City of the White Rose

York, England

Candymakers in York are known for their delectable chocolate!

I’ve written two recent blogs about York, but there is still more to cover. York is a city of history that began in Roman times and still thrives today. This city is the most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, welcoming over 38 million overnight visitors in 2018. 13.3 million of those came from international destinations. This statistic proves that York is as popular in the UK as it is out of it.

All that's left of the Roman fort.

My family and I only spent 3 days in York, far too little time in my opinion. Around each corner is another tidbit of history. Across each street, another story. Romans. Vikings, Normans and Kings wandered these streets. 300 hundred-year-old pubs are still serving pints to the people.

The best tour company to help you help you unlock the mysteries of York is White Rose Tours. Alan Sharp is the owner and original tour guide and his knowledge of the York and its history is unmatched. As he studied drama at college, his history “class” isn’t boring and he captures your attention and holds it at each site.

Stands on old Norman castle grounds.

Our tour started with Alan meeting outside our hotel. As the location was across from Cliffords Tower, he started there and told us the saddest and most horrible incident in York’s history. Cliffords Tower is built on the site of a wooden castle built by William the Conqueror in 1069. Over the years, it burned and was built again using stone. In 1189, Richard I, called Lionheart, refused to allow Jews, many of whom were wealthy, to attend is coronation, unintentionally sparking a countrywide of anti-Semitic backlash. In York, this sentiment was egged on by 4 merchants seeking to abolish their debts to the Jewish money lenders. The Jewish community took refuge in Cliffords Tower and barricaded the doors. There, in 1190, the Jewish people in York chose to kill themselves, rather than submit to torture, forced baptism, or death at the hands of the mob. Afterwards, a royal inquest was held, but no one was ever held responsible.

Another site on the tour is the Richard III museum, contained in one of the bars marking entry into the city. Richard III really gets his bad reputation from Shakespeare’s play, bet even today, Yorkshire’s still love him. He held his seat of power in the city, although that was ended when the War of the Roses was finally won. Richard III of York and his family represented the White Rose and Henry Tudor, who eventually became Henry IV after Richard was killed, represented the Red Rose.

A hallway in York Minster

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, otherwise known as York Minster, is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the third highest church official in England. The site dates back as a Christian place of worship to the 4th century, when, into 627, a wooden chapel was built. This chapel was built to baptize Edwin, King of Northumbria when he became a Christian and the faith. In 637, a stone structure was built by Oswald, a Viking missionary, and dedicated to St. Peter. Now it stands as the largest Cathedral in England. For more on the history of York Minster, let me book you a tour with White Rose Tours!

For more information, contact me at AmberRoadsTravel.com.

York, England

~ City of History

One of my favorite cities in England is York. Dating from around the 4th century, York is steeped in history, playing parts in Roman conquest, Viking settlements, William the Conqueror’s expansion, and featured predominantly in the War of the Roses and serving as the seat of Richard III. York is the story of Western Civilization.

Cliffords Tower

Arriving on a Saturday, we stayed at the Hilton York across the road from Cliffords Tower and the York Museums. An excellent hotel in terms of service and location, the Hilton is close to the Jorvik Viking Center, restaurants, and one of the bars of the city wall. One of the sayings in York is “A road is a gate, a gate is a bar, a bar is a pub.” There are lots of gates inside the wall. Four bars still serve the city and there are at least 2 pubs on every gate in modern York!

The main attraction in York and one of the most popular destinations in England is the Jorvik Viking Center. In 1976, archeologists started a dig on Viking ruins found while excavating of the foundation for a shopping mall. Now known as the Coppergate dig, extraordinary finds from a 10 century Viking village are on display at the Jorvik and seeing them is worth the price of admission.

The Church with the Smiling Ghost.

Another great tour is the Original Ghost Walk of York, believed to be the oldest Ghost Walk in the world. Leaving at 8 pm nightly from The King’s Arms Pub, and costing only £5 per adult and £4 for children, it is the best way to hear creepy stories from York’s past. The gentleman that lead the tour was excellent. His voice rose and fell in dramatic fashion and it actually felt as if he was taking you back in time.

There is so much to see and do in York, so you need more than just a couple of days. For more information on York, or to plan a trip, please contact me at carolyn@amberroadstravel.com or visit my website at AmberRoadsTravel.com!


The Jorvik Viking Center

Where Vikings Come Alive!

Jorvik Viking Center
My sons and I about to go into the Viking Center. You can see the sign in the upper left of the photo.

Between the years of 1976 and 1981, archeologists discovered the remains of a Viking village dating back from the 10th Century. The Jorvik (old Viking for York) Viking Center was built on the site of these excavations.  

Probably one of the most popular attractions in the UK, the Jorvik Viking Center allows you to step into the past and experience things the way they might have been a thousand years ago. First, see a recreation of the archeologist dig through a glass floor and have the Viking next to you to explain what you are seeing. In some places, the excavations went down 9 meters, although you don’t see the ruins found that deep in the Museum.

Because the soil in York was just the right mixture of moist and peaty, objects found in the area are remarkably preserved. Wooden timbers were preserved, which is unusual, as most building wood from that time period would have rotted away anywhere else. The soil also preserved seeds, pollen, diet substances, and other substances that gives us information about what the climate, health, pests, and growing seasons of life was like 10 centuries ago.

Next, get on the most amazing time machine (aka ride) that takes you through the village, staying true to the placement of the ruins and the artifacts they found there. Butcher and weavers huts were identified by animal bones and dye in the ground. Merchants were identified by the goods they may have sold or traded. The dig found items from all over the world, such as Roman tiles for roofs, indicating the Vikings had a wide range of trade routes established. All in all, over 2000 artifacts were found.

But I said the ride would take your through the village they way it might have been, and that means the smells weren’t left out. As you ride, you smell all sorts of smells that, well let’s just say, a modern person may not be familiar with, such as the butchering of meat melding together with dye, blacksmith fire, rotting fish, and all those outdoor bathrooms! Yes, the smell of poo is included on the tour for your enjoyment!

After you come back to the present, actual finds from the digs are on display. Ancient ice skates, broaches, even the only Viking sock ever found are in the museum. Shards of pottery, coins, cooking utensils and knives, as well as beads, cloak closures and combs allow you to see the ordinary lives of every day Vikings. The children of the past have something in common with today’s kids. They had their own version of the Fidget Spinner! And it makes you wonder why quite a few of these items were found in Viking Toilets, including the toys.

During my time at the Jorvik Viking Center, I had pleasure in seeing a glimpse of the past and it helped me learn where my own ancestors came from and evolved in a changing world. I highly recommend a trip to York and the Viking Center. You won’t be disappointed.

For more information or to book a trip, email me at carolyn@amberroadstravel.com.