One of the biggest misses for me during this whole pandemic had undoubtedly been international travel or travel of any kind really. Yeah we’re one of those annoying ‘3 holidays a year’ couples (benefits of no rugrats) and going on holiday is always nice, but being away is one of the very few times I truly ‘switch off’. If we take time off and just stay at home, I’m still surrounded by reminders of work, whether it be seeing my laptop in the spare room or walking past the office in the city centre. It’s really hard for me to distance myself without physically distancing myself. That’s why, when restrictions were eased in May, we were really pleased to be able to book 24 hours in York.
York’s always been a favourite city spot for us for a few reasons; It’s only an hour away on the train, it always has a fun vibe about it, and Dave went to Uni there so always knows the best bars! We got the train down this time (we have driven before) as the tickets were only £16 each return, which we would have spent two fold on petrol and parking had we taken the car. It was my first time on a train in almost 18 months, after having spent half my life on trains pre-pandemic. And whilst having to keep your mask on the whole time is annoying, particularly when trying to drink your coffee, it’s good that you can’t travel without a seat reservation and all seats are socially distanced so we had a table seat to ourselves both directions.
Any plan for spending 24 hours in York naturally needs to start with a bang, so upon arrival we headed straight to our fave pub in York (and quite possibly my fave pub in the world) The Maltings. We spent lots of time in there on my hen do back in 2013, which apparently isn’t a crowd they particularly covet so we must have been extremely well behaved. But it’s is one of my faves because of their vast array of full strength fruit wine they have on offer. The cherry is the stand out for me, but my hens and I had great fun working our way down the list. We had lunch of some toasties, which for their £4.95 price point are amazing, and are the perfect way to keep yourself full up until tea time.
The weather was absolutely boiling which, after the rainy May we had was welcome, albeit meaning it was a little more crowded that I would have liked. The bars along the river front were jam packed, and whilst I’m sure all social distancing regulations were being adhered to (and we were outside) it all felt a little too claustrophobic for me, so we had a walk further along the river and had a sit down on the grass for half an hour until it was time to check in to our hotel.
Speaking of which, we stayed in the new Moxy York, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from the Shambles, and I’m gong to do a separate review of it soon since I think it warrants it’s own. So I won’t go into masses of detail here but it was absolutely ideal for what we needed; a nice comfortable space with a good hotel bar for a nightcap and friendly staff. Like an upmarket Premier Inn (and I mean that in a good way), and the lads on reception were really friendly , funny and couldn’t do enough to make sure we were ok. So top marks for Moxy from me.
We checked in (seamlessly) dumped our bags and headed out again to make the most of our time there. Now, I can be the ultimate planner when I need to be, but we decided not to book an activity this time round because we didn’t want to be tied to something should we changed our minds or have to be tied to reservations in lots of different places. There’s loads of ways to fill 24 hours in York; the Chocolate Experiences and of course York Dungeons are always things I could happy drop £30 on. But we wanted to make the most of being outside with the weather being so lush so we decided to do the York Cat Trail instead.
For a starters, it’s a free walking tour that takes you round the city looking for cat sculptures on all the different buildings. The trail starts at The Cat Gallery shop and takes an hour or so, along the way you’ll see Clifford’s Tower, The Shambles and York Minster, plus lots of cats (obvs).
There’s 19 cats in total and I’m not ashamed to say, we were absolutely crap and finding them! You really do need a keen eye so I imagine the more of you the better, the ones we did find though were really cool and both agreed that the Ghost cat (above) was our favourite of the bunch.
Time for some refreshment by this point, you know, because it was so hot. We hadn’t booked anywhere for afternoon drinks because we weren’t sure exactly what the plan was, Dave had in the back of his mind though Brew York, which is a small microbrewery right in the centre. Luckily enough they were taking walk ins, as we got our very own barrel to park ourselves up to for an hour or so. There was no inside space available when we were there, which was fine since the weather was so nice, but they did have a canopy for anyone not wanting to sit in the sun. All their ales are made on site, but of course me being the philistine that I am, opted for cider instead. I have to say though, it was one of the nicest cider’s I’ve ever had, clear like magners but tasted like alcoholic Appletiser. So, so good. So good in fact that after 2 pints of it I was well and truly ready for a quick change and out to dinner.
We’re not a fancy couple, and we’re always happy with something cheap and cheerful. I did a quick search on Trip Advisor to see what came up highly recommended for meagre budgets and found Fancy Hanks, which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Fancy Hank’s bar and kitchen is tucked away in the laid-back-streets of the historic Minster Quarter and offers great food inspired by two brothers travels through the 11 states of America’s Deep South. And luckily my dining companion tonight has also travelled through the the 11 states of America’s Deep South, so we were all talking the same language.
It was the fact you could get a variety of things from a simple burger, to chicken and waffles to macaroni cheese all in the same place. We opted to share the artichoke dip and then I went for a cheese burger while Dave had the chicken and waffles. The showstopper was without a doubt though the fresh margarita we had to wash it down with though, it was all straight forward comfort food, but absolutely delicious and exactly what we needed after a long day on our feet.
It would have been remiss of me not to at least try the hotel bar, for review purposes if nothing else, so we had a night cap back at the ranch and then called it a night.
Check out time was a generous 12pm the next day, which we took full advantage of by having a couple of coffees in the room, and as our train home was just after 1pm, it didn’t leave us masses of time. Enough time thought o meander through the city once again though, grab a sandwich and back of crisps from a local bakery and sit in the sunshine by the banks of the River Ouse and watch the world go by for a bit.
So, how did I find our first foray back into the world of travel? It was fun, and like with most things, the weather made it; I can’t imagine how fun it would have been had it been pissing down with rain and if it were, I imagine we would have sought refuge in the closest Wetherspoons and had a day drinking session, which would beg the question, why go all the way to York just for that? I’ll be completely honest, the busyness overwhelmed me slightly. I know that when you’re outside there’s minimal chance of you catching anything, but it was so busy it was impossible to deploy any kind of social distancing whatsoever. It was, worryingly, as if there had never been any pandemic at all in some areas. What was nice though, was the places we had booked, or had a seat in, were on top of their games in terms of following the rules; whether it be taking our temperature, asking us to sign in to the app, or staff wearing masks at all time, I felt completely safe in those areas, so credit where it’s due there.
I know we have to ‘get back to normal’ sometime, and this 24 hours in York was the first bit of normality I’ve felt in a long time, however it was a stark reminder that ‘normal’ isn’t going to be what it was in 2019 for a very long time yet, if ever at all. I am starting to worry that there’s a very small sense of agoraphobia starting to develop in me. And being around people is something I never thought I would be scared of.
Pandemic – 1, Newman’s sense of adventure – 0