“I learned to change my accent; in England, your accent identifies you very strongly with a class, and I did not want to be held back.” – Sting
Ahhh… I’ve just enjoyed the best night of sleep I’ve had my entire trip; cozy in the fluffy down comforters of Becca’s guestroom. I finally feel rested for the first time in weeks. I meet the girls in the kitchen where we spend a leisurely morning eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and discussing books. Dave is unlucky enough to be with us and I’m convinced he must find us all crazy. When I say as much, he responds that he’s relieved that his wife has like-minded (book-obsessed) people around and perhaps she’s not so crazy after all, but at the same time mildly scared that there are more of us out there.
Soon we’re back in the car headed to spend the day in York. Besides driving on the opposite side of the car and street, the motorway reminds me a bit of California. You know, when you take away the lovely rolling hills, the medieval cottage-like houses dotting the hills… and of course, the stone walls. We arrive in York and I discover it’s a walled city. Still! Today! Here I go again – transported back in time. It’s amazing how easy that is for me to do here in England. I don’t think I even had that ‘back in time’ feeling this much in Italy. Thoughtful of our interest in history, Becca leads us through York en route to Jorvik. Jorvik is a Viking Centre that holds real excavations and objects from the 1,000 year old town. Jorvik=York in Viking Speak (aka Norse). I have no idea what to expect inside and am wow’d. There are excavated layers of the old Viking village encased below the glass floor we walk over. We go on to learn more about the famous 1976 Coppergate dig that accidentally uncovered the thousand-year old homes, impressively preserved thanks to the layers being “moist and peaty.” Long story short… an impressive and rare find!
The exhibit is filled with artifacts including clothing, jewelry, pottery weapons, and even a full skeleton giving archeologist a picture of what the people of Jorvik ate and wore and how they spent their time. After the exhibits there is a fun “Disneyland-like” ride that transports us back to ancient Jorvik. The little car takes us through the recreated village, complete with speaking robot/wax people and animals that are incredibly lifelike. There are background sounds and smells to really create the illusion. The people are so lifelike, it’s almost unsettling when they look at you and speak! Fascinating. We ride through houses and down streets, hearing the old Norse language. Even better than the ride, is the Viking dressed staff member at the end of the ride. Becca asks him a couple of questions, that turn into a 30 minute lesson on Vikings. Were all completely sucked into the history as he is clearly passionate about his subject. I’ve learned, not only about the Vikings themselves, but also that so much of what we think are myths. Most notably that their helmets certainly didn’t have horns on the side, as a hard hit to the head would be concentrated rather than sliding off a smooth helmet. Sounds logical. On our way out of the Jorvik Centre, we all instantly look for books to purchase or order, newly intrigued to learn more about this time in history.
We continue our day in York, heading next to the Shambles; the oldest, original street in York. There are old stacked houses learning out into the street at different distances. No smooth, lateral housing here on this fairytale street. Along the stroll, I learned about Guy Fawkes. This is notable to me, because I knew nothing about him… and have since noticed him or the day referenced in multiple novels. Fancy that. I actually learned a lot about social differences, language differences (and we thought we all spoke “English”), and historical trivia. Becca and Kirsty are fantastic travel partners. We all while away the rest of the afternoon chatting and popping into shops and bookstores. We’ve gone into so many bookstores! I’ve continue to add to my list of books to buy later when I’m not limited by the size of my luggage.
After lunch, we make our way to the gem of York… the York Minster; a wonderful, gorgeous, towering cathedral. As we’re about to enter, courtesy of a 10 minutes sprinkle, we notice the most vibrant rainbow I’ve ever seen! This double rainbow, actually appears to glow. I only wish I could capture the vivid colors on film. I’ll have to store this one in the memory bank.
Entering the momentarily forgotten Minster, I experience the classic awe that always accompanies my visits to European churches. The size, the plethora of gorgeous stained glass windows, the peacefulness.
Before we leave for the day, it’s decided that I must enjoy the quintessential English experience and have a spot o’ tea at Betty’s Tea Room. This popular spot in York is old-fashioned and Victorian and lovely, complete with appropriately old-fashioned dressed waitresses and tableware. I order tea and a lemon curd tart that’s delivered with a thousand tools; tea trays, tea-pot, cup, saucer, strainer, strainer holder (yes the strainer has a special holder!), sugar, lemon, milk, and multiple spoons. This is just for the tea. Just for MY tea. Blimey! By this time I’m feeling mildly posh and intimidated and wishing I was in a crowded coffee bar in Italy sipping an espresso. I know how to do that properly…. And there is only a tiny cup and saucer involved. I learn that “tea time” is actually the Northern English way of saying dinner. (Like ‘supper’ in the Midwest) I think back to conversations that suddenly make more sense knowing this tidbit. I’ve learned many of the differences between Southerners (Londoners) and Northerners, most obviously their difference in accent. Though I’ll stick to my opinion that they all sound posh and I adore them. I know, how unique… loving British accents. Surely I’m the only person to think so. 😉
So, back to my tea ‘equipment’, I grab my strainer to pour a second cup o’tea, but it gets stuck in the ‘holder’, which of course drops… right into my tea… splashing me in the process. Right, so proper, Tisha. I clearly belong here. We all enjoy a laugh; American’s don’t belong in tea rooms, at least not this American, and at least not tea rooms with 3-tiered pastry platters and live piano players.
I’ll stick with my Starbucks cafes I suppose.