July 11, 2014

Eurotrip: York, You Surprised Me

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

So as I presumed, York turned out fine. Well, more than just fine. It crushed my nerves and exceeded every good expectation. York was amazing. I’ll start with the city itself. Its beauty surpassed everything I’d seen so far. It was this quaint little gem of a city with narrow bricked streets; tons of shops, pubs, and places to eat; lots of history; ancient buildings; and a river running through the heart of it all.

The people there were very friendly and knew the area well, unlike London, which made navigating to my hostel a breeze. After checking in, I spent my first day catching up on sleep in the hostel (which was much nicer than I anticipated) and just walking around this unique city. I ate a late lunch at a small Italian place where nearly everything on the menu was foreign. Whatever it was I ordered was really good. After eating out a few times now, I began to realize that you don’t get assigned a waiter or waitress at restaurants over here – it’s more of a free-for-all – and you don’t ever have to tip, which is awesome! After lunch, I toured the famous York Minister, and while I was beyond impressed by its age and size, I have to admit the inside wasn’t as pretty as the church in my home town. It gave me a new appreciation for the St. Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville, Iowa. For a few extra pounds, I opted to do the Minister tower tour which offered a scenic view of the city. I climbed 275 steps up a narrow and winding stairwell that had a dungeon feel with tiny windows letting in just enough light to see around each corner. Each window I climbed past made me feel like it was my chance to yell out to a knight in shining armor to come rescue me. I finally reached the top which had a gorgeous 360° view overlooking the whole city. It made it well worth the climb. On the way down, a family of six from America was ahead of me. The kids were bickering and goofing off the whole way down. I couldn’t help but chuckle at them because they reminded me so much of my own family. At one point the father even turned around and commented that they really do love each other despite their arguing. I laughed and told him he did not need to explain. Listening to them brought back so many fond memories of my own family vacations, and I was thoroughly enjoying it. I realized at that moment that I missed the five crazy people I call family and how much I love trips with them.

With the tour over, I was craving something sweet (surprise surprise). I remember walking past a couple of chocolate and ice cream shops earlier that piqued my interest, so I wandered around in search of them. Unfortunately, I missed out because all the shops started closing around 5pm. By 5:30 already the town was pretty quiet. The restaurant bars and some local pubs remained opened though.

I walked back to the hostel before dinner to freshen up and see if anything was happening. I went into the lounge area where I saw a young American-looking gentleman sitting on his computer. I saw him check in alone earlier, so I asked him if he ate dinner yet and if he cared to join me in hopes of some company for the evening. He politely accepted my invitation and off we went to hunt for some good food.

His name was Matt, and he was from Canada but currently living in Scotland. We were both in the same boat traveling solo for the sake of adventure. We had a lovely dinner with great conversation and lots of laughs. I was exhausted after another day of travel so we went back to the hostel after dinner but agreed to meet up and explore the next day. Matt convinced me to stick around York for an extra night, though it didn’t take much persuasion!

I spent the rest of the evening on the hostel computer lining up my next night’s stay and trying to book hostels for the Dublin music festival next weekend. Someone had changed the language on the computer to Japanese so accomplishing this was challenging, but the IT geek in me was determined to figure out how to change it back to English. While attempting this, a Kiwi man named Roy approached me and said he tried earlier with no success, so it turned into a team effort. After a good half hour, Roy went to bed but not before I invited him to join Matt and I the next day. After another 15 minutes or so I finally figured it out – back to English!

I woke up early the next morning to the Danish family of five whom I was sharing my hostel room with getting ready for the day. I noticed they all slept in the same clothes they spent the previous day in and took off again without showering or changing. I went back to sleep, and by 11am, Matt, Roy and I were venturing out into the town. We started with the historic train museum and then walked part of “the wall” which is the original stone wall circling the entire city of York. We then hopped on a riverboat and cruised the river soaking in the sun and enjoying a few cocktails. Afterward, we walked to a pub nearby for food and more alcoholic beverages. We quizzed each other on world geography for over an hour! It was a lot of fun, and a few locals even joined in on the trivia. We bar hopped a couple of places and then ended up meeting a local girl and some of her friends who took us out the rest of the evening. A bit of advice if you’re ever in the UK: don’t order an Irish Car Bomb – it’s offensive here unlike in the U.S. It was an absolutely amazing day spent with strangers who felt like lifelong friends.

This morning Matt and I checked out the owls at a park close by, grabbed lunch at a French café, and then with a bitter-sweet goodbye caught our trains to leave the city. Next up, the city of Lincoln in Lincolnshire where I’ll be meeting up with a friend I met on a different vacation earlier this year. York left me with a lot more confidence that my time in Europe will continue to be an amazing experience. I really hope this feeling lasts for the next few weeks. We shall see!