Sunday, September 20, 2015


When we (and by we, I really mean Mom) first planned our trip, it never included visiting York. But I read this amazing book, The Traveller's History of England, and it talked about York so much that I really wanted to see it. We changed our entire itinerary so that we could drive to York. After the visit, I think everyone was glad we made the change.

These books are actually part of a large series, and I recommend them to anyone who is gearing up for a trip. It was concise, touched on all the major points of history, and was somewhat humorous.

According to the book, the monarchs either ruled from York, or London. It's not quite clear why they switched between the two, but both places were very important. When you look at a map of York today, it is quite small and reminds me of what the old London probably looked like. Once we visited there we learned that much of the existing architecture is actually a sham, meant to look medieval in order to attract tourists. The layout of the city is still medieval in design, I believe.

York was first established as a Roman settlement, called Eboracum, so it is quite old. Near the large York Minster was a Roman column, dating back to the early A.D's, and I took this picture of a woman just casually eating her sandwich at the base of the column. Is it just me, or does this not just blow your mind? Does she even realize she's sitting on a 2,000 year old piece of stone?!

Near York is a railway museum which Dad just could not resist, so while he was checking that out, Mom and I went on a walking tour. It was just us and our rather quirky tour guide. He has spent a large portion of his life in York, worked for the University for a time, and he was a librarian so he was really knows his stuff. He brought a large shoulder bag with him that was full of pictures, maps, coins and other random artifacts he has collected over the years that really made the tour interesting.

This ruined Abbey was the first site we visited. It has been used for many years as a stage for Passion Plays (they call them Mystery Plays). Judy Dench made her grande debut here!

Next he took us around the University, and through some buildings that used to be the home of Henry the VIII. This is Henry's toilet window:

The York Minster is huge and gothic and beautiful and, unfortunately, not at all as original as it looks. It caught fire a couple times, artwork was damaged over the years, the stained glass was removed and then put back in, etc... and every time it came time to restore it, historians and architects squabbled over how things should be put back (it seems pretty obvious to me. You put it back the way you found it, right?). Still, it is a beautiful building. Definitely one of my favorites.

He took us on a short tour through some of the "snickelways". They are itty-bitty alleyways connecting some of the larger streets.

I'm really not making the tour sound exciting, but truly it was one of my favorites. We didn't go to many sites, he mostly gave us a very thorough history of York. That's very difficult to convey in pictures. He ended the tour outside the Holy Trinity Church. The church has these very interesting boxes for pews, and the foundation was so uneven that the stone kind of rose and fell like waves.

We ate lunch in a little tea room/antique room. It was lovely, as always :) After lunch, we went on a quick boat tour of York. I think this may have been the highlight of the trip for Dad. The tour guide was hysterical. I really can't describe it, you just have to be there. I think it was the combination of the "Yahrk" accent with a very dry, sarcastic humor that made the whole thing hilarious. We have many memorable quotes from that tour guy.

Here's another castle in York that we visited. It's on the small side, and like 15 pounds to get in... but we enjoyed looking at the outside!

Then we visited The Shambles. York city center is really just a bunch of shops and snickelways, but the Shambles are different. They are especially small and curvy, and sometimes get so close together that people on the upper levels can reach out and touch the hands of the people on the opposite side. Also, this is probably my favorite picture of Mom and Dad from the whole trip.

Later we attended a lovely Evensong at the Minster. Honestly, I could have gone to an Evensong service every single day we were in England and never gotten tired of it. I. LOVE. EVENSONG.

For dinner we ate at Drakes, a popular pub that was recommended to us. Funny story: Dad asked the lady at the tea room earlier that day if she had any recommendations for a place to get good Fish & Chips, and she said, "You want to go to Drecks". Dad repeats, "Drecks?" "That's right, Drecks". It wasn't until we got there that we realized it's called "Drakes", and Dad had unknowingly been pronouncing it like a Brit hahaha.

