York – City Walls and Skosh
We have waited for this day. A day with no rain. A day with no wind. A day with little sun. A perfect day to walk the circumference of the city walls—above the tug and tussle of the tourist hordes. I know I’m one, but I’ve been told by a native I don’t count due to the length of our stay. Luckily our perfect day is not a Saturday, a day where there is absolutely no place to escape the fray.
The most important of York’s four main medieval gateways giving access to the city walls is at the end, possibly beginning of the street where we live—Micklegate. This is the gateway where heads of rebels and traitors were displayed for all to see.
Among the notables whose head hung on this gate was Richard Duke of York, father to two future kings of England (Edward IV and Richard III) along with Edmund, Earl of Rutland, another of his sons, and his ally Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury. All victims, a.k.a. losers, of the War of the Roses. Currently the two volume historical novel concerning that conflict is on the table next to my bed—unsettling, albeit engrossing, nighttime reading.
This is the first time Michael and I actually see the gate that welcomes kings and queens through its arches. Until this day, the gate has been undergoing restoration, shrouded with a large plastic tarp. And even though the tarp is gone, it is still surrounded by mountains of scaffolding. After climbing the adjacent steps, we walk through its interior tunnel and begin our three mile journey.
I tell Michael that at least these walls won’t be like those in Conway—a continuous climb up. As soon as I say this we come to set of steps, leading up. At least by now I am used to climbs.
It is rather wonderful walking among the leafy branches, seemingly all by ourselves. We linger, and dally, taking our time; passing by our sometimes parking place when the area on Bishophill is full. We look down on Nunnery Car Park the place we used the first day we arrived when we didn’t know up from down or in from out and all we wanted was to be settled. It seems like a thousand years ago and yet it was barely three weeks.
I love the quietness of the path we walk, and the fact that we can see that a real town does exist amid all the rubble and rabble that tourists create on the other side of the river. The path is dry. The walking easy.
Finally we reach another city gate, walking down the steps we make a detour up the adjacent street, Cromwel Road which leads to Bishophill Senior and our rented Toyota. Having it so far away from where we live, and not being able to keep a watchful eye on a vehicle we are responsible for, bothers Michael to no end. Happily it is in fine condition, so we return to the city gate, ascending the next set of stairs.
Crossing the river we are back on the street, winding our way alongside the traffic till we get to the next access point. There is no wall here, because back when defenses were needed, a swamp took the place of stone, which apparently was more of a deterrent than a mere wall that could be scaled.
Still quiet. Still peaceful. Still dry. We continue up and down and around, occasionally bumping into the wet and slippery where I take extra care as I traverse the soaked autumn leaves. Michael tells me I take too many pictures, but I want to remember the whole thing, I will probably never walk this way again. More than likely I will never be in York again. The thought makes me sad, but at least I am here now. Breathing the air. Recording the moment.
The closer we get to the York Minster, the more foot traffic we encounter; the more restoration to the walls we see; the narrower the paths we walk; the more numerous the autumn leaves. The older the surroundings. Finally the walls lead down one more time and we are lost to the edge of the city, making our way back to Micklegate where we rest and get ready for dinner at Skosh.
Yesterday when we were lunching at the Hairy Fig, in a restaurant perhaps half as big as my kitchen at home, we sat next to an English couple out for the day, choosing lunch over a walk because of the rain. We struck up a lovely conversation, discussing many things. I finally asked if there was a restaurant they have tried that they would like to recommend. The wife hesitated, but the husband piped up with rave reviews of a restaurant called Skosh, as in “just a skosh.”
“Tiny plates but very good,” he said.
“I didn’t think he’d like it being a meat a potatoes man,” she said, “but he loved it.”
At home I made the reservation for the only time available during the next two weeks. Tonight at 5:30.
Just down the street, it takes us less than five minutes to reach our destination. During our respite between the town walls and sitting here I did a lot of checking on this place. Five stars across the board. Highly unusual food combinations. Tiny portions. Six to eight plates recommended per couple—you share everything.
“Except for the egg,” our waitress says. “You will each need one of those.”
And so we begin.
I want to try whipped cods’ roe, squash and sesame crackers, but Michael turns up his nose so I opt for skosh fried chicken with brown butter hollandaise and bombay dauphine with molee sauce. Soon I become so engrossed with trying the next new thing, I forget to take pictures.
The £6.5 bombay dauphine with molee sauce is the French classic potato dish made with a definite Indian flair, redolent with spices. Creamy and crisp. However I am not as enamored with the scorched sea trout, apple, fennel, smoked eel and dashi as I thought I would be. The tiny slivers of sea trout are a bit fishy, and for me it is an immediate turn off. And since I am not a huge fan of pork belly—can you believe it? Too much fat—I know fat is flavor. The crisp pork belly with vindaloo sauce, pickled carrots and yoghurt rice are basically Michael’s after I have a tiny taste.
Rather than dessert we opt for a cheese course, and because we each have different desires, we order our own.
The £6 gorgonzola dolce with burnt apple, celery and walnuts is so rich I can’t finish it—I can barely even start. Michael doesn’t have the same problem with his crispy pancakes of dale end cheddar, summer truffle and green tomato ketchup. It is two thick slices of creamy fried cheese. Offered a taste, I take it. It is decadent.
We roll home. Thank goodness we walked the walls today. We should have walked faster—worked up a sweat. At least we climbed all of those stairs.