York – A Day Without Kings
Still yearning for a cozy English Pub experience we cross the bridge over the River Ouse and make our way to the Golden Fleece—one of the most haunted pubs in England. With a name more reminiscent of Greek mythology than Jolly Old England, I’m trusting the recommendation of our letting agency.
This pub is cute and cozy and crowded. Just what I’m looking for. Unfortunately it is so small and so crowded that the table for two I choose slants so badly I feel that I am in a valley and Michael sits on the top of a mountain. We try again at the other available table—this is a bit better. At least the table doesn’t slant. While Michael is at the bar ordering our lunch I rearrange the chairs. Now it’s much better. I’m cooking dinner tonight, so we order a light lunch—at least that is what I think I am doing.
I’m not sure why the English get such a bad rap for the food they serve. Most everything I have in their restaurants is very good, including this lovely goat cheese tart, layered with sun dried tomatoes and black olives. Sweet, savory and tangy, all in one delicious bite. And it has a crispy crust, a perfect bonus.
Our goal this afternoon is the Castle Museum. I’m not sure what to expect, I know it is not a castle, but it sits opposite Clifford’s Tower, the remnants of the original Yorkshire Castle. Traveling with Michael is always an adventure. He believes very much in the path less taken. Once again I follow, walking down alleys and side streets I would never see if not for my intrepid husband leading the way.
The museum is a welcome relief. There is not a castle, a fortress, a king or betrayed queen anywhere in sight. No death. No murder. No plotting. Just a man named Kirk, Dr. Kirk, who took objects as payment for his services rather than cash when his patients could not afford to pay him. He lived in Pickering—I’m excited to see the name, I’ve been there!—at the edge of the Yorkshire Moors National Park.
Almost a contemporary, he lived in the 20th Century, amassing such a huge collection it fills this enormous space that was once a women’s prison. Dr. Kirk’s donation was contingent upon everything being displayed the way he wished. Opening in 1938 the displays are living vignettes of yesterday, not items under glass. There are even Victorian streets and alleys and nooks and crannies. Michael should be very comfortable in these environs. I am charmed. And these streets are nearly deserted!
At the end of our Victorian era tour we follow arrows leading us to other parts of the museum and stories and items from World I. I have gone from charmed to sad. It is hard not to feel the pain and despair as I read and look.
Leaving the sadness and death of WWI behind us, we are directed to the basement and the cells that housed the women prisoners of old Yorkshire. Their stories are told with talking images projected on the cold cell walls. Currently the doors and the bars are gone. Even with the feeling of slight openness, and electricity that didn’t exist back then, I can’t imagine the despair of an individual facing five days in this place, much less five years or longer. Eventually many prisoners were shipped to Australia and the United States. So that is where the unsavory element at home originated. It’s all York’s fault.
We end the day at Mark & Spence, buying groceries for the week. Not many, just enough. On my list is cream for creamed leeks. In the dairy section I am faced with a dilemma I didn’t realize existed in this world. At home there are maybe four facings—here there are too many to count. Single Cream. Double Cream. Extra Thick Double Cream. Clotted Cream. Whipping Cream. Dairy Cream. Cream Fraiche. Sour Cream. Coconut cream. Cornish Gold Double Cream. Each with multiple rows, multiple facings, multiple sizes. I’m overwhelmed. By cream!
Along with being tiny, the Golden Fleece has a reputation of being the most haunted pub in England. During a ghost hunt in 2002 a number of people saw a man walking through the wall of the front of the bar, dressed in late 17th century clothing.
The Castle Museum is a great place for kids of all ages. Fun, sobering and educational.