To top off the evening we wandered about the city listening to the bells from the minster. Here's a video, and don't mind the shakiness (definitely need to work on my videography skills):

All in all, a very successful day in York. It was well worth the 3 hour detour to the north, and I would happily visit again!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

5&6: Leaving London

I loved London. The food was delightful, the buildings and the museums were beautiful, and did I mention that the food was SO GOOD? By the end of the fourth day, however, I was totally bushed. London is B.U.S.Y. Don't go there if you are prone to anxiety attacks.

Sunday morning Mom and I packed up our things and found our way to the Kensington Ward (with the help of a very nice Italian member). I was very excited to go to church and listen to all the talks given in British accents (sinful, I know. There are other more important reasons to be excited for church), but unfortunately, everyone who spoke was American. The man who blessed the sacrament was British and he gave a VERY interesting spin on the sacrament. I felt like I was transported into an Anglican church just during that moment.

The church we met in looked nothing like one of our usual chapels. It was a modern business building from the outside, and served as kind of a visitors center complete with Jesus statue and "I'm a Mormon" ads, and a chapel/cultural hall.

After church we took the tube to Paddington, then the train to Heathrow where we met Dad. For a while there we were uncertain whether Dad would be joining us on the trip, but I'm so happy he did! Mostly because I love going on trips with both my parents, and also because Mom and I probably wouldn't have survived the trip with out him. Mom and I have very different methods of navigating, and if we had to rely on each other to get to all our destinations (while driving on the left side of the road) we'd have strangled one another.

Our destination that night was Cambridge. On the way there we stopped at an airplane museum. Funny story, as we're walking around the hanger looking at all the airplanes, this little British boy in an old fashioned pilots cap comes marching right by us chanting "I'm the pilot! Of the Concord!" over and over again. Combined with the marching stance, the outfit, and the accent, it was hysterical. Dad and I died laughing. We spent a good 2.5-3 hours at the museum. There was lots to see and it was very interesting.

Once in Cambridge, we set forth into the city center not really knowing where we were or where anything was at all. It took a few days before we got a system down of using maps and screen shots of directions from our phones. I've come to realize that I rely on GPS way too much and my orienteering skills are badly out of practice. Pro tip: many of the red telephone boxes have wifi hotspots, so if you're truly lost just look for one of those.

We eventually found our way to The Eagle, a very famous pub in Cambridge. There were old pictures and plaques all over the walls of famous students who attended the University that used to eat at The Eagle. It was so cool! I ate Fish & Chips and Mushy Peas, and of course we ordered some Sticky Toffee Pudding afterward.

The next morning we took a tour of the campus and King's College Chapel. The chapel might be my favorite of all the chapels we visited. Or it is very easily a close 2nd to Westminster. The ceiling is spectacular. It's just so huge! It was fascinating to learn the details in the stonework, and where parts of the chapel clearly hold religious significance but other parts are purely political. Oh it's just so cool.

Centuries old vandalism.

The structure of the school system was also very intriguing. Different departments are separated into Colleges with their own living quarters and dining halls. It's very much like Harry Potter, the way the students are put into houses with a common room and dormitories. The relationship the students have with their professors is also very different. I like the way my dad put it, it's more like students and professors are "colleagues in the pursuit of knowledge". The students each have a tutor who works closely with them as well. It sounds like there is a higher standard for education but they are also given a lot of resources that we just don't have at our universities.

Students living quarters are in those little windows, and study areas/dining halls probably through the larger ones.

After lunch we packed up our things again and headed off to York. One of the first things I noticed when we got to York was the accent change. It's amazing that only a couple hours distance produces very different dialects. I am not familiar enough with the accent to explain all the changes, but there were noticeable differences. In London they might pronounce York with a very round "O" (yohrk), but in York they would say it more like "yahrk".

We stayed in a little B&B about 5 minutes outside of York. Across the street from was a quaint little church with a cemetery. All little towns have a church, a pub, and a post office. I did a little investigating of the church and found the outside to be much more delightful than the inside. The church is always open, but it was dark and no one was in there and it gave me the willies just to stand in the doorway.

That night we went to the pub just down the street and I got more Fish & Chips with mushy peas. Yummmm.

