We decided to take advantage of the late May Bank Holiday break and packed up the tent for the first camping trip of 2014. The Destination was York, to revisit a city I fell in love with in my early teenage years. I’d hoped to study at Askern Bryan in York for my Diploma before a change of events put that dream to bed. Despite this disappointment I have always loved this city and couldn’t wait to explore it properly with my fiancé.
The weather forecast was mixed which suited us perfectly. This kept changing as we drove up the M1, M18 and finally the A1 as we were greeted by Wagtail Park and the hardest of grounds to pitch our tent on. We were asked to bring Rock Pegs which on first inspection seemed like overkill. It wasn’t until I cockily hit a standard peg into the lush green grass that I discovered it was merely a topping. What lay under this welcoming layer was a silt filled, rocky mixture of quarry type material. After a dash to the local camping shop we had enough rock pegs to erect our tent and canopy securely.
By the time we’d pitched the tent and got camp set up it was too late to wander too far away. There was a lovely fishing lake close by which we walked around and after we’d cooked some chili and drank a couple of beers we watched a film and called it a night. It wasn’t the coldest of nights, however as it was our first camping trip in nearly 9 months we needed to acclimatize. We survived the night and after a late breakfast which comprised of a bacon roll we headed into York.
The Park & Ride is quite simply excellent value for money. To park the car and get a return ticket cost £2.70 each which is far cheaper than parking in the city centre. We used the Sunday afternoon to explore the streets of the city as well as sampling some of the local food and ales. We walked up the Shambles which is a quaint cobbled narrow street lined with shops on both sides. The hustle and bustle of the bank holiday crowd evident and we were caught on a wave of visitors.
We had our Sunday Beef Roast at The Golden Fleece which is the oldest pub in York. It is also the most haunted pub in the city, a claim backed up by the Most Haunted crew, who spent a weekend filming here in the pub/hotel. The place itself is typically quirky and feels very welcoming. There are a couple of skeletons that sit at the bar on a stool and also in the pub garden. All of the floors are wonky and slanted, so much so that my pint of ale was slanted and the gravy was trying to escape from my plate. A quickly constructed defensive wall using my mashed potato prevented any casualties. When we sat for dinner my fiancé did feel a cold sensation next to her side which hung around for a few minutes. It certainly backed up the claims of the owners and many guests who have stayed there.
We had a walk around Parliament Street which is the widest most open street in York and also had a tour of the York baths. This was conducted by a very knowledgeable Canadian historian by the name of Ryan, who not only told us about the Roman Baths in York, but also covered wars, deaths, Christianity and many other topics. By the time we left this small room which gathering heat the longer we stayed down there we were gasping the fresh air to celebrate our freedom. Joking aside it was well worth the £3.50 it cost plus a small contribution to Ryan’s education costs!
By a friends recommendation (thanks Aimee) we went to an off license called The House of the Trembling Madness. Above this there was also a bar which quite simply oozed class and style. The decor comprised of stuffed animals and randomly placed gothic designs framed by some stunning timber open framed roof trusses and beams. The place was busy and the small number of chairs and tables filled. The bar was small and quaint and the food smelled delightful. We helped ourselves to a couple of IPA’s and shopped till we dropped as I was reunited with some of my favourite Australian beers imported in their shop.
We returned to camp just before the forecasted rain and had a very chilled out Sunday night. We ate some cheese and crackers and watched Taken 2 and the first half of American Hustle. Following on from last nights shock chill factor I put on an extra layer in an effort to get a warm comfortable nights sleep to get me in good stead for Mondays day of adventure. Historical visits, walks, haunted sightings and more local pubs awaited us, we certainly had a lot planned!
One final York related story before I bring this 1st Part of the blog to a conclusion. There are cats all over the city on various buildings. It is said that any building that is graced with the presence of a cat, is a happy place. We spotted a couple of these cats with one been on the front of The Golden Fleece Pub. Based on this story, I think it’s safe to say that my fiancé encountered a good happy spirit!
