UK 2019: York

Pictures from this part of the trip can be found in the York gallery.

Day 6: Thursday May 23

We ate breakfast at the McDonald's in the hotel parking lot and discovered a key advantage of the kiosk ordering system — it's easy to customize your meal! So Ken could order a breakfast sandwich with double meat and no bun, no problem. The only issue was that McDonald's required a chip-and-PIN card to pay at the kiosk. So, the credit card didn't work, and Julie's trick of using the debit card didn't work either. For the rest of the trip, when using a kiosk, we had to try it once, then error out, get a printed receipt, and then pay at the register.

Our plan for the day was to visit Hadrian's Wall and the James Herriot house on the way to York. We got started later than expected, then the drive to Hadrian's Wall took longer than expected. We stopped by the Roman Army Museum where they had a good video of the Hadrian's Wall area, then to the Housesteads Roman Fort which was the best-preserved section of the wall. We could have spent a lot more time there, but we had a couple-hour drive to the James Herriott house which closed at 5pm. Julie grabbed a quick sandwich at the fort whereas Ken had to settle for a Snickers candy bar.

Ken has read several of James Herriot's books, so he was excited to see the World of James Herriot museum and visitor center in Thirsk. James Alfred Wight was the real-life James Herriot (he used a pseudonym because his veterinarian code of ethics said you couldn't advertise). The visitor center was in James Wight's home, and it was preserved much the way it looked when he lived there, including a bomb shelter in the basement.

Much of our entire trip turned into a quest for good gluten-free food. Ken found a place called Miller's in Haxby, York, that served gluten free fish & chips. We figured he wouldn't have too many opportunities to eat fish and chips, and decided to try it out. It was on the way from Thirsk to York, so we stopped there for dinner before heading to our B&B. After arriving at the Bronte Guesthouse, with convenient on-street parking, we wandered around the old medieval town for a bit.

Day 7: Friday May 24

We started the day with the Rick Steves walking tour, including walking the top of part of the medieval city wall. Ken bashed his knee on the exit from the city wall. Oops. The door was ancient oak with metal studs in it, probably meant to stand up to an axe. Instead, he bruised his knee and was gimpy for a week. The stairs up to the wall were clearly designed for someone smaller than Ken.

After the wall, we toured the York Minster, which was probably our favorite cathedral from the whole trip. It was incredibly light and airy, including a Chapter House with a unique suspended ceiling. For lunch, we had some gluten-free boxes at the York Roast Co (worth going again). After lunch, we visited the National Railway Museum, which had a large selection of trains, including a Japanese bullet train and one where you could go walk down a ramp and look at the underside of a steam engine. We liked it a lot.

Later in the day, we also stopped by the Yorkshire Museum. There were some good exhibits on York's history, but it was otherwise not worthwhile. This was also our first experience with the odd English insistence on credit card signatures. They insisted on seeing Ken's passport because the signature was smudged off the back of his Visa card, so we ended up just paying in cash. (This became a pattern for the rest of the trip, so Ken started carrying his U.S. driver's license along with his credit card so he'd be able to pay without digging around in his money belt for his passport.) We took a break for some ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, and when we got back a local falconry rescue center was doing an exhibition outside the museum, so we stayed to watch the show.

After a short break back at the B&B, we headed York Minster to watch the nightly Evensong service, and then had dinner at the Cafe No. 8 Bistro, which was one of our favorite dinners on the entire trip. Then, we went to the nearby White Horse pub and watched local singer/songwriter Roz Walker for a couple hours. Julie's favorite was her song about losing her sunglasses in Saint Tropez.

Day 8: Saturday May 25

We left after breakfast and drove to Coventry, site of a cathedral wrecked in World War II. Building on its peace work immediately after the war, the cathedral is now an international center for reconciliation. We had a nice little lunch at the cafe in the basement of the cathedral.

We also visited the excellent Coventry Transport Museum. Coventry was one of the main manufacturing centers for bicycles, motorcycles, and cars which boomed in the late 1800s to mid 1900s. Like Detroit, Conventry had a decline in the 1970s and 1980s, and all the British car makers there closed. We saw a lot of antique vehicles and could have spent even more time there, except that we had only put 2 hours on the parking meter. We were in a bit of a panic when we finally remembered that, and rushed out of the museum about 2.5 hours after parking. Fortunately, there was no ticket or clamp on the car when we got back.

The signage for the parking lots was horrendous. We had taken several laps of the area trying to find the parking in the first place, and the same thing happened when we tried to find the road out of town. On our way out of town, we stopped at a giant Tesco to get some food for upcoming days. We also bought another USB A-C cable to replace the one we had temporarily lost, so Ken's phone would work with the Android Car system in the Kia.

We had intended to drive to Stratford-upon-Avon on our way into the Cotswolds, but we had spent so much time in Coventry that there wouldn't have been time for it. Most attractions in the UK were open only 10am-5pm, which meant that you couldn't see an attraction before leaving in the morning, and it was tough to drive somewhere new and see something by closing time. It was kind of a pain.

Another theme of this trip is that it always took longer to drive somewhere than we expected, because Google Maps consistently underestimated the trip time, or it took us longer to find the parking lot / hotel / etc. in town. We eventually realized that one problem was that Julie had calculated the driving times during the US evening, so the estimated driving times were for the middle of the night in the UK, which of course was best case.

We eventually headed to the Cotswolds and the Little Broom B&B in Maugersbury. We missed the sign for Maugersbury and ended up driving in circles outside Stow-on-the-Wold while being tailgated by impatient city folk in expensive SUVs. (This was sort of a general preview of the roads in the Cotswolds over the weekend, were we sometimes ran into wolf packs of $100,000 cars screaming down little country roads at speed. It was a little surreal to be in a 500-year old village or walking by a sheep pasture while being passed by a bright green Lamborghini and its friends.)

After getting settled in at the B&B, we walked back into Stow-on-the-Wold. We wandered around town for a bit, didn't see any exciting gluten free options, and ended up at the ok-but-not-great Indian place (which is what the owner of Little Broom told us happened to pretty much everyone). After dinner, we found the starting place for the walk we planned to do in the morning, which was a fair bit outside of town on a narrow road with no shoulder.