As of today it’s been officially three years since I moved away from York. That city is one of my favorites I’ve ever visited, and I think it’s my favorite place I’ve lived.
York is a fabulously historical city which boasts Romans and Vikings among its notable historic peoples. As I would walk to work, I would pass under the majestic city walls, over the River Ouse, alongside the Museum Gardens and a bit of the old Roman wall, and then into a courtyard of the King’s Manor complex. King’s Manor houses the Centre for Medieval Studies (where I worked in a small workroom at the top of the building), the King’s Manor library which housed mainly architecture texts, but I found some of my obscure medieval sources there), the architecture department, the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, as well as a delightful cafe called the Refectory. The oldest portions of the building are from the fifteenth century, and I considered myself lucky to spend time there reading and researching.
The complex is also around the corner from York Minster, a gorgeous Gothic cathedral which is home to the Archbishop of York, the second-highest seat in the Church of England. Its white exterior looms over the low, medieval city, and its bells ring through the city center to mark the hour or a celebration.
The streets in the center of town follow medieval paths, with the most famous being The Shambles. On this street was my favorite bread baker (open early, and closed whenever the bread ran out) and tea shop, and on one end was usually an outdoor market with local produce and goods. The city itself was founded by the Romans in 71 A.D. as Eboracum, though in 866 its name was changed to Jorvik following a Viking invasion. The Jorvik Viking Center is still in town, and boasts a fabulous stationary exhibit with artifacts as well as a moving, animatronic exhibit about daily life.
Mostly what I remember is the ease of walking about the town and how delicious a piece of cake from Cafe 68 was, especially in the sunshine with a pot of tea. I remember the creations in the huge windows at Betty’s Tearooms–elaborate gingerbread and chocolate animals for Christmas and Easter. I remember the stark white of the Minster and the ruins in the Museum Gardens against the blue summer sky. I remember the gangs of people flocking outside on a warm day along the Ouse. I remember watching the Olympic flame come through town a few minutes’ walk from King’s Manor. I remember the Ouse flooding its banks, burbling up to the hill with Clifford’s Tower (the last remaining bit of the 11th-century castle) at the top.
I also remember feeling in control of my life until I felt sick. For the first time I felt like an adult–eating well, exercising, commuting to and from London to see my boyfriend, walking to work among the tourists, discovering new foods and drinks. I miss York for all these reasons and those above, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.