England – York – Endings, Bits and Bobs and …
Friday, November 3, 2017
It’s 2 a.m. and suddenly I wake, wondering—where in the heck am I? What bed, what room, what place is this? I look around in the dark seeing a light to my right and realize I’m home. Really home. But I can’t go back to sleep. My body clock is in a different time zone. I have slept in four different beds with four different pillows in four different cities during the last four days, just trying to be here.
Is it over? Is it really over? I feel I haven’t closed the final curtain. Summed it all up. I fear that I will forget it all if I don’t go upstairs right now, sit at my computer and record my memories. I lie in bed, thinking. Even now those last few days are a fog, evaporating like a fine mist. But I recall the words used and the sayings heard over the past two months, and I can’t help but smile—so many of the expressions and the terminology make so much sense.
To “pop” rather than drop or move or walk or go—it’s happier. I like popping in rather than dropping in or popping down to the end of the counter rather than moving or walking. And I like munching on “crisps” rather than chips—because that is exactly what they are—paper thin rounds of potatoes, fried crisp. I like the simple idea and single syllable of “lift” rather than the mouthful, multi-syllable words used here—elevator or escalator. And I love that men say “lovely”—all of the time.
Unlike Michael, I do not love the constant gray skies and pervasive drizzle that seemed to mark each calendar day during the months of September and October. It does make me appreciate the sun and the warmth of Texas, even the constant heat of summer.
Friday, October 27, 2017
The day dawns a brilliant blue, spilling over with golden sunshine. It is Christmas morning in October—a gift. We visit The Minster for the last time. On the streets, musicians and entertainers of every ilk stand on each corner we pass; Michael tosses money into the receptacles inches from their feet. One woman, whose voice is so rich, so full, so beautiful, receives a £5 note. We sit on a park bench in the sunshine and let her entertain us for quite a while, hoping beyond hope she will sing Mary Hopkins’ rendition of “Those Were the Days.” She never does.
This must be the York of summer—the York people fall in love with—when excitement and enthusiasm for being in a place run high and everyone is happy and laughter and music fill the air. I’m glad that we are able to get a small glimpse of what could be, because chances are we will never walk this way again. The world is too big. There is too little time.
Perhaps it was the approaching festivities of Halloween that caused the gaiety. I’ll never know for sure. Even the wedding shop next door to our apartment got in the mood.
Saturday, October 28, 2107
A weather forecast of gray skies with wind and rain keeps us tucked inside the apartment today. Washing. Writing. Reading. Catching up. Catching our breath. Thinking about home.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
I discover too late the English idea of brunch and our idea of brunch are far, far apart. I needlessly made reservations for eleven only to find a very empty restaurant when we arrive. We are served two Bloody Mary’s and two Mimosa’s rather than the one each we ordered because all day everyday drinks are two for one. After a less than satisfying egg dish and a more than satisfying dessert course I tell Michael I am on a mission to find something to take home—a souvenir of sorts. I want something old.
We begin the hunt. In the first antique shop, Michael is enamored with old Roman coins—for a very pretty price. I find an object that looks like it should hold powder for a musket, but I’m not sure. When I put the question to Michael he wants to know why I want to buy something that I do not even know what it is used for. “Because I like the way it looks,” I tell him.
We move on.
Walking toward the edge of town, opposite from where we live, we search for the tiny Italian restaurant that has intrigued me with Trip Advisor’s promise of a foodie paradise since the day we arrived. I got a recording when I called this morning, and I read both on Trip Advisor and their website that reservations are a must.
Opening the door to the deli below the restaurant I am directed upstairs where I find a well-coiffed blonde English lady sitting at a small table with a large book open before her. I explain why I am here. She frowns, takes a deep breath and starts flipping pages of the big book, finally saying, “Yes. I think we can make that work.” We leave the restaurant with dinner reservations at 5:30 p.m., on the condition that we relinquish the table at 7:30. They are fully, fully booked.