More from "Yahrk" to follow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day 3 & 4

Day 3 of England was a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio, aka, Hogwarts. Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot even begin to describe how surreal it felt to be in a place I had grown up imagining first in the books, and then coming to life on screen. The studio was basically transformed into a museum of all the sets, costumes, props, all things Harry Potter. I almost cried when we entered the Great Hall.

I learned of so many details that you just never notice in the movies. For instance, have you ever noticed the large portrait of a young Minerva McGonagall hanging in the Gryffindor Common Room? Or how about all of Dumbledores little knick knacks? So many things that I just never noticed before.

I found the special effects makeup room extremely fascinating. I used to be really into that stuff when I was younger, and maybe someday I'll look into taking some classes about it or something. It really is SO cool.

Of course Mom and I had to try the Butterbeer, and wow was that pretty good. We think it's just cream soda with a whipped butterscotch cream. It tasted exactly how I imagined it would taste in the books!

Throughout the tour we were able to listen to interviews from producers and some of the actors about what the whole movie making process was like. It totally changed the way I view movies. There is way more going on in the background than anyone ever realizes. Also, half the sets don't have ceilings. Now when I watch movies I'm always paying attention to see if I can spot a ceiling.

This was incredibly cool, and if you ever have a chance to visit England I definitely recommend taking a day trip to the Warner Brothers Studio. Word of warning, however: you will pity your life as a muggle and wish so so badly that somehow Hogwarts could be real.

Later that evening I experienced something quite possibly more magical than Harry Potter! Mother Mash. It was life changing. Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dinner, and it's basically just mashed potatoes, some kind of sausage or a pie, and gravy. Love at first taste. I tried the Bubble & Squeak mash, with Lincolnshire sausages, and traditional gravy. There have only been a handful of times that I tried something SO DANG GOOD that I literally could not stop thinking about it for hours, or days even. The Bubble & Squeak did that for me. For dessert we had Sticky Toffee Pudding. In fact, we had Sticky Toffee every single time we ate out the entire trip. Except for our last night in England. We'd finally had enough by then.

After dinner we walked about Soho for a bit, then down to Piccadilly Circus, then to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Gardens, and then back home!

Our last day in London was a "whatever strikes your fancy" kind of a day. We visited the Tower of London, where I got yelled at for trying to take a picture of the crown jewels (whoops. Sorrrr-eeeeee). We enjoyed a very animated tour from a Yeoman Warder. You know, it almost didn't feel real at times. Our guide is pointing to this building here, and that building there, saying "oh yeah, that's where Ann Boleyn stayed, and over there is where she was killed, oh and here's where this other guy got beheaded!" and it's just crazy! So much history is crammed into that city (and all of England, really), and it's mind boggling.

The locals are passing by thousand year old sites contemplating where they're gonna eat for lunch. They're probably walking down a medieval street to get there. The rest of us tourists are walking around with our mouths wide open just trying to grasp the concept of how old this place is, and all the things it's gone through. I felt perpetually overwhelmed. But in a good way.

On the way to Westminster we stopped for some pictures at Big Ben, or as my cousin calls it "that big clock".

It was a very fine day, so we took a rest on the lawn of Westminster Abbey while we waited for the 5 o'clock Evensong.

The Evensong was incredible. English choral music has become an immensely important part of my life, and I am thankful every time I listen to it that I grew up with a mother who loved it and sang it around the house. I believe I have my grandmother to thank for that as well. I wish so badly that music was more important to our congregations. It is one of the most special forms of worship, in my opinion.

I recently discovered a composer, Thomas Tallis, who wrote some really beautiful music. And low and behold, his work was performed during Evensong! I found a recording of the piece that we heard performed, it's called "If Ye Love Me". Enjoy! And don't mind the cartoon, I know it's kind of goofy ;)

After that we went out for dinner for our last night in London. Can you guess where we ate? Mother Mash. Like I said, I just couldn't stop thinking about it from the night before. I ordered the EXACT same thing I had had the first time, and it tasted just as good :)