To be continued…….
Last month I mentioned about a Book that I had started to write about my travels and year spent in Australia. I started this back in 2010 and it is very much work in progress. I’d like to share the First Chapter with you all today and am equally keen to hear back from you regarding it. Who knows if I get enough positive feedback then I may carry on and complete what I’ve started! Right here goes….
I lay there, it had been a strange night, a cocktail of mixed emotions. The night previous to this I was there with my close friends celebrating my exciting holiday, this morning I just couldn’t move. Last year I had endured what could only be described as the year of hell, well probably not that bad but as the year played out it certainly was eventful but mainly for the wrong reasons. I experienced many things, asked my girlfriend of 3 years to move in and then watch her move out, allow my work to take over my life which probably led to the previous thing and then move out back into my mother’s home. I really had no idea what was to follow but subconsciously I had to ask myself why I had done these things, there must have been a part of me that had already realised that I was not returning home.
The alarm sounded and as I looked across with surprisingly focussed eyes I could make out the red figures on my side clock. It was that day, that time, it seemed so distant when I booked this flight but the time had arrived. I sat up for what felt like an eternity and found it hard to muster the energy to get out of bed, this was not due to the fact I was tired, in fact that was far from the real reason, I just didn’t want to step one foot outside of the warm duvet. It was winter in the UK and the country was enduring one of those normal winter periods. I worked in the Building Industry and following a year of rain, floods and snow it really did challenge the company I worked for. As the months passed by and the year was drawing to a close it hadn’t recovered and the fact I knew I was ready to escape from it all was a welcome reminder of why this was the most exciting day of my life so far.
Flash back to a couple of weeks previous, my family obviously upset that I would not be spending Christmas with them had made their arrangements for me to at least experience some of the festivities ahead of my departure to the other side of the world. I was at my Dads with his new wife and my step sister sitting down sipping a hot caffeine filled mug of coffee. As my cold hands clasped the warm mug we sat and discussed what I was hoping to do once I crossed the globe and touched the land in Adelaide. I really had no idea, my mind went blank. I was fortunate to have had nearly every book, travel guide or article on life in Australia presented to me by my Dad, he was very keen to ensure that I knew what to expect and to make sure I experienced everything that was potentially on offer to me. My Dad was a planner and to be totally honest this was just what I needed, without even realising to myself right then just by the things we spoke about part of me had given in to the fact that this was probably going to be more than a holiday. I had a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Australia, this was the most reputable guide I had heard about and one that formed part of the small library of literature I had accrued to date. It was this book that painted the most striking picture and one that that to this very day sticks firmly in my mind, not that I would know that at this exact moment. As dinner time approached and the most delightful roast dinner with an array of steamed and roasted vegetables was presented in front of me the conversation went less direct. I sat there and soaked up the moment, time seemed to pass at an almost standstill and everything in front of me slowed right down. If ever there was a more crystallizing moment than this, then I had yet to witness it as of yet.
Returning to the present moment, as thoughts passed through my mind from previous occurrences I was out of bed. It was an almighty effort, but following what seemed like the longest stretch possible without damaging my back I was up and ready to finalise all the packing that I had left to the very last minute. I was never really a planner, one trait that my Dad had failed to pass onto me, but I always had the ability to complete tasks with the smallest amount of time remaining. The shower felt great and refreshing and quickly changed I launched myself into it, what on earth would I need? I wheeled out the biggest red suitcase, the one that had served me well from the Majorca holiday of almost ten years ago. I had not used it since that eventful trip with my best friend James and I had to rip off all the airport tags and stickers that dressed it, so that I would at least stand a good chance of my luggage arriving in the same country as me worst case scenario. I am a typical bloke when it comes to working out exactly what I require; I think the maths in my head went something along the lines of… 4½ weeks = 31 days, worst case I can use x 3 times etc. etc… Anyway let’s just say for somebody who started his career as an estimator I really had left myself short!
I am convinced as most guys are, that mothers know of this fault and as I finished my breakfast I was almost certain that my suitcase seemed heavier than when I had left it just 20 minutes previous. The main thing was that I was packed, not ready but packed. I don’t think I could ever really be ready. I was certain not to spend the day pottering around the house in anticipation for my Dad to collect and drive me to Heathrow in London, so I made the most of things and my two best mates kept me company that afternoon. It was real commitment from them both especially as they had booked the day off to do so but at the same time I felt like it should have been the three of us going to endure the biggest adventure of our lives together. At the beginning of 2007 when I had decided I was going to Australia, we all had an agreement albeit verbal that if nothing major changed in our lives regarding jobs or security that this was going to be our holiday, unfortunately I was the only one to proceed with booking the flight. I could tell by James and Mikes reactions that they wished they could join me, but just been near them on this day albeit temporarily, took my mind off the day’s flying that lay ahead of me that evening. It was a nice feeling being able to spend with my two best friends, however as time was passing slowly, it meant I could not help but constantly think about that flight. I had only ever flown a couple of times that I can recall, once to Majorca as mentioned previously and the other time was to Munich to watch my beloved Leeds United play in the Champions League. These were both relatively short in comparison to what lay waiting for me. As the afternoon passed the time finally arrived, my phone in my pocket started ringing and without even having to look at the screen I knew who and why they were calling. Without too much hesitation I answered the phone, grabbed my luggage and said goodbye to my Mum and friends.
To be continued?
Imagine a world where choosing what you do is restricted. Lets say in a lifetime you were limited and could only do a certain number of things. For the sake of this scenario and to make it more interesting this wouldn’t include the decisions you make in your working life nor the things we do by habit i.e sleeping and eating. I am talking about the things that make our life pleasant and enjoyable, the life changing choices that give our life meaning and direction. So picture this, what if the system had crashed and you were told you had to make your choices. There are half a dozen choices and decisions remaining. These could be taken at any time during your life, but they would need to be specific. Some hard decisions and choices to be made one would say, I’d think that was a slight understatement.
So what would I choose if placed in this fictional and totally unlikely situation? Here goes…….
1. Get Married – I’m very lucky that I’m engaged to the person I know was meant for me. You could say this makes this decision easier, however Marriage is something I strongly believe in and one of the choices I’d choose.
2. Live In Australia – It’s an amazing country and somewhere I’m very lucky to have spent 2008 living in. This is certainly a choice I’d happily make and once the right point arrived in my life I’d be on that plane ready.
3. Arrange that Dinner Party – I’ve always wanted to have a dinner party with people who are famous and be in a situation where I could just chill with them over dinner. They would have to be alive (no time travel) and I’d choose Derren Brown, Jimmy Carr, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry. Hilarious banter awaits!
4. Space Travel – it’s something I’d love to do and it fascinates me. I’d love to be in a spaceship and see our planet from space. I’m not talking about living on Mars but having the chance to travel into space would be worth using one of my choices up for.
5. Experience Glastonbury – One festival I’m desperate to say I’ve done and to experience its magical atmosphere. Sadly the way in which you can apply and purchase tickets for this festival will never improve so because of this I’m using one of my valuable choices to ensure it happens.
6. Start a Family – Family is so very important to me and even though this is a strange scenario to be in, I’d feel guilty for depriving others from having the same choices. I’m a family person and because of this I’d be so determined to start another generation of my family. I’d love to experience a family unit and because of this, that would be my final choice.
Wow, that was actually quite enlightening and certainly puts the fact that we have every opportunity to live our lives the way we want into perspective. I’m certainly going to continue enjoying what I do and make the most of every day I have. You never know when the system may crash one day!
PS – I’m totally aware that this has many flaws in it and my hopes of becoming a film writer have finally been written off!