Sunday, 20 November 2011

Recent Travels, Part II: York and Edinburgh

Administrative stuff:

1)  A lovely friend reminded me yesterday that the original settings for this blog did not allow for comments from non Blogger members.  I have since changed this because, goodness gracious me, I definitely do not want to discourage commenting.  So, please feel free, if you are so moved, to comment.

2)  You will see new pages at the top of the blog.  I thought I would write up a few explanatory things in case someone who does not, in fact, know me in real life stumbles upon this...  Also, if for some reason you are curious about my research or my novel, there's some information on both of those items.

But, back to travelling!

We got back from London on the Sunday and on Wednesday, November 9th, we were off again, a a five-day extravaganza to the North, in celebration of our ten-year anniversary (yes, we were absolute babies when we started dating!).  Luckily, there is a pretty direct train route from Oxford to York, which is nice, because for some points north, you have to route through London first, which takes extra time.

Our apartment-hotel was close to the train station and the Ouse, so it was a very good jumping off point for touring.  We meandered through the touristy, but delightful shopping streets and medieval avenues first thing, not bothering to follow a map because you can almost always orient yourself by looking for the towers of York Minster (which is the largest Gothic Cathedral north of the Alps by the way and is filled with medieval stained glass that was hidden away in Yorkshire country houses during World War II to keep it safe because it is so precious).

We walked through the Minster, which was larger and grander than I had remembered it being.  We also took a hike up the central tower.  They are very cautious at the Minster and have a long list of ailments that bar one from climbing the 275 steep, narrow, and winding steps up the tower.  If you have ever done the 500 or so steps up to the top of St. Paul's in London, however, this tower does not seem nearly so daunting.  And you can get some fabulous views from the top...

On a clear day, you can see the cooling towers of a nearby nuclear plant, but alas, we had a misty evening.

Next day, we toured through the Undercroft museum at the Minster and walked down the Shambles, a medieval street that was once a meat market.  We also took a hike along a chunk of the remaining medieval city wall.

And then it was back on the train to Edinburgh.  I love taking the train up to Scotland.  For one thing, it makes me feel like Harry Potter on the Hogwart's Express, and for another, it's great fun to watch the increasing proliferation of sheep (which we just don't have at home in Saskatchewan) and to watch the hills start to rear up and to see the views of the North Sea.  If you are not from Saskatchewan, you must know that it is very flat and very land-locked, so hills and sea views are rather exciting.

The first day, we settled into our Edinburgh apartment-hotel, which was right on the Royal Mile (we could hear lots of carousing and bag-piping from the street below).  While in Edinburgh, we visited the University of Edinburgh, which has some lovely buildings...
We also were lucky to find the Palace of Holyroodhouse open to visitors.  Tim wishes he had visited before reading Walter Scott's Waverley because Bonnie Prince Charlie throws a ball in the Great Gallery at Holyroodhouse!  Well, now I will know how to picture it when I read the novel.  We also toured the beautifully ruined Holyrood Abbey, which is right beside the palace.
We also visited the National Gallery of Scotland, where I got to see the original portrait that graces my copy of Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey (which I had finished just a couple days before).  This is a small but really nice gallery, with a surprising number of paintings by Dutch masters.  We also ventured into the Georgian New Town, which feels much more like Bath or London that the Old Town up on the hill does.

Our anniversary itself we celebrated by not cooking (yay!) but eating tasty leftovers instead.  There was also camembert and a sparkling rose involved.  It was lovely.

And then it was back to Oxford, and back to work for me.  (The reality and surreality of going to school at Oxford hit me with renewed vigour on returning to my regular pursuits of reading in the Bodleian and wandering along Broad St.  Amazing what a few days away will do.)


  1. Commenting possible - huzzah! It sounds like a lovely trip. I wish there were more sheep in Saskatchewan, and also ruined abbeys.


  2. Yeah, we really only have sagging, abandoned farm buildings. It's just not the same!