Today I am off to York, my fourth city in four days. This time I am going without Tigger, which makes it less fun. I have been invited to spend the day in York by family. My ticket has been paid for and I am living it up in First Class. The ticket inspector has just punched my ticket and I caught him giving me a sidelong glance. Maybe he was admiring the pin badges in my hat.
I have a single seat next to a window where I can watch the unfolding countryside. A nice thing about travelling in First is that you get free coffee. A touch of luxury from time to time is enjoyable.
This morning I got up early so as to have time to do the usual morning chores and get ready without undue haste. Then we strolled down to King’s Cross, intending to have breakfast in the Station Cafe, but it was not yet open. Instead we went to a little cafe across the road.
After breakfast we still had time to spare so we moseyed across to Starbuck’s for espressos. You would think I would be used to catching trains with all this travelling we do but I still get nervous about missing my train.
We went into King’s Cross station at 8:45 and my train, due to leave at 9:00, was already boarding. Tigger waited on the platform and we communicated by signs through the glass. It was her idea that I should move from my reserved seat next to another passenger to the nicer window seat.
The unfolding countryside is unfolding beautifully as I write, basking in golden sunshine under a blue sky barely mottled with white. Have the seasons changed place in England? Do we now have summer in what used to be autumn? I would be happy with that.
I wish Tigger were here as she enjoys travel and it is such a good day for it. Instead, she is off to Baker Street to reclaim a bag that she somehow managed to leave on a bus. (Later, Tigger let me know that the Baker Street lost property office does not open on Saturday.)
Just then, off to the right, I saw a flock of starlings in flight. This always makes me catch my breath. I watched them until they were out of sight hidden by the body of the train. It was a small flock that changed shape in flight like a ball of thread unwinding to form a single long strand.
What must it be like to be a starling flying in a flock like that, high above the green floor, in the cold sunlit air? We can never know, only fantasize about it, but it is a sight that always evokes wonder and a strange nostalgia in me.
The visit is over and I am on my way back to London. My train is a few minutes late but perhaps it will catch up along the way.
It was colder in York than it has been in London but for most of the day the sun shone benignly, brightening the scene and taking the chill off.
First I was taken for a walk along the old town walls. This gives pleasant views but is slightly hair-raising in places as there isn’t always a railing on the outside edge and the walkway is only a few feet wide. I am surprised they allow this as the danger is evident.
After this I was taken to lunch at a purely vegetarian restaurant called El Piano. This is a brightly decorated and friendly establishment with a well populated menu, making it difficult to choose! I had a leak and potato soup served with unusual bread, dhal (highly seasoned lentils) with rice and a cheesecake to finish.
After lunch they took me to the Yorvik exhibition. This supposedly tells the story of Viking York but, unfortunately makes a poor job of it. The whole seems geared towards keeping the kids interested rather than in really educating you about York’s Viking past. In fact, I would say they give a rather Disneyesque picture of the Viking period. For the price of the entrance fee, visitors deserve a better and more professional exhibition. I think the skillful and painstaking work of archaeologists over the years also deserves a more fitting showcase.
Next, we went on the river boat. We sat on the upper, open, deck and although it was a little chilly I very much enjoyed the ride. There was a good commentary on the places we passed and their history.
After disembarking, we decided it would be appropriate to go somewhere for tea or coffee to warm us up. We found a Cafe Nero which filled the bill.
After a further stroll through the city we went for dinner. There is plenty of choice in York. We eventually settled on Red Chilli, a rather unusual Chinese restaurant. The decor is very striking, mainly because of the jagged-cut, illuminated green glass screens diving the restaurant into sections. These give the place a beautiful and exotic atmosphere.
Nor can I fault the food. I started with a vegetarian sweet and sour soup which was almost a meal in itself. To follow, I chose hot chilli beancurd and fried crispy noodles. The waitress warned that this was very hot and she wasn’t kidding.
When mine arrived, the bowl was so large that I assumed it was for two people. No: it was all for me. In fact, all the portions were so large that there was no possibility that we could eat everything. Fortunately, the restaurant is quite happy to pack up the remainder for you to take away. I was relieved that the food will not be wasted.
Then it was time to think about going to the station. Surprisingly, the last train from York to London is scheduled to leave at 20:32.
I had a good day out in York but now, as the train rumbles through the darkness, I am glad to be going home and looking forward to being reunited with Tigger.