As one finds ones' self.
I returned back to the Castle Museum and wandered through their 1960s street. Beatles mania! Doctor Who! Men on the moon! The introduction of polyester!
There was even a little space capsule at the end for kids to climb into, and I had a great time watching a brother and sister duo battle it out for who was going to be the one to land the it on the moon.
But then I turned the corner and BAM! I was in the bowels of ye olde building and got to see what the actual jail cells looked like which held their prisoners.
I'm afraid most of it was too dim to get anything worth looking at, but they had projections in each of the cells with actors reading from the diaries and letters of the people who were kept there. It was fascinating. The next O'Hare House Mystery spends some time in a prison and I found myself, again, glad that I decided to take this adventure. Yay surprise research that you didn't see coming!
The rest of the my time at the Castle Museum was spent in the gift shop and their tea counter where I sat down with a diet Coke and a slice of carrot cake. The calories cancel one another out, don't you know?
I stepped out and, much to my delight, discovered that bus tour I had been wandering around trying to find was right across the square! I hopped aboard and soon was off, getting whisked around the city for a highly educational tour!
Ugh. I wish that my camera had a notation device for after taking a picture. Would some app designer get on that? I beeeeliiiiieeeve this is a picture of one of the only two surviving barbicans in all of Great Britain. It might also just be a guard tower. I think its a guard tower. But, the important part is that York does actually have one of the only two surviving barbicans and I saw it. Even if I can't identify it in any of my pictures.
Some memorial garden.
A picture close to the place where they buried all the cholera victims with the city wall in the background.
The underpass into the old city
...um... a guard tower where you can now go eat sandwiches...? Or the barbican...?
Okay! Wait! Wait! Here's something cool! There are all of these iron cats all over town. You know how how you can tell a Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry building at 100 paces? Well, back in the 1700s, this was the architect's special touch. You buy a building from him, you get an iron cat. A more modern designer has continued the tradition.
A nice view of the cathedral and waves of guilt for not getting back to it. I could have climbed around on the roof! But I didn't.
...um... some statue guys on the wall...? Perhaps on the barbican...?
As you can see, it was highly educational and I absorbed so much. What did I actually retain? Well, there were these little overhangs in the top of the walled tower rooms, and that's where the soldiers would sit their little bottoms down and poop into the river. I learned where all of the haunted pubs were. I learned that the pretty little park I had passed by earlier was where they buried all of the cholera victims when they ran out of space. History comes alive!
I was getting a little bit hungry, so I decided to hop off to grab a bite at one of the 600-year old haunted pubs, but then got the biggest cases of the heebie-jeebies about 1/2 a block away, I had to turn around.
So, I started wandering again and stumbled upon the Merchant Adventurers Hall.
This was the guild which raised money for merchant... adventurers... um... Okay, so back in the 1300s, people were establishing new trade routes and discovering new lands and these folks got them their money. They represented the tradesmen and tradeswomen.
I'm pretty sure that my eyes are set crooked in my head because I swear these pictures were level when I took them. That said, the floor was a little wonky. Why? you ask. Because this half-timbered building was built over 700-years ago. How cool is that?! Those beams were green oak timbers, held in place without a single nail.
The hall is available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, but is also still used by the merchant adventurers today. Yep. They still exists. Still around.
Ooo! Okay. This was cool. On the top shelf there is a silver cup with some balls on the handle. When you were doing business, you'd take a sip and pass around the cup to seal the deal. Now, each of those balls is actually a peg inside the cup which is part of a measuring system. You only drank your allotted dram, but if you wanted to put someone in their place, you'd drink their portion, too. A.k.a. "Take them down a peg." TADA! HISTORY!
Then behold the basement! This'll be of no interest to anyone who hasn't spent the past year swimming through Shakespeare's history plays, but they had a whole display which went through the entire history of the War of the Roses. This was where I figured out that York meant the Yorkists. The hall was built on the Percy family land. Just... If you are trying to figure out the really, really complicated history of this particular time period, this is a GREAT place to go. They spell it out for you in a complex but easy(ish. Nothing about succession during that time period is easy to understand) way. Completely worth the £8 they were charging for admission.
All of those banners represented the different tradespersons the guild represented. Also, those little glass windows on the floor were interesting. The hall had flooded several times, so they elevated the floor, but you can look down to the original floor through those windows. The fireplaces at the end were for the kitchens. Just rather cool.
So, I wandered outside to continue on my merry way, and boy, the gardens of the hall next to the river were just a lovely sight.
(the hall is that half-timbered building on the left. The brick part was the chapel in the basement.)
Ah! Here's something I learned from the tour! In England, there is a law which states that you are legally entitled to sunlight. This has meant recently that as the skyscrapers have gone up in London, people have sued and won the right to their sunlight and city planning has been affected to ensure the place doesn't become a cavern of shadows. What a lovely law, right?
But then you learn why that law is in place.
Back in the day, your landlord would charge you for sunlight. And if you didn't pay your fee? He would brick in your window.
So, the day was getting long and I realized I should probably think about catching my train back to London if I wanted to get home before midnight. Also, things were starting to close up, but there was one last place I was anxious to get to.
Now, I had no idea prior to the bus ride that this museum even existed (see! That's why you take those goofy buses!) But at RADA, we were working on a selection from Richard III, and on said little bus tour, I learned that there was a whole Richard III museum somewhere in town. So, I headed back around the outer edges of town with a terrible map that had no relevance to where things actually were. I walked up roads and down others trying to find this museum.
I had fifteen minutes before it closed. I gave up. I walked back into the city. And then discovered the reason I hadn't found it was that the museum was up inside of this guard's tower.
There it was! Up on the middle floor of that gate (which might have been the barbican)! So I climbed up the steps and prepared myself for the Richard III experience!
We had some discussion in class about what was written in the play vs. what actually happened to these historical figures. For example, how did Queen Anne die? Well, here you go!
And what of him making the moves on his niece? Down there at the bottom of the placard.
And, yes, he did have back problems.
But what of the two princes who disappeared, which paved the way for Richard to take the throne? Well, there was a little dancing around the topic. Some say that he had them killed. Some say that it was a Tudor plot to make him look bad and they had the boys killed. Some say they weren't killed at all, just... taken away... I suppose we will never know.
By this point, the poor lady at the counter was closing up shop. I found a stack of sexy Richard portrait postcards to bring back to my classmates. The very nice shopkeeper saw my stack and remarked, "Oo! You must be a Richard fan!" Now, I know just enough to know that this is a highly charged statement. Did I think he was the murderer portrayed by Shakespeare? Did I believe he was a good monarch who fell prey to the bad press of the reigning conqueror? I don't know. So, I walked the line and just replied, "I am studying him."
As I stepped down from the tower, I realized that I didn't have to go back down to the streets to get to the train station. I could walk along the city wall for a different viewpoint of York.
I wuz here!
I got back to the train station and having learned my lesson about reserved seating, I popped into the ticket office to see about upgrading. Unfortunately, the reserved seating was sold out in coach, but there was a lovely seat in first class if I wanted it. And so I did.
Armed with a diet Coke and my Richard III script, I settled in for my two hour ride (express train!) as porters brought me ham sandwiches and tea cakes.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it was love...
The rain looked almost like diamonds as I arrived home and the sun set on my day.
And all of this is to say, dear friends, it is important from time to time to play hooky.
To get a sense of York and all of the things I saw (and didn't see!), check out this FANTASTIC video: