Resident York Dork
Since moving to England from New Zealand four years ago, I’ve made a huge effort to see as much of this country as I can, and York was an early box ticked in this endeavour. From the moment I was confronted by the city walls opposite the train station, I vowed to make this place my home and this spring, I made the dream a reality. The news was met by one of two reactions. From those who have not visited, a confused “but why?” and from those who have, an all-knowing nod. No one who had been to York had any question as to why I would relocate. It’s as simple as that; you need only visit this city to fall under its spell, and fallen I well and truly have.
Since spring, I have witnessed in awe as the seasons have come and gone in spectacular fashion: first as daffodils filled every inch of bank along the city walls, then as sweltering heat turned the city’s grass so brown that Clifford’s Tower stood atop what resembled a giant pile of hay into which it camouflaged. These days I am relishing the arrival of another, equally pronounced season. Morning walks are crisp visions of orange and silver, evening walks are all crunching through leaves, as I dodge through the crowds of university students who have materialised, and try to convince myself that this latest wave are not in fact born in the year 2000, because that’s simply too inconceivable to wrap my head around.
History that will blow your socks off
Funny that I should be bothered by this perceived lack of history in others, when York makes me aware of my own lack of history every day. It’s one of the things I love most about living here though, the layers of history which make up this place. Even by the University itself, right next to its Heslington campus stands a building whose history recently blew my mind. Walking by The Retreat every day, its name lead me to assume it was some sort of spa until I saw staff in scrubs standing outside one day. My curiosity peaked, I consulted Professor Google and was amazed to learn that this was in fact a ground-breaking institution; the first place in the world which treated those suffering from mental illnesses as patients rather than criminals, taking people out of asylums and putting them into care, changing the face of psychiatry forever.
I am in awe of just about every corner within the city and enamoured by the buildings which occupy them, or the ground underneath those currently standing. In the western corner of the city walls, where the demolition of 1960s office building Hudson House has just about finished, I wonder at what remnants of York’s history might be lying just under the surface. After all, it’s only one block away that Roman ruins were recently discovered in the basement of Micklegate restaurant, the Rattle Owl. Just imagine the stories that could be lying below our feet… who could forget when Richard III’s remains were discovered underneath a car park in Leicester!
An endless stream of things to do
One of my favourite old buildings (along with half of York, I am sure) is the magnificent King’s Manor, currently serving the University of York. Back in June I was lucky enough to attend a lecture here during the York Festival of Ideas, something I did just to have a cheeky peek into the building, but an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. I confess this element of York came as a surprise – the never-ending things to do and fun to be had. From the Minster’s Heart of Yorkshire festival over the summer to the bustling street festival along Fossgate. From the pageantry of the Roman festival (I still sometimes find myself chanting “Ebor!” in the hope that my partner will chant back “racum!” as the crowds did that weekend in June… instead I just get exasperated eyerolls) to the season of Shakespeare’s Rose
Theatre and the eye-opening stone carving festival, York puts on a spectacular show which both embraces its unique history and proves why it was voted the best city to live in the UK earlier this year. For my part, there’s certainly no arguments on that front!
After travel, Rachel’s number one love in life is coffee, and she can often be spotted enjoying one of the countless charming cafes around town with her nose stuck in a book or furiously scribbling away. Enjoy more of her writing at www.the-room.co.nz