Plan: We will return the rental car in Oxford, then take the train to York. We hope to see the York Minster, Castle Museum, and the Jorvick Viking Center today and tomorrow.
What Actually Happened (per Christine): We got up early, walked the long trek back to the car, drove back to Newton House, skipped breakfast, checked out and got our bags, then got the car and ourselves back in one piece to Enterprise. Luckily, we got there just before lots of other customers, so we got done first. And, Enterprise even gave us a ride back to the train station, so we didn't have to pay for a taxi. The driver on the way to the train station was quite nice; we talked about the differences between cars and roads in the US and the UK (he had relatives in the US). We made our train for York in good time and I got to work lots more on the web page on the train ride.
Once in York, we signed up for double-decker bus sightseeing tour to get our bearings of the city. We got to sit up on the top and it was quite fun. It rained a bit, but not hard and it stopped soon. We learned that, in York, a pub is a bar, a bar is a gate, and a gate is a street. We rode the bus once all the way round it's circuit, then got off on a street a few blocks from The Sycamore and walked the rest of the way.
They Sycamore was very nice. We had a room on the very top floor (3rd floor American, 2nd floor British), under the eaves. The room was absolutely tiny, but gorgeous, with a skylight window over the bed. We shared a "bathroom down the hall"(large bathroom with tub/shower) and a second WC with two other rooms. We had a tiny sink squeezed into the room; you actually had to sit on the bed to get in front of the sink.
We unloaded our suitcases and then set out to see the Yorkshire museum, since, like everyplace else we have encountered in England so far, it closed early at 5pm. The Yorkshire museum looked tiny from the outside, so when we got in, I tried to make the most of it by reading everything they had available. Mike was getting quite frustrated with my slow pace! :-) We had only covered about 4 rooms, when we heard a museum employee telling some people behind us that it was closing time. So, we headed on through the rest of the museum. Imagine my surprise when the museum led down two more levels and probably 20 or so more rooms before we exited. So, unfortunately, we did not get to see much of the Yorkshire Museum., but now I know a whole bunch about the early Roman occupation of York! We went walking about town, looking for some place to have dinner. We were both really sleepy after having stayed up so late the night before, but we were looking for just the perfect place. We probably searched for about and hour and a half before settling on "The Pitcher and the Piano," maybe not the perfect place, but we were getting really hungry. It was a trendy modern kinda place overlooking the River Ouse and the service was great. We had nachos for an appetizer and Mike had a pineapple chicken sandwich and I had a dish of bell peppers stuffed with beans, cheese and a tomato sauce. And of course we had our hard cider. Thank goodness for cider, so that I can look like I fit in with my half-pint without having to drink nasty beer. Loads of people were drinking Bud Light at this restaurant; I was rather surprised by that.
We then headed back to The Sycamore, stopping to take some picture of all the Roman ruins about town. We went for a short walk along part of the old city walls of York before heading to bed.
Plan: More sight-seeing in York. We also plan to ride a steam train on the North York Moors Railway where they filmed some of the Hogwarts Express scenes.
What Actually Happened (per Christine): We woke up very early at 6am, since breakfast was at 8:30am, and we knew that we had to share the showers with two other rooms. We overestimated our time by quite a bit and ended up waiting an hour or so for breakfast. Breakfast was pretty good: orange juice, cereal, tea, toast, baked beans (for breakfast?), mushrooms, tomatoes, hashbrowns and an egg. The only bad part was that we didn't have any say in our egg: it was fried over easy, which both Mike and I dislike. But we ate it anyway.
We first walked to the York tourist information center to find out what bus to take to get to the North York Moors Railway, as it starts in Pickering (about 25 miles north of York). We decided to go there in the afternoon and hit the Castle Museum first. We took the sightseeing bus and got off near Clifford's tower (see pictures), part of the original castle and a tragic site where a lot of Jewish people were massacred about a thousand years ago. We then went through the Castle Museum, which was the site of the castle and formerly a prison. It was started by a doctor in the 1800s who did house calls and was seeing a way of life disappearing, so he started collecting artifacts of his current and past times. The museum had a lot of really well-done exhibits about ordinary people's lives for the last 250 years or so. There was fun stuff about the advent of the modern era of cleanliness and sanitation, and lots of inventions that led up to such things as the vacuum cleaner, the toilet, the washing machine, etc. They had information about social treatment of marriage, birth, and death. They had rooms and even Victorian and Edwardian streets with shops set up with a display of antique wares. Apparently, even the storefronts were genuine and brought there from former shops throughout Yorkshire. The Castle Museum also had a display of costumes, toys, weapons, farm equipment and prison cells (since it used to be a prison). It was a very diverse and large museum and we did manage to get through it, with a reasonable amount of detail, in a few hours.
We then went to the train station to catch our bus to Pickering. Once in Pickering we found the North York Moors Railway and got tickets to Goatshead station (which was Hogsmeade station - the Hogwarts stop - in Harry Potter). The train was a steam train, very similar to The Hogwarts Express, and was very exciting to watch. The trains were older coach cars, lined with wood, with red cloth seats. We took the train to Goatshead station, looking at the beautiful and wild Yorkshire moors through the steam and smoke. Once at Goatshead, we took some pictures, then switched trains to a coal-burning train and headed back to Pickering. We got lots of good pictures.
Back in Pickering, we had an hour and a half before the next bus back to York, so we stopped in at a pub and got a half-pint of cider and watched part of the football (soccer) game. It was apparently the FA cup game (equivalent of the World Series or Superbowl for Britain), so the pub was fairly crowded. Manchester United was playing Arsenal, and though we only saw part of the game, we found out later that Arsenal won. This was quite sad, as we saw an Arsenal player actually holding a Manchester United player by the shoulder to keep him from getting the ball. Although the referees did call a penalty, this seemed a lot like cheating to us, so we were rooting for Manchester United. Also, apparently, there was a great scandal as some American businessman (not sure who) had just bought Manchester United that morning and everyone here was in an uproar about it. (That's the kind of thing you learn from the BBC news in the morning :-)
Back in York, we tried to go to the Minster, but it was already closed and it had started raining (really raining, not just the constant drizzling we'd had so far), so we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant, called "A Tandoori Night." It was a strange mix of elegant and tacky, with crystal chandeliers and china, paper napkins and one of those lighted waterfall pictures that Mike says you usually see in slightly more expensive chinese take-out places. The food was okay, not the best Indian food we've had and not the worst, but the service was very good.
After dinner, we went on a "Haunted Walk" tour. The guide was a very good storyteller and his accent almost sounded Scottish, with a very singsongy quality when he told his stories. He said that he was Yorkshire born and bred, so I guess that was just a Yorkshire accent. He told some ghostly stories (about a WWII ghost in seen in the Minster and a bunch of children who haunt the site where their bodies were hidden by evil schoolmaster Mr. Pimm), and some were just gruesome historical stories. (like the stories of the deaths of Guy Fawkes and Saint Margaret of York). It rained most of the time through the tour, so we were pretty soaked (in spite of our rain gear) by the time we got back to our B&B to dry out and sleep. One thing really interesting about the daylight. We must be quite far north, because it didn't get dark until nearly 10pm, and I woke up at 4am the next morning with sunlight coming through our skylight!