Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Siege of York and Robin Hood

Today I walked along the walls of York that still partially surround the old town. The gates are filled with wooden doors dating back to the 14th Century, stone gates and ramparts and information plaques to give you a bit of knowledge as to where you are standing. I was not overwhelmed but I did stand on the wall facing York Minster, the behemoth cathedral that captures the skyline of the old town and let my mind wander and my imagination flow back to the time of William Wallace.

The Siege of York was the first battle in William Wallace's invasion of England which came into our modern consciousness with the movie Braveheart. A good article about his invasion of Northern England can be found here if you feel like a bit of a history lesson.

There is Fort York, York University, York Region, North York, East York and The Royal York all in and around Toronto which was called York at one time. None of this happens without York, England. Yes there is the whole invasion of Upper Canada and the cruelty that was inflicted upon its indigenous peoples but, that's just a bit of history right?

York was jumping when I arrived and it was only 10:30 in the morning. I had to stay in a 10 bed dorm because any single room was about $200 a night. Anything cheaper was already booked including the University. Off I went to wander and find a coffee so I could get my bearings and relax from the bus trip. Beside the coffee shop of choice was a pub and the patio was jam packed with a few merry makers well on their way. I get that it was a Saturday but it was also before 11:00 (Says the guy who was day drinking not so long ago in Liverpool). The lady who owned the coffee shop told me that today was the monthly pay for most people. Plus, York is very popular for Hen and Stag parties on most weekends and also for 21st birthday parties. It was all happening and it was a recipe for a massive  and possibly turbulent night. So much for an uneventful nerdy history day.

I walked the wall, admired the gates and took in historical information that was available on wall plaques everywhere. I sauntered, yes I just said sauntered, around the town finding great little alleyways and paths. As the afternoon stretched into the early evening you could feel the mood of the town change. Young girls/women had gotten dolled up and were roving in packs. Every single one of them wearing extra long fake eyelashes. They were hunted and hounded by loud and obnoxious steroid pumped frat boys. Tossed into this bubbling mess were the local lads. They had spent most of the day in the The Micklegate at 127 where the pints were the cheapest in town.They were looking for trouble hidden behind overly friendly banter. I had stuck my head in the 127 around 4:00 thinking a pint was in order. I never even crossed the threshold of the screaming drunken sausage party that was happening. 

The desk clerk of the hostel gave me the 411. He explained that the main street should become a bit of a war zone come midnight. Most pubs closed at 11:00, and the few night clubs in town were scattered along the street around the hostel. Grab a beer and sit on the patio upstairs, it should make for good entertainment. What an excellent idea.

By 9:30 as I headed to the relative safety of my bunker, I had already seen a few drunk girls crying while sitting on a curb, their friends doing what they could to console them. A few locals were sporting black eyes and had begun screaming at each other. One girl in her early 20's was a knockout. She had sparkles all over her face as the Hen parties tended to have. Her sparkles were enhanced by her purple and blue closed right eye that was tearing it was so fresh. She did not miss a beat as she walked past me chatting and laughing with her wobbling and stumbling posse.

Three of us from the hostel grabbed a few cans of beer and sat on the rooftop patio come midnight.
We were waiting for the action to unfold and were well stocked for a couple of hours of observation. In the end all we got for a show was some screaming and shouting between various groups and one guy falling off the curb backwards trying to take a selfie. That was kind of funny really.

Sunday came and the town emptied out, as did the hostel. By dinner time most of the shops were closed and the place was a ghost town. I made my way to a very different 127 pub and had a good laugh with the bartender as she told me stories about the night before. That was York and I am glad I took the time. 

After the madness of York, I welcomed the wide, modern and quiet streets of Nottingham. I came here for a couple of reasons. The first being Sherwood Forest, yes it is a real place. Second are the recently discovered/uncovered tunnels and grottos of Nottingham called the City of Caves. The largest and most extensive in all of Europe, and that is saying something. Then there is Nottingham Castle and Wollorton Hall. After Nottingham I have a couple of challenging travel days so I just wanted to rest and get myself sorted.

The tales of Robin Hood have made him an enduring folk hero. Although his name has been mentioned throughout history and sung in folklore ballads, no concrete evidence has ever been found to verify he actually existed. Who cares? The notion of a brave rebel who lives on the outskirts of society, fighting injustice and oppression with his band of companions, has universal appeal.

Now that being said, Sherwood Forest is very real. It is an hour bus ride on the aptly named "Sherwood Arrow". The journey takes you out of Nottingham and through pristine farmland and quaint villages. The bus drops you off at the main entrance and off you go. The visitor centre is being renovated but there are trail maps and information markers that are well laid out.

The big draw is the Major Oak. Estimated to be over 1200 years old it is one of the last of the old Oaks that grace the forest. At one time Sherwood Forest was massive, covering most of Nottinghamshire, but over time so much of the trees were felled for the construction of boats, churches and towns. I wandered the paths and trails for a couple of hours. There were some families enjoying the day but the park was quiet.

There was a woman who was selling coffee and snacks near the entrance of the park. Her radio was playing "The Clash" which I commented on. It turns out she is Canadian, formerly of Calgary. We both smiled at being Canadian and at that exact moment the song on the radio changed to Bryan Adams summer of '69. That made us both laugh and with that she gave me my coffee and apple cake for free. It was a nice moment.

when I first arrived but when we started chatting and discovered that we were both Canadian the next song to come on was by Bryan Adams. A bit of a "holy shit" funny moment. She gave me my coffee and a piece of apple cake for free because of that moment.

The main village near Sherwood Forest is Edwinstone and they have taken advantage of their location for tourist purposes. It is subtle but all the signs are there. I left the park and the 10 minute walk to town was nice. It was a bit overcast so the air was cool. I stumbled onto St Marys Church Edwinstone which is rumored to be the locations where Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married. We don't even know if this guy existed but we do know where he was supposedly married. I love folklore.

My flight to Mexico leaves at 8:10 am on the 10th. Heathrow is an incredibly busy airport and Antonia advised me to get there no less than 2 hours before, and that would be cutting it close. I figured that to get to the airport for 6:00 am I would have to leave where ever I was by 5:00, which is when the underground opens. It made no sense to spend the money on a room since I would be waking up at 4:30 AM. I am taking the 6:00 PM bus from Nottingham that gets me into Heathrow Terminal 2 around 10:30 pm. I can sit or snooze until 5:30 AM no problem.

 Cancun, you are on the clock.

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