May 21 – Old York, Old York

Today started with a coffee and a delicious home-made cheese omelette. Yum! It was soon time however to start packing and get ready for our next destination. It was so nice staying with our friends, it had been a while since we’d seen them. And as a bonus they gave us a lift up to Derby to make our onward trip that much easier. It’s like, we went to Birmingham without ever actually going to Birmingham apart from the minutes we spent at the train station the other day. But it sounds like staying just that bit outside of Birmingham itself was a very good idea, and what can I say we’ve really enjoyed it.

I think I’ve learned a lesson with the trains I booked. I was recommended the “TrainPal” app because of the way it takes full advantage of Split Ticketing – where buying two tickets for the one train can work out cheaper than one end to end ticket, despite the trip itself being exactly the same. Makes sense, and it does work out to save money. However it doesn’t seem to have the ability to book seats or anything like that, so for most of the trips it’s down to chance if we end up with somewhere to sit or not. So in future it’s worth considering the trade off between split tickets and bookable seats. I’m sure there’ll be an app or website than manages both. We’ll know for next time.

Derby station

Anyway for today’s train, fortune was smiling upon us as we found pretty much the last two seats on the train, and, a good spot for the luggage. Sweet! I’m glad we put our luggage in the correct place (as far as I know). When the cafe / snack cart came through the attendant said quite sharply to someone else “no, that luggage can’t stay there it has to be moved immediately thank you!”

So, don’t cross a cafe cart attendant! 🙂

The trip was uneventful, the scenery was green and lovely, more and more fields the further we went along, interspersed with the occasional towns of terraces winding up hill and down dale. And considering we were heading into Yorkshire, I guess they really were dales 🙂 Of course there were also a few bigger places where greenery gave way to industry, like Sheffield.

Unlike the train from Holyhead to Birmingham, this train from Derby to York had a whole 4 cars. Or, in Uk station-speak, “This train is formed of 4 carriages”. We hoped for the best when it came to overcrowding, but the train gods had other plans. Apparently some other trains had been having issues through the day so our one was the first service that ended up leaving from Leeds. So of course once we got to Leeds, there was quite backlog of people trying to get places, and heap of them piled on, making things very busy once again. This train was air-conditioned though, so it wasn’t anywhere near as unpleasant as last time. To make sure we had time to retrieve our luggage (stored in the next carriage), we stood most of the way for the last 20 minutes of the journey, which was a bit interesting, but no dramas, we reached York, we managed to get both ourselves and the luggage off the train, and took in a big breath now we had plenty of breathing space 🙂

The next bonus, just like at Derby, York had full step-free access, making it a breeze to get out of the station with our bags. It was around 11:30 that we arrived, and it quite a warm day (or, in Dublin terms, a scorcher, at 20 degrees). There were still a few hours to go before we would be able to check in to our Airbnb, so I’d found a thing called ‘Radical Storage’ – a kind of Uberisation of luggage-looking-after. For a reasonable (ish) fee, the local newsagent across the road from the Airbnb was happy to store our luggage for a few hours. The only small downside I guess was it was a bit more than the sign we saw in the window saying “luggage storage £5” – but not to worry.

Is York an old city? I get the feeling it’s an old city.

With luggage duly stashed, it was time to go to the place that was my whole reason for wanting to see York in the first place. I promise I’m not a completely sad old desperate train nerd who wears an anorak and writes down train numbers as they pass by. But. I really did want to see the National Railyway Museum in York. A month or two back when I was doing all the planning, I booked York in, all sorted and settled, for Monday and Tuesday. Then, when I checked the National Railway Museum, guess which days it is closed? If you guessed Monday and Tuesday, congratulations, that’s right! But, not a problem, just a small adjustment to our train, which is why we arrived at 11:30 today, to give plenty of time to check it out. One thing I could do nothing about was the fact that like half of the museum is closed for refurbishment, but so be it, gives me an excuse to come back some other time, when they re-open that bit some time last next year.

One thing that hit us pretty quickly is just how damn pretty this town is. For example, this is at the start of the street on which we’re staying.