Still on my quest for something old, we pass by a small antique shop not too many doors down from the Little Italy restaurant—Northern Antiques. We pop in, and unfortunately for me, it is full of old antique prints of York—prints and etchings are a weakness I can barely refuse. I begin thumbing through stacks of matted prints hanging about in a small bin; then I see multiple stacks of framed prints on a corner table. I commence lifting and restacking the tower; gambling that nothing will appeal to my picky soul.
I find several that I like. Prints with meaning; the city gates of the city walls of York. City gates that we passed through during our walk around the walls not that many days ago. One gate is even Mickelgate Bar—our gate. But still, I want time to think about it—maybe a day—because I know in my heart of hearts that my walls are full and I need to turn around and walk away. The owner tells me he won’t be open tomorrow, our last day in York—he closes at 5 p.m. today. I take pictures of each print to help me decide which one is my favorite, thinking all the while I will not return. This is for the best. I really don’t need anything. With my hand on the door, ready to leave, I turn around and say, “I’ll take both.”
Making our way through the narrow tangle of streets, we cross the bridge over the River Ouse, climbing the forty steps up to our apartment. In our bedroom, I immediately unwrap one of my purchases, grab a suitcase and test the packability of the print of Micklegate Bar. My two, two-hundred-year-old prints are mere inches too big for our largest suitcase. Before I break the news to Michael I check to see if there is a shipping store anywhere in York. I know this won’t be cheap.
At 5 o’clock we walk back down the apartment’s stairs and cross the river once again, our feet and our noses moving toward dinner. We are seated at a tiny table, tucked in a tiny corner, in a tiny room, at the end of the tiny bar in Little Italy. It is good that I prefer cozy to spaciousness. Michael willingly goes along with whatever I like. The food proves to be wonderful, living up to its billing and then some.
The bresaola, Italian dried cured beef with parmesan shavings and rocket drizzled with EVOO and lemon juice is delicious—rarely on any menu back home, I love it. The chicken roulade with roasted Italian ham and provolone cheese in a white wine cream and cheese sauce is succulent, tender and moist, and I shouldn’t eat the whole thing, but I do. It is too good to leave on my plate. The Montepulciano Abruzzo house wine is so rich and round and soft and drinkable I regret only ordering a glass. I order another.
I order dessert, taking only two bites, the affogato being a much richer concoction than I was expecting; not a purists affogato, it is enhanced and gilded and sprinkled. It is too much for a night too filled with extreme indulgences.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Precious prints in hand, we begin the morning’s errands, walking toward York’s version of Mail Boxes Etc. Michael thinks shipping will be better than worrying about breakage in a poorly packed suitcase, even when I am told the cost will be $200 to pack and ship two framed prints that are glazed (under glass). I hope I love them when they arrive. I hope more that they will fit where I think they might live forever on the guest room wall.
We make our way to our first French Restaurant of the day—Cafe Rouge on Lower Petergate. I saw it on Friday as we stood watching a talented entertainer work magic with his fingers, his hands, his arms and a crystal ball. A small girl from the audience assisted him in his manipulation of the sparkling globe and the expression on her face and her excitement were indeed priceless.
Seated by a window in full view of the man and his heavy ball still performing his magic—in search of an audience—I barely glance at the menu. We are here because I want mussels with pommes frites. I am told they are out of mussels until Wednesday. I look again at the menu, choosing a rustic French onion soup for a starter because the day is colder than any that have gone before, and another appetizer, Eggs Meurette, for my main.
I discovered the existence of Eggs Meurette early last year—poached eggs in a red wine sauce—but have never tasted the dish. It sounded so odd when I heard about it that I couldn’t imagine how it would taste; how could it be any good at all? Actually, I thought it sounded terrible. So terrible that I thought I had to try it if ever given the opportunity. Michael orders a Croque Monsieur.
Most people love French onion soup for the ocean of melted cheese sitting on top of the crusty bread and dripping down the sides of the hot bowl. I love French onion soup for the onions and the broth—this onion soup was designed for my taste buds. Brimming with broth and caramelized onions, a judicious amount of cheese is sprinkled over the soup, sinking slowly to the bottom, while crisp croutons float on top.
I am shocked, the Eggs Meurette is delicious. This is something I am going to have to try at home. The sauce is a shade of dark mahogany and rich beyond belief—laden with bacon and mushrooms. I’m a fan, deciding a dry French red wine is the key ingredient. I make a mental note to search for a recipe.
Seeing a young boy with a Krispy Kreme hat on his head outside the restaurant window, we get an urge for a taste of home. Taking the long way back to our apartment, we turn into the North Carolina based donut shop when we reach its door, standing in line with every parent and child in York, waiting our turn. Back at our apartment, I begin the ordeal of packing up two months of stuff—some used to the point of being worn out—other things never touched.
Rustique Restaurant is almost just around the corner from where we live, taking less than five minutes to reach on foot. We passed it on our way to the Viking museum the first week we were here, paying little attention. It is brimming with dinner guests and the tables change hands often. Michael and I take our time, knowing we leave York tomorrow. We are in no rush.
Both of our appetizers are substantial enough for an entrée. Michael’s breaded brie served with mixed berry compote and Mesclun is decadent. The goat cheese and caramelized onion tartlet practically fills me up, but I persevere. I am grateful that the rack of lamb I ordered are three bite chops, but the pressed confit of lamb shoulder that comes with it is so delicious—and so unnecessary—that I eat the entire thing. The dauphinoise potatoes, red wine sauce and petit pois à la française guild the lily. Michael’s duck confit looks meager in comparison, but he says it tastes really good.
We should ignore the dessert menu but we don’t, both ordering a banana crepe. Michael thinks Bananas Foster. I envision the banana crepe I used to love a quarter century ago that I ordered repeatedly every time we visited the Burgundy Tree restaurant in Fort Worth. Neither one of our dreams come true, but the dish that is set before us is magnificent and thankfully, not overly filling.
Lying in bed at 21 Micklegate for one last time, my mind whirls and races and whirls again. I’m excited to be going home. Sad to be leaving England. Hating the prospect of the long flight across the pond all day Wednesday. Sleep is a lost cause.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
We say goodbye to Full English breakfasts. Before packing the car and heading to Manchester for the night, we eat our last one this morning at Bill’s, a restaurant recommended by our friend Trevor Green. After breakfast we walk down the busy streets of York one last time, making our way over the bridge across the River Ouse on our way to the apartment and our luggage. Next stop Manchester and the Clayton Hotel. Tomorrow the too long flight to Houston on Singapore Airlines. Home on Thursday. My bed. My shower. My kitchen. My washer. My dryer. Our other life.
“Halfpenny was born on 9 October 1748 at Bishopthorpe in Yorkshire, where his father was gardener to the Archbishop of York. He was apprenticed to a house-painter and practiced house-painting in York for some years. He afterwards raised himself to the position of an artist and a teacher of drawing. He acted as clerk of the works to John Carr the architect who was restoring York Minster and repaired some of its old decoration.
Halfpenny was twice married and was survived by two daughters, Margaret and Charlotte. He died at his house in the Gillygate, York, on 11 July 1811, and was buried in the churchyard of St Olave’s Church.
From the scaffolding put up in York Minster, Halfpenny made drawings of Gothic ornaments that made his name. They include a record of some portions of the building that were later damaged by fire. In 1795 Halfpenny began to publish by subscription Gothic Ornaments in the Cathedral Church of York, completed in twenty numbers in 1800. It was reprinted in 1807, under the old date, and a second edition appeared in 1831. The work consists of 175 specimens of ornament and four views of the interior of the church and chapter-house. His Fragmenta Vetusta, or the Remains of Ancient Buildings in York, was published in 1807. In both these works Halfpenny acted as his own engraver.
Halfpenny also drew and engraved the monument of Archbishop Henry Bowet in York Minster, for the second volume of Richard Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments. Five views of churches in Yorkshire were published in 1816 and 1817, after his death, by his daughter. Other works included landscapes and engraved portraits.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia