21 May 2010

There was no need to get up early so I took my time. Of course there is always something that needs to be done even while traveling. One thing in desperate need of doing was packing. Since the walk started there had been very little in the way of packing and unpacking. Now I was changing modes and had to re-stow the hiking boots and the dirty laundry had been growing steadily. In fact the laundry was reaching the toxic material stage. Luckily I had one of those zip-up plastic clothes bags which allowed me to stuff everything inside, seal, and then sit upon it to force the air out so the volume could be reduced a good bit. Stuffing other items into regular plastic bags and then into the boots took care of them neatly. At breakfast I talked briefly with a young man who was setting out in the other direction on the wall path. Well, (OK so I noticed his pretty wife first) He was planning to do the wall in TWO DAYS. I was flabbergasted. But my amazement quotient went off scale when I learned that the record for running the wall path from end-to-end was 19 hours and 24 minutes, set by a Yank stationed with the USAF at RAF Mildenhall.

After breakfast I saw that there was still a lot of time remaining so I walked around the B&B's pretty garden and then went back up to look at the Norman church in a different light than the evening before. I also went inside to see what was there. The church proved to have a neat little pipe organ along with well-done stonework and carving as well as a wooden vaulted ceiling. I left my donation and then wandered up past the Kings Arms to the bus stop. Kind of old-home week: K. and T. were there along with the Scottish couple I'd met on the way into Bowness. I can't honestly say who else was waiting and my notes are useless in that regard. I'd guess that the Canadian couple and the Australian contingent was there too but I wouldn't swear to it. The Stagecoach in Cumbria 93 bus showed up at 10:20 after driving down the village to a place out of sight where it turned around. I have nothing but respect for the driver -- he was driving the large motorcoach through village streets which, if they could be said to have been designed at all, where designed for a horse and cart. Clearance was nil in some places. We made it into the Carlisle bus station at 11:02. The train station was a bit of a walk from there but it didn't take long so I had time for a bite to eat and was sitting on the train at 11:51.

The train ride was a bit long since there was a change at Leeds. The scenery riding south was very interesting and sometimes spectacular. I'd read and heard about Yorkshire Dales and how they were a magnet for hikers. It is easy to understand why. The fells are a major part of the scenery but they are not actually that high when compared to mountains elsewhere but they make up for that by, for lack of a better word, I'll call presence. At least once I noticed that there was still snow on a fell and a couple of times I saw parties of hikers, large parties, near the tracks. I would certainly consider going myself if the opportunity arose. I departed the train at York at around 3:00PM with no idea where I would be staying that night. All I knew was that I didn't want to be in a tip or a place that was beyond my limited means. What I didn't know what that I was arriving in the city on what is probably the busiest weekend of the year. The weekend of the York Racecourse Spring Meeting when it seemed that a goodly percentage of the English population was planning on partying and my lack of planning was going to cost me a bit is a couple of ways.

Since I had no reservations anywhere, one direction was as good as another when I left the railroad station. I trundled along for a while with my luggage/backpack/daypack all assembled into a single piece and eventually, and entirely at random, I came across a sign "tourist information" and considered myself lucky. Of course when I got across the street and actually got inside it became apparent that something was going on. As it turned out they were in the process of closing down the office for relocation and had no telephones so they couldn't help me in finding a place to stay. At least they did have a street map of the central city so that I might at least know where I was wandering -- even if I didn't have a destination. Luckily the street I was on and those connecting had a number of small hotels which were conversions from Edwardian (I think it was that era anyway) houses -- glorified mega-B&Bs for the most part. Every one I came across had the same "No Vacancy" sign in the window so I wandered on, eventually coming to Bootham Street and making I right turn I got lucky and found a signless window in one of the larger hotels. Indeed, they did have a room for me but the catch was that it was for one night only. Figuring that one night's sleep in a bed rather than on a park bench was a step in the right direction I took the room, made my way to it (the room was way in the back in what I'm assuming was a stable or something like it 150 years ago, and made myself at home.

My rest didn't last long since I was anxious to get out and see some sights before it got too late so I sorted out my camera from the rest of my junk and headed out the door in the direction of the York Minster -- the one building that can be seen from anywhere in the city.

I wandered randomly with no destination in mind but the sights were interesting virtually anywhere in the old walled portion of the city so an actual destination didn't really enter into consideration. On the way around I ran across the railroad station again and decided that pre-purchasing a ticket now for the departure couldn't hurt (more on that later) so I took care of that bit of business and sucked down some coffee while I was at it and wandered on. Everywhere I went I found a surplus of charming old buildings, churches, ruined walls, and tourists. Oh the tourists! The numbers were amazing and their increase showed no sign of slacking. But who was I to comment -- being a tourist myself -- and one less prepared than most. As an example of my lack of preparation -- I had wandered away from my room without my city map and with only a vague recollection about the exact name of my hotel. And what was that street? Luckily there was still that prominent landmark of the York Minster rising above the city and a recollection of how it appeared from my hotel when I left so I was eventually I made my way back down the correct street and to a convenient Indian restaurant for a bit of Rogan Josh to stave off starvation. Thus strengthened I picked up my map, marked the street and hotel, and went out to walk on the city walls, the evening being clear and beautiful and I having nothing else on for the evening.


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