York: Trip Report

February 16, 2017

I'm on half term this week, and my mum and I decided to take a trip to York for a few days to take advantage of the time off. On Monday we set off on the train, and we arrived home again a few hours ago (it's Wednesday as I write this). We had a lovely trip, and I wanted to share my experience with you in case you're planning a trip to York and/or you're curious to know what we got up to.

Day One: Monday:
We arrived in York at about 11, and went to our hotel first. We stayed at the Monkbar Best Western Hotel, and it was lovely. Everything is decorated beautifully, from the communal areas to our hotel room. However, our room was very, very hot, and the window barely opened, which meant we were both uncomfortable trying to get to sleep at night.

When we were done settling into the hotel, we went to find somewhere for lunch. We ended up near the Shambles, and ate in a restaurant called Lucky Days. We liked the food there very much; you choose a main (I had the vegetable frittata) and then got to choose three items from the 'salad' menu. I put salad in inverted commas because I had cous cous, pasta, and a tomato salad, which isn't very salady in my opinion! However, all of this was tasty, except for the mushroom penne which I found to be quite bland. That said, the tomato salad and Mediterranean cous cous were both good.
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After lunch, we went to the Castle Museum. This was full of interesting exhibits, including sets of rooms through the ages, working their way through the centuries. Our favourite part of this museum was the Victorian street. There were lots of storefronts to look at, and rooms such as a police department and schoolhouse to explore as well. All of the shop names were genuine businesses at some point, and everything in their window displays were genuine Victorian wares. There were also people dressed as Victorian people wandering around the streets doing their shopping!

Also at the Castle Museum was an exhibit on toys through the ages, the body through the ages (fashion and beauty standards), and a look into the debtors' prison and the people who were sent there.

When we came out of the museum, it was too early to eat, and everywhere was shutting up, so we had a quick look in some shops before going back to the hotel. When we came out again, we walked towards the river to go to Pizza Express. Mum's pizza was very cold from here, which was disappointing, but my pasta (I had the spinach and ricotta cannelloni) was delicious. It was very cheesy - always a plus! - and flavourful. My pudding here was brilliant - I had the chocolate glory, which was essentially a giant sundae with chocolate brownie pieces and fudge sauce. What more could a chocoholic ask for?! After this we went back to the hotel for some rest before bed.

Day Two: Tuesday
On Tuesday we woke up fairly early and went down to breakfast at about ten to nine. We were impressed with the choice of breakfast at the Monkbar: full cooked breakfast buffet (they even had vegetarian sausages, although I wasn't actually a fan), a selection of fruit salads, some pastries, toast with plenty of jams, and about five different options of fruit juice. There was also tea, coffee and water.

After we'd had our fill, we headed to the Minster, the large, grand cathedral in York. Here we explored the main cathedral, enjoying the exhibits about the stained glass windows and other details that made it such a magnificent building. The Minster was mostly very peaceful, but there was a school tour going around at the same time, who were very noisy. On the one hand, it's nice to see children getting excited about history and exploring an old building like this, but on the other hand I think something should have been said about respecting other people wandering round. I'm not Christian, so it didn't disrupt my prayers, but if it had I would have been quite upset, as the quiet, moving space would have been a lovely place to pray if not for that. Despite this, I enjoyed the interactive exhibits and taking in the history.

In the Undercroft, they have an exhibit about the history of the Minster at York. Here you can find out about when it was initially built as a Roman fort and how it has progressed and developed over the centuries it's been there. This was really interesting, and I'd recommend this exhibit if you're in York. The interactive sections of this made it really special - mum and I built a Gothic arch, and we walked on a sheet of glass over some Roman remains.

When we finished at the Minster, we did a trail around York called the 'Fabulous York Cat Trail'. Both of us really enjoyed this, as we're both cat people, and it led us to various streets we hadn't seen yet as well. When we finished the first half, we went to York Glass, who run the trail, and bought some lucky glass cats in our birthstone colours.