I was glad to make it to the museum, and even more glad to start off with a cold drink at their cafe. Phew. Then it was time to look at trains and stuff. No I don’t know every detail about every train, the two I did know about where the first ever Bullet Train (the only one outside of Japan), and, ‘Mallard’ – the world’s fastest steam train whose record has never been beaten…well, apart from every other kind of train pretty much made since. Still, 126mph for an old steam train isn’t too shabby. There was also a replica of ‘Rocket’ – kinda the first even steam train – there’s bound to be someone in an anorak who would dispute it, but, whatever. First steam train. I guess the only other thing here I didn’t expect is just how damn big some of those old steam engines are – for some of them just the wheels are even taller than I am, and then there’s rest of the engine on top, making some of them truly enormous, I didn’t realise how much bigger some of them were compared to today’s average commuter train. Anyway, here are too many photos.

The Railway Museum wasn’t far from York Railway Station, which wasn’t far from the the York Hop-on Hop-off bus. So of course we did that next to get the lay of the land. We waited a whole 5 minutes for the bus if that, juuuust enough time to buy the ticket online before presenting the ticket to the driver just it was loading the ‘done’ screen. The tour was lovely, here’s a time lapse of some parts, and some photos of other parts.

It was also one of the funniest commentaries I’ve heard in some time, let’s see if I can get a quick voice recording working:

We did a full loop on the bus and a bit more. A fun thing we learnt on the way: York has almost no streets, they’re all called Gates. The best of these is Whip-ma-whop-ma Gate, which is believed to basically translate to “neither one thing nor the other” street. It is tiny, with only three buildings. And it seems kinda fitting that those buildings are numbered 1, 1a, and 1 1/2 🙂

After hopping-off, we elected to grab a late lunch, by which time our Airbnb would be available to check in. It was a bit of quest to get the keys – ‘Go to the gate, then find the little gate, then enter the code, then go around the corner, then go to the box, then enter the other code, then double back, defeat the dragon, break the elder wand, deliver the plans to the Death Star, steal the idol, locate the Ark, throw the Ring back into the volcano’ (some of these may not be actual steps involved) – but before too long we had keys, then back to the newsagent to retrieve the luggage, then across the road to the Airbnb itself. By now lugging luggage up stairs is a punish, but we knew it was coming, and we got through it eventually. The place itself though is small but perfectly formed – a really lovely really old building. It’s two-story, the bedroom and bathroom are upstairs, but the suitcases are 100% staying on the lower level! It also has, joy of joys, a washing machine (though tiny) and no drier, so first thing we did was prioritise laundry that really needed doing, and see what happens after that (after ducking back to the newsagent to get laundry detergent). How fascinating, a blog about how we did our laundry. I know, this is the kind of riveting content you came here for! Here are some non-laundry pictures.

Important laundry tasks completed, it was time to stop chilling and start dinner-ing. On our brief wander around this afternoon, York seems to have approximately 10 thousand different eateries, so it wasn’t a great challenge to find somewhere tasty. We’re basically staying on top of a cafe so I’m sure breakfast and coffee won’t be an issue in the morning.

The trouble with too much choice for dinner meant it took a while before we found somewhere – but seeing bangers & mash on the menu at The Three Tuns did the trick and in we went. Apparently it was built some time in the 1500s and is known to have been a pub since at least the 1700s. I knew we’d picked a good place as son as we walked in – the music was all 80s/90s Brit pop – Madness, Shakespear’s Sister, all sorts of good stuff. Nice to hear! As for the bangers’n’mash – a picture speaks a thousand words, and no I couldn’t quite finish it. As the staff member who collected our plates said “Better to be overfed than underfed now isn’t it”. Good point!

After that, we stopped in at Sainsbury’s for a bit of ice cream and then back to the airbnb to pretty much collapse (and finish off the blog). Tomorrow’s a public holiday so fingers crossed the cafe downstairs is open for breakfast! You’ll find out all about it tomorrow, plus no doubt some other exciting updates on whether or not the washing has dried. See you then!

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