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Learn about York, England by reading Walk Along the Ancient Wall-York, England by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

Walk Along the Ancient Wall-York, England

by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer and WTA Member

York Gate
One of the gates in the wall as seen today.
Photo courtesy of Sandy Zimmerman

York, England is one of the world’s most exciting cities and is proudly adorned with remnants of its past. This city was founded in AD 71 by the Romans and they stayed until 410. History calls this time the Dark Ages. It wasn’t known as York until around the year 1000. The center of York is enclosed by the city's medieval walls, still intact after over 1,900 years! We walked along this World Heritage Site for hours and still did not see the entire wall. Imagine the Roman legions patrolling these walls in the third century AD. Known as the finest and most complete in England, the wall stretches over two miles measuring 13’ high and 6’ wide. Perched high above the city, it was an easy walk on cement sidewalks with many vantage points along the way. The gateways through York’s defenses are called gatehouses or “bars”. There are four main bars-Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar. These bars restricted traffic in medieval times, were used to extract tolls, and for defensive positions in times of war. Besides the four main bars, there are two smaller bars-Fishergate Bar and Victoria Bar.

York Cathedral
Part of the spectacular cathedral in York.
Photo courtesy of Sandy Zimmerman

York Minster (www.yorkminster.org), which took over 250 years to complete, stands at the city's center and is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe (largest is the Cologne Cathedral). It is the seat of the Archbishop of York, which is the second-highest office of the Church of England and its formal title is The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York. It contains the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

The Shambles (www.britainexpress.com/cities/york/shambles.htm) are narrow medieval streets, lined with shops, boutiques and tea rooms. Most of these premises were once butchers' shops. The hooks from which the meat was hung and the shelves on which it was laid out can still be seen outside some of them. The street also contains the Shrine of the Saint Margaret Clitherow, although it is not located in the house where she lived. Margaret Clitherow (1556 - 1586) was an English saint and martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. She was arrested for the crime of harboring Roman Catholic priests and refused to plead to the case. She was executed by being crushed to death with an immense weight of rocks and stones.

The National Railway Museum (www.nrm.org.uk) is situated just beyond the York station and is part of the British National Museum of Science and Industry. It tells the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society. It is home to the largest collection of railway locomotives in the world and included in this collection are the world's fastest steam locomotive - LNER 4468 Mallard and the world famous 4472 Flying Scotsman. Also on the 20 acre site are hundreds of thousands of other items and records of social, technical, artistic and historical interest, exhibited mostly in three large halls near York railway station. It is the largest museum of its type in the world.

York Reinactor
A Roman re-enactor explains the importance of the wall to visitors.
Photo courtesy of Sandy Zimmerman

Some of York’s other famous stops are the Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum and Gardens (www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk), JORVIK Viking Centre (www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk), York Art Gallery (www.yorkartgallery.org.uk), Richard III Museum (www.richardiiimuseum.co.uk), the Merchant Adventurers' Hall (www.theyorkcompany.co.uk), the medieval house Barley Hall (http://barleyhall.co.uk), Fairfax House (www.fairfaxhouse.co.uk), the Treasurer's House, York Dungeon, York Boat Tour (www.yorkboat.co.uk), and more. You can ride the Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus around the city.

From Medieval defense to Victorian promenade, York’s history is filled with stories of the Romans, Vikings, and Normans, as well as Medieval and Victorian times. We were amazed to see striking changes in the buildings and streets from one section to another representing the different eras. While strolling around the time worn buildings, there were many shops, sidewalk cafes and museums to attract our attention.

Don’t miss York’s Ghost Tours (www.ghosthunt.co.uk) to haunted pubs, hotels, and everywhere ghosts hang out.

Events

We were happy to see one of the largest gatherings of sword dancer events, the International Sword Spectacular. With dancers from seven European countries, the US, and England, the parades and demonstrations filled the streets. They were celebrating ancient sword dancing with its European roots. The Spectacular’s organizers invited the public to join one of the sword dance groups with free tuition or try the beginner’s workshops. Sword dances have been performed across Europe for 700 years.

Places to Eat

Chef-owner Chris Pragnell of Café no. 8 Bistro (www.cafeno8.co.uk), says, “I care about my cooking and am my own critic. Ideas come to me and I put my own creations together. People eat with their eyes. The food has to look good. My dishes are influenced from the world. I don’t want to be confined just to Yorkshire.” Chef Chris offers interesting combinations like honey roasted home-smoked salmon, North African spiced meat balls, and wild and chestnut mushroom lasagna. We enjoyed dining outside on their patio. Most tourists will be able to find Café no 8 as it is located at Gillygate, along the wall, in York. Breakfast: 2.95- 6.95 pounds; Lunch: 8.95-10.95 pounds; Sandwiches: 5.95-8.95 pounds; Dinner: 13.95-16.95 pounds.

With a musical-themed setting of song sheets papering the walls, Chef Ian Hancox, co-owner of the Café Concerto (www.cafeconcerto.biz), describes his food as “music for your mouth.” Everything is different about this Café. We sat at antique sewing machine tables, looked at huge blackboards as menus, and listened to the music of Louie Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. Dinner became a very pleasant interlude. It was a surprise to find Cajun-spiced swordfish, Thai-style salad, Moroccan couscous, local Aberdeen Angus beef and Gressinghan duck breast.

Customers can order a starter prepared into a larger portion for their entrée or vice versa because Chef Ian wants everyone to be happy. Concerto’s perfect location is inside the walls, in the center of ancient York, opposite the Minster’s west door, by the main stairway of Peter Gate. Deli Sandwiches: 6.75-7.95 pounds; Platters: 8.95 pounds; Hot Lunches: 7.75-9.95 pounds; Salads: 8.95-9.75 pounds; Dinner: 8.95- 15.95 pounds with evening specials from 4.95 pounds; Children’s Menu: 2.25-4.25 pounds.

Getting There

BMI schedules direct and daily connecting flights from the United States to England. 800-788-0555, www.bmiregional.com/en.

BMI made history as the first airline to use Tempus 2000 on all transatlantic flights. They administered the first electrocardiogram (ECG) recorded in flight and transmitted by satellite to physicians on the ground. It is still the only airline flying transatlantic that has this innovative telemedicine system that allows crew members to obtain clinically accurate vital signs on passengers taken ill during a flight.

Tourist Information

York Tourist Information: www.visityork.org; http://www.york.tourist-information-uk.com/.

York Visitor’s Pass - See the city including over 30 attractions with discounts and special offers: www.yorkpass.com

Entry Requirements

Americans must hold a valid passport; a visa is not required. UK immigration officials decide on the length of stay up to six months depending on the reason for travel.

Notice: This information is current as of November 2008. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.