By the time we'd finished our cat trail, it was time to meet some of our family for afternoon tea at Betty's. This was just lovely. I had four sandwiches on my bottom tier, all of which were delicious. Then on the next tier of my cake stand I had a scone with cream and jam. The scone was perfectly made and the cream and jam were really tasty! Finally there was a chocolate brownie, a macaroon, and a fruit tart. Even the coffee here was amazing! I'd really recommend Betty's for afternoon tea. When we were done, I bought some fondant mice and some more macaroons from the shop.

That evening we went to Bella Italia for tea. It was full of couples because it was Valentine's Day, so we were in a room upstairs which they'd opened for more capacity. York is a city with castle gardens, a cathedral, nice churches, a river... We had a beautiful view of a Poundland. This provided us with some entertainment as we watched a couple of workers set up for the next day! Our food here was lovely, I had a pizza that was much larger than expected, with mozzarella, basil, pesto, and tomato. It was delicious, and I really enjoyed it.

When we went back to the hotel I had a bath with a Twilight bath bomb I'd bought from Lush earlier that day, and then we went to bed.

That night's sleep was the worst I've had in a long time. Both of us were awake at around 4:00, when I got out of bed to fiddle with the radiator in an attempt at cooling our room down. I was sweating at night in February. Come on.

Day Three: Wednesday
Because of our lack of sleep the night before, we woke up later than intended, and ended up at breakfast at 9:30, a little behind schedule.

Wednesday's breakfast was such a disappointment. Having enjoyed it the day before, I was looking forward to a cinnamon roll, but they'd run out by the time they arrived. In the half hour we were there before they said they'd stop serving breakfast, no one replenished the stock of pastries. When I went down, there weren't any plates there (put plates on the pile when you notice they're running low, not when there haven't been any plates for ten minutes). And when I went for a fruit salad, I ended up with about three slices of apple, a badly prepared piece of grapefruit and a couple of bits of melon. When you advertise that you stop serving breakfast at 10:00, don't give up before then. Not everyone gets up at the crack of dawn, and we'd still appreciate a nice breakfast!

We didn't let the dreadful breakfast get us down though, and we headed to King's Square after checking out to get to York's Chocolate Story. This was an interesting look into the history of chocolate making in York, looking at Rowntree's, Terry's, and Cadbury's to name a few. There were plenty of samples of chocolate, and some demonstrations on chocolate making. We even got to make and decorate a chocolate lollipop. Mum and I really enjoyed this, but we felt our tour group was a bit too big. We'd recommend going later in the day rather than first thing in a morning, because it was difficult for us to see at times and we felt a bit in the way! That aside, it was a tasty and interesting thing to do!

After that we headed to Jamie's Italian for lunch. This was where we'd tried to get into the night before, but was fully booked. Neither of us felt hungry enough for a main, so we both just had starters and a pudding. Mum really enjoyed her cauliflower soup, and my tomato bruschetta was delicious! It was full of flavour, and I would happily have had three more after it! I will look for the recipe to make it myself because I enjoyed it so much. My pudding was the chocolate brownie, which was served with ice cream and some pieces of popcorn. This was very nice, the brownie was very gooey and the combination of brownie, ice cream and popcorn was lovely!

When we were done with lunch, we went to the castle gardens for a bit (fun fact, I broke my collarbone here when I was four), and enjoyed looking for squirrels and listening to the birds. After this, we went for a walk along the city walls, which gave us great views of the city, before we had to go and get our train.

My verdict:

Monkbar Hotel: 3 stars

Lucky Days: 4 stars
Pizza Express: 4 stars
Betty's: 5 stars
Bella Italia: 4.5 stars
Jamie's Italian - 5 stars

The Castle Museum: 4.5 stars
The Minster: 4 stars
The Fabulous York Cat Trail: 4 stars
York's Chocolate Story: 4.5

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to York. If you've found this post helpful or interesting, please share it around, and if you'd like to follow my blog you can do so in the right hand side bar. Thank you for reading this far!

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