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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 10 July 2015

9 things to love about York

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. A great place for a short visit is the cobbled city of York - just two hours by train from London, and even quicker from Edinburgh. York is a very walkable city, has a brilliant university but is still compact - so not like it's namesake New York. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Walking the Shambles in York. (c) Lola May
1 You have got to take a trip to York. When the wind blows in the right direction it smells of chocolate; there’s a city newspaper, The Press, and the River Ouse runs through the town’s pale stone houses,  and sometimes even into the city which pubs like the King’s Arms seem able to celebrate. Here are a few more reasons...

Lots more info: http://www.visityork.org/

A signpost near Clifford's Tower helps visitors
navigate. (c) Lola May
2 York is designed for people to walk around. The centre is car-free and as a result it’s a pleasure to go there. As it’s on the mainline train route it’s a tempting stop for most UK visitors, especially if they want to see the top 5 tourist destinations which also include London, Bath, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

3 York is history heaven. A walled city - rebuilt by the Victorians offering today’s visitors a wonderful respite from shopping. Look out for the white rose emblem. And guess which city was named after it... yes, New York, USA.

4 York has zillions of pubs. One for every day of the year even. Some are riverside, some are tucked into the narrow lanes that you need to learn to call snickleways.

Use this map of real ale pubs in the city centre created by CAMRA (the campaign for real ale) volunteers.

5 York is a real looker. The Harry Potter look of the Shambles is a must see. The Shambles - voted Britain's most picturesque street in 2010 - is a Medieval street with the top storey of the timber houses overhanging the lower section. Years gone by it was full of butchers, now it’s full of tourist eye-candy – from locally-made chocolates and ice cream to superior leather bags and belts.

6 York is spooky. There’s a city ghost tour that I’ve not yet done, but I want to.

7 York is full of spiritually-minded types, even an Archbishop. Back in 1984 when an outspoken cleric muttered he wasn’t sure about the Virgin Birth the response was a lightning strike that set the Minster alight. It took some time to repair.

Go visit the Minster. Or if you are heading through York north on a train look right as you leave the station.

York uni students at James College can have BBQs
on campus. (c) Lola May
8 York University is world class, and set around a pretty lake enjoyed by wildfowl. There are now16,000 students - but the campus is so huge that it seems to work. The size is offset by practicals such as the university library being open 24/7 and regular buses (the 4, 44 and university hopper) which whisk staff and students to and from the campus. So you don’t have to bike. But if you do want to bike there are easy to navigate cycle routes, some off road and plenty of cycle parking. Although there could always be more places to prop a bike.

More about the university here. It's a good place to stay if you are visiting between June-September. Here's a link to all of York's buses.

Betty's is a York institution. Put your nose
to the window if you aren't able to go in.
aroundbritainnoplane/Nicola Baird
9 York has the best tea shops. Betty’s is amazing – whether you go to the tiny one off Stonegate or the bigger branch at St Helen's Square. Worth dressing up for (and missing breakfast).

Betty's has other tea shops in the north of England, but the York branches are the best. Don't worry if you have to queue - that's part of the tradition, see here.

Central Hall - always rumoured to be sinking, but it never does.
The university opened in 1963 so parts have a brutalist look .
(c) aroundbritainnoplane/Nicola Baird
10 York is an amazing place to be a student – but people work in York too and not just in academia or tourism. This is a city buzzing with creativity, industry and the pesky folk advertising their ghost tour.

Allegedly the ghost tour of York leaving each night from the King's Arms, by the Ouse Bridge, is the oldest York ghost tour (although surely the Victorians would have done something similar). Back in the 1980s a friend of mine led these walk & talks so the claims may be correct. Try the tour here.

Over to you
What's your favourite city to visit in the UK? Is it a favourite because of it's history or your history (I love York extra amounts because I was a student there & my Dad used to run the Friargate Wax Museum - now sadly long shut, but that's the reason I didn't mention the Jorvik Viking Centre...)

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