I was on my way up to Newcastle upon Tyne for three reasons.
- I wanted to get out of London for a couple of days.
- I have been eager to see what my university town’s namesake was like.
- I wanted to find and consume a decent pie.
These all seemed like fair reasons, so I decided to make my way up north. While booking, I discovered that if I went to Newcastle via York, I could buy my tickets at a third of the price.
Who doesn’t like saving money? I decided I’d divvy up my trip to spend a night in York and booked the tickets.
Of course, this was all decided several months before the fact. As usual, I told myself I’d get organised a couple of days before my trip… and naturally didn’t. Instead, I rushed to London King’s Cross and boarded the train without having done any research for either of the two cities. All I knew of York was that it was small, pretty and would be nothing like New York, which was to be expected.
Luckily, I had a very helpful and informative Airbnb host, who gave me some pamphlets and a rundown over what there was to do in the city. I decided I would walk the wall of the city, check out York Minster, grab a late lunch and see where the evening took me.
After consuming a giant Yorkshire pudding in a small pub in the city, I made my way to the Minster. After spending quite some time in Europe, I had thought I would be all cathedral-ed out. Not quite. The Minster was immense in size, beauty and prestige. I dug it very much, to the point where I decided I would return in an hour’s time to hear the choir sing at the Evensong service.
I’m not conventionally religious – in fact after 13 years of Catholic school, the last thing I would ever want to do in this lifetime is attend a church service. The Minster choir however, is said to be truly heavenly to hear. While I was traversing across the floors of the cathedral, I could hear the organist playing. I thought it would be an exceptional experience.
So, I rushed back to the cathedral, arriving just in time for the service. A smiling priest met me at the door, handing me a printed prayer card. I bounded up the steps to the back of the church and took an extremely cushy seat. Settled, I gazed around, noting that the area looked awfully empty.
The priest rose.
“Apologies to everyone who came wanting to hear the choir sing,” he started. My heart and spirit sank at his words.
As it transpired, the choir, who were normally meant to have a break every Monday, had performed at a congregation the night before (this being a Tuesday night). So, tonight they were resting and the Minster was having a normal service instead.
“If you will all look down at the cream card in front of you, we will begin the evening’s prayers.” The priest smiled. I looked down at the paper in my hand. My card was white.
That was the start of a half hour of complete and utter confusion – being unable to follow along the service, find the hymn in my hymn book and in no way able to leave at any point… all while having nightmare flashbacks to church services during my time at school. Religion is not for me.
I emerged from the Minster as soon as I was able. It was fine. I would find the pub that my host had mentioned – The House of Trembling Madness (what a truly terrific name), eat a quick meal there. Then I could meander back to my room and formulate a new plan for the evening.
The House of Trembling Madness for a short walk from the Minster. I arrived there at 5:45, ridiculously early in my books, as my host had suggested. However, I had completely forgotten that I was, after all, still in England. A country where everyone heads to the pub as soon as the working day is done. Small to start with, it was rammo. I had no chance of finding a seat.
I left the building with a sigh and headed on back to the house. On the way home, I passed a Christmas market that was in full swing, selling sausaged and Glühwein. My spirits lifted.
Okay! New plan! I’d go back, have a cup of tea and chill. Then head back into the city for the “world famous” ghost tour that night, grabbing a sausage and filling my Keepcup up with some mulled wine on the way. The perfect accompaniment to a cold winter’s night, traipsing around and learning about the darker aspects of York’s history.
I was out the door by 7:40pm, arriving at the markets shortly after. Typically, they were closed. Only the sausage stall remained open, due to a Christmas party that was taking place nearby. Was anything going to go right?! I grabbed a Bratwurst after a lengthy wait and ran to where the Ghost walk tour commenced – determined to make the most of it.
It was 8pm on the dot by the time I got to the site… which was deserted. I looked around, noticing a sign that said that the tour had started at 7:30pm. I had the wrong meeting point for the wrong tour and it was too late to rectify this mistake.
So, I gave up. I walked back to the house, made myself another cup of tea and settled in for the night.
Nothing went right in York, but I had a jolly good time in any case.