York & Bradford, England
Can’t say I had the best start to the day. For about the millionth time, Danny had a perfectly hot, strong shower while mine was the complete opposite. I honestly don’t know how this keeps happening. Then I got stuck with the job of filling the car with water, a chore that usually takes five minutes. At this campsite though, it involved climbing over a wire fence, filling up a water bucket from a trickling tap, scaling back over the wire fence and pouring the meagre amount into the car. After half an hour, I was over it.
The next four and half hours were spent driving to York. The weather constantly alternated between sunny, clear skies and dense haze, although I don’t think I missed much when the views were limited - green fields with hedge borders get a little mundane after a while. When we finally arrived, York was covered with a fog so thick that it looked like night-time at 4 p.m. (although it does become dark at 5 p.m. now, so there really isn't much difference).
Walking into the city after parking the car, we passed four pubs within 100 metres. Danny immediately declared how much he loves York. Bypassing all of these, we continued on to another bar called The Stone Roses (named after the band, which Danny thought was the cooleset thing ever). It turned out to be what we would call a bogan pub in Australia (maybe uncultured or uncivilised would be more refined terms), but I was happy just to be out of the cold. We had a couple of drinks, hung out with the locals, but didn't see any reason to stick around long. On our way back to the car we detoured via another bar, which was a bit more upscale with a slightly older clientele. Although these weren't my sort of drinking spots, Danny couldn't have been happier – he has already made plans to move back to the UK.
The stars aligned for us the next day and everything seemed to work out in our favour. We had the unpleasant task of getting a roadworthy (MOT) for our van, which we had booked several days ago. This caused us quite a bit of concern, as we didn't know how much we had to repair, how long this would take and how much it would cost. With no clue as to how the process worked, we asked the mechanic for an estimated time frame for completing the MOT test (thinking it would be hours). His response: 45 minutes. This was the first piece of good news.
Forty-five later we returned to find out the results. There were a few things that needed fixing, but they were all relatively minor (amazingly, having an exhaust pipe is not required for the MOT). Second piece of good news. We asked if there was anywhere nearby that could assist us, and he pointed in the direction of an auto repair store only a few doors down. After explaining our situation and the slight hurry we were in to this second mechanic, he said he could probably fit us in today. Third piece of good news. So we left the van with him and walked into the middle of the city.
In York, we wasted a couple of hours using the internet in a cafe, a luxury we had not been afforded recently. Just as we were planning on taking a stroll around to stretch our legs, the mechanic rang to say he had finished the repairs and it was ready to go. We presumed we would be here for a week sorting everything out, and the whole exercise was complete before lunchtime. Fourth piece of good news. We couldn't believe how lucky we were.
Once we had picked up our fully roadworthy van, we headed back into York to explore it properly. First up was the city walls, a popular tourist attraction because you can walk along them. After experiencing the city walls of Dubrovnik we had high expectations, but York was a bit of a disappointment. All we really saw were a few houses and backyards. Giving up at the halfway point, we headed over to the York Minster, an overly large and ornate church. I couldn't even count the number of churches we have seen this past year - after a while they all sort of blend into one. Nearby was a store selling Cornish pasties, but Danny said it was sacrilegious to buy a Cornish pasty outside of Cornwall. He did agree, however, to buying pasties with more unusual flavours, so we ended up with a spicy chicken chorizo pasty and a Stilton beef pasty. Both were tasty, but clearly nothing like the original.
With our stomachs full we wandered along the Shambles, a cobbled laneway where many of the timber-framed houses are crooked and hang out over the alley, to the point where they are almost touching. Apparently, it is the most visited street in Europe. I'm not sure how they measure that or how it could possibly compete with famous roads in major cities, but I'll go along with it. Traditional, old-style stores, selling items such as sweets, fudge and random curiosities, lined most of the walkway. At the end we stopped at a bar called the Golden Fleece, known for being the oldest licensed pub in the UK. They say it is haunted, but we saw no evidence of this. Overall, it felt like the city hadn't been updated since the 1800s.
The rain started in the evening and stayed with us all night. In the morning the drizzle had stopped, but a haze hung around for most of the day. We decided to tackle the second half of the city wall, hoping it would offer us something more exciting than yesterday's endeavour. It didn’t. All we saw was street after street lined with old, identical workers' houses, stacked up next to each other with no yard in-between. The only break in the monotony was a small tower on a bare hill, and as far as I could tell it had no present-day purpose. There was nothing inside or around it, but I guess at one stage it was probably part of a larger structure.
Leaving York behind we drove on to Bradford, where Danny's grandparents are from. We visited them at the local cemetery, where a friendly employee helped us to locate the graves. It was sad to see how many people of the one family were buried in the large plot, most of whom Danny had never met. Afterwards, we stopped in at one of the dozen local fish and chip shops, run by a chatty elderly couple, and reflected on the memories Danny has of his grandparents. They were possibly the best fish and chips we had ever eaten.