Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Swapping the Toffee for Yorkshire Pudding

This past weekend was Bank Holiday weekend, with Bank Holiday being a Monday roughly the equivalent of U.S. Labor Day. Presented with a long weekend, Chumley and I went into touring mode and headed north York, a city on his sightseeing wishlist. First and foremost, York (and the rest of Yorkshire for that matter) is the home of Yorkshire pudding, a bread-like pancake usually filled with meat, gravy and vegetables and polished off swiftly by carnivores like Chumley.

I happened to mention we were going to York to my father back in the U.S. "Is that where the little dogs come from?" he asked straight off the bat. "What little dogs?" I replied. "You know, Yorkies. The little yappy ones." Hm. I was stumped. "Probably," I answered, although I had seen no mention of Yorkies whatsoever in any of the York tourist board materials. No Yorkie Museums or towers of bones laid in tribute. I didn't know how subliminally the question had roosted in my brain until the next morning. I dreamt I was being chased by a dirty, nomadic, ferile pack of wild Yorkies, all snipping at me in unison as they gnashed at my ankles. I woke up in a cold sweat. I have been known to have prophetic dreams before, so I kept an eye out for little dogs as we started to walk the streets. One daschund in particular looked a bit menacing, but he was the wrong breed and on a leash. He didn't quite fit the profile.

York is home to Nestle Rowntree, a massive chocolate factory not open for public tours. Believe me, I checked. More specifically, it's home of the infamous Yorkie chocolate bar, with a slogan that has led to many testy exchanges between Chumley and me. I thought "It's not for girls!" was just another of Chumley's attempts to stop me from death by chocolate, hoping a sexist put down would at least divert my attention for a few seconds, until he pointed to a wrapper and there it was in print. I find the anti-girl sign even more injurious. I'm here to tell you it is for girls - how can a whopping, chunky chocolate bar expect to keep estrogen-mongers away? How insane. It is really delicious, despite being an affront to women. Don't sell crazy here, Chumley. And hand over that chocolate bar! I digress...

Just when I thought I knew what old was, York was established in 71 A.D. as a Roman outpost. Chumley picked up a silver Roman denarius (plural form denarii) he seemed chuffed (pleased) with. One denarius was about what a common day laborer or soldier would get paid each day. Beats a glittery "York is for Dorks" ruler that I was considering as a souvenir. The old Roman fort was built on the current site of York Minster, the city's cathedral.

York has a magnificent city wall still standing, mostly intact, which is a rarity. Some parts are Roman, some are Norman, but the newest additions are medieval. Those newfangled renovations! Boiling oil, long bows, crossbows - they all got fired off the top of the wall at the unpopular invaders below. I got nervous walking under the portcullis -- the massive, waffle-y gate with sharp, spikey ends that lowers to close various gates to the city. Think of it as a piece of sinister iron Chex mix ready to drop at any moment. It's not like they installