I lived in York for three years while I was at University and shockingly I’d only been back once, 4 years ago, until now.
One of my old housemates has returned to York to live there so myself and another former housemate went back ‘oop North’ to see her and reminisce about the good old days.
It’s a small city, and quite middle class – it’s hard to stray into a bad area (in fact I don’t even remember there being any bad areas), and it’s hard to get lost, though you can quite easily find quaint alleyways and wonky houses you’ve never noticed before. It’s supposedly the most haunted city in Europe so there are ghost walks every day and even a ‘haunted’ house on one of the main streets where you can either enter at your peril or stand outside watching other people on night vision cameras and laugh at them.
The city of York was founded by the Romans in 71AD who built a fortress, most of the remains of which are now underneath the Minster. You can go down into the crypt when you visit, and for added pounds sterling you can go up to the top and walk around outside though I’ve never done that myself.
In 866AD the Vikings invaded and captured York – you can learn all about it in the Jorvik Viking Centre in town if you visit. For a long time the Romans defended attack not only using the fortress but they also built walls around the whole city, which still exist today (though most of it has been repaired and rebuilt over time). It’s quite fun to walk the walls so I filmed a little stretch that goes around the back of the Minster.
York is also full of oddly named roads like Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate (meaning ‘neither here nor there’) and Harry Potter-esque wonky cobbled streets. It was always rumoured that Diagon Alley in Harry Potter was based on a street called The Shambles with its overhanging buildings and narrow alleyways coming off it, though I’m not sure how true that is.
Incidentally while I was at university here it was also rumoured that Johnny Depp was in town filming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the big famous chocolate factory in York. I think this was a cruel rumour but everyone kept their eyes peeled just in case. The chocolate factory always had a big impact on the city because quite often you would step out your front door and the air would smell of chocolate muffins all day. Yum! Then occasionally it smelt like burnt potatoes. Not so yum.
You can easily walk around York in a day, then at the end of the day stop by Evil Eye on Stonegate for a fabulous cocktail in trendy surroundings.
The most noticeable thing about the whole visit was the friendliness of the people which I had totally forgotten about. The West Midlands (where I live) is pretty friendly, and London isn’t bad if you make the effort, but York surprised me at every turn. People in cafes, bars, shops, taxis, everywhere.. they were all lovely! It was really nice to be back up North and I think I’ll end up living there again one day.