We arrived in York to a surprisingly gorgeous day. What marred our enjoyment of the sweltering heat was the half hour walk to our hostel. This walk actually took about an hour because we got lost twice.
The walk would have been beautiful under any other circumstances. The river was idyllic, the green parks that ran alongside it were full of picnicking people with smiling face but unfortunately we were heavily burdened and hopelessly lost. Of course we found it in the end.
Our first night, which was a Saturday and we were staying the YHA Hostel of York which was clean and tidy but expensive and out of the way (€26 PPPN). Due to our isolation and exhaustion we decided to stay in and I made my awesome lentil curry mark two! It went even better this time (except for the onion of doom which made people on the other side of the kitchen blink tearily until it was thoroughly cooked).
The next day we got a taxi (to avoid walk and getting lost) to our next hostel still in York the Ace Hostel York. It looked gorgeous on the website and despite the fact that it was not cheap either (€21 PPPN) I thought it would be worth it if it was comfortable.
It was right in the historic quarter of York, just seconds from the front door of the hostel is an intact gate of the walls that still run around much of the city.
We left our bags in the hostel (which had a rigid check-in time of 3pm) and went to explore York for the first time.
Even though I’d known York was a medieval town I don’t think I was prepared for how old everything you passed on the street would be.
Every shopping street and corner was full interesting details like the crest above or the Orange shop in a Tudor building below.
I turned one corner and found this random courtyard with no explanation as to what it was or why it had survived in this busy, modern city.
When you wander around the old areas (which can be a bit touristy but worth it) you come across places like this:
And then you’ll end up at Yorkminster the famous cathedral of York which is well worth a visit. Now the problem is that it’s sixteen pounds in. Obviously I did not pay that but actually you’re able to get a good bit in before the pay desk.
If you want to see more of the cathedral without taking photos, try going to the Evensong at half-four; the choir is beautiful.
After our surprising and adventurous day we picked some food up and headed back to our hostel to cook dinner. We’d been impressed by the interior before but we hadn’t really looked around the hostel or, for that matter, even seen anyone else staying there. Which was odd given what a big hostel it was.
The kitchen was small and cramped but we made do. Shona and I did the cooking and S and A were about to go set the table when we noticed there was a rope across the entrance to the dining room.
‘It’s normally just for breakfast,’ a surly receptionist responded when we asked about it.
I tried to remain polite. ‘So is there somewhere else people eat dinner?’
‘No,’ she replied. ‘I suppose you can eat in there if you clean up after yourselves and don’t use the facilities.’
We weren’t sure what the “facilities” of the breakfast room were supposed to be but they seemed to consist of three stale bread-rolls, a slushy machine that stirred containers of orange juice and water for no apparent reason and a poorly stuffed deer head which did not appeal to poor vegan A.
That was when we realised there were no dinner plates.
‘There are no dinner plates,’ I informed the receptionist, now rapidly running out of charm.
She followed me into the kitchen and point to a stack of plates that were each about the width of a bread roll.
‘Those aren’t dinner plates,’ now I was snapping. ‘They’re too small.’
‘Well,’ she shrugged and left. ‘Those are the plates.’
Readers may be disappointed at this point to discover that I did not in fact punch the snotty receptionist who shall remain unnamed (*cough* Barbara *cough*).
Things didn’t get much better after dinner when we went upstairs to shower. The bathroom door was strangely small in the room and looked like a cupboard. The shower was freezing cold. A went down to SR (snotty receptionist) who told her to leave it run until it was warm.
Fifteen minutes later A just showered cold. We left it running between showers so by the time I got in the shower last the water was so hot it turned my skin pink on impact and the bathroom was under an inch of water. There was no shower tray just a dip in the room.
There was a pub up the road we were thinking of going to but first we decided to explore the hostel a little. We were the very first room when you got up the stairs so we thought we’d look around the many other floors.
As it was such an historic building there were little wooden and brass signs beside various doors telling what their use would have been hundreds of years ago. The room we had left our luggage in downstairs had been the butler’s pantry and our dorm was Lady so-an-so’s favourite parlor.
But upstairs things got a bit weirder “this is the room where the maid Caroline discovered Lady what’s her name and Lord illicitly copulating. She was found a month later in the river…it was thought to be an accident.”
We laughed. ‘That’s a bit dark,’ Shona said.
There were cool winding backstairs onto the top floor where there were more room but didn’t seem to be anyone staying.
“This is the room where the infamous butler Wicked Addison was known to take and rape servant girls. One girl Caroline (a different one apparently) caught syphilis and hung herself in this room.”
‘Jesus,’ S said. ‘You wouldn’t want to be sleeping in there. Who would want to hear “you’re staying in the syphilis room!”?’
“This is the room where a maid gave birth to a child fathered by Wicked Addison and died in childbirth. The son, Titus, survived for some weeks after his mother. Some guests have said they can still hear the baby’s last cries.”
‘You know what,’ I muttered. ‘Maybe we should go back downstairs.’
‘Who would put that on a room people had to sleep in?’ A asked.
Before we could come up with any explanations we arrived back in our room to finally meet one of the other people staying there. He was an old man, maybe of sixty-eight to seventy with an enormous white beard. We told him, in the way of polite hostel conversation, of what we had found upstairs.
‘Oh yeah,’ he nodded. ‘I stay here whenever I’m in York. Have you seen any of their ghosts yet?’ He asked with unsettling seriousness.
‘No,’ S managed to reply as he grabbed his coat. ‘We’re just off to the pub.’
We backed out.
‘Rumours’, just down the road towards the old gate, was a bit of a dive but the drinks were dirt cheap, there was a pretty beer garden and the music was decent. I had my last ever cocktail there; a concoction called a “Headbanger” 1 shot vodka, 1 shot of gin, 1 shot Bacardi some blackcurrant and a load of soda water.
We found our way, with the natural instincts of all drunk Irish people, to a chipper then staggered back to the hostel where we set in the lounge eating our chips. Here we met yet another Australian and he was pretty witty. We sat down here swapping travel stories until we moseyed off to bed to pass out.
Not before hearing the old man snore – oh dear god; it was like someone watching Jurassic Park while blenderising kittens.
The next day we walked the old walls, found a nice gift shop inside the old gatepost and got on the train to Edinburgh. We didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked in York and I’ll definitely go back. But next time I might hunt down a different hostel.
Or not. It was kind of worth it.