In between the Vikings had doubled the size of the town and turned it into one of the greatest trading ports in Northern Europe.
Sadly whenever I meet new people in New York they always ask me which part of London I am from. Eyeroll. Seriously that's like asking your average American which part of New York they're from. The last time I looked the UK has a population of almost 62-million while London has a population of just over 7.5-million. Imagine that, a whole 54.5-million Brits do not live in London. Gasp!!

Sarcasm aside I am amused by the reaction I receive from New Yorkers when I start to list cities they may have heard of that are close to where I am from: Wakefield is probably the closest, then Leeds - "oh yes, the who live from Leeds" is the reaction I get from people of a certain age - and finally York, which is some 30 miles north east of where I grew up.

"York???" they always respond completely puzzled, "what a weird name."

"Um...yes York, you know, like New York, but without the 'new' bit. York is the city that this city, NEW YORK, is named after. York!!"


I give up!!

Among other things York is well known for its Minster, built in 1154 AD and is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe alongside Cologne Cathedral in Germany and also The Shambles, a historic street lined with timber framed buildings dating as far back as the Fourteenth Century and voted the most picturesque street in Britain in 2010.

It was freezing when we drove up the A1 to York on Thursday, cold enough for the Foss river to have developed a layer of ice.

Queuing up to shop for 'fine fodder' at The Hairy Fig, a fabulous delicatessen located at 39 Fossgate.

Many of the street names in York end with gate - Coppergate, Jubbergate, Stonegate etc etc - which is the Viking word for street - I'm not entirely sure what a 'jubber' is - and is further evidence of York as a Viking settlement, however I'd never in my life - and I've been visiting York for some 30-some years now - come across Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate until this visit and I had my suspicions that it was a made up name, but apparently not. According to this 49 second BBC video it was where people were punished by being whipped.

Looking along Low Petersgate from Kings Square. York Minster can be seen in the background and in the foreground there are remnants of the UK's recent snowfall.

For me no visit to York would be complete without a hot mocha - not very British I know - and a Fat Rascal at the renowned Betty's Tea Rooms on St Helen's Square. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!


Kitty said...

I'd never seen images of York before. How small-minded of me. Look what I've been missing!!!

I will have to visit next time I'm in the UK, which I hope is soon. Gorgeous!!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Kitty,

I'm glad I was able to bring a little piece of York to you. It's a really picturesque city, although I'd go when the weather is a bit warmer. Brrrr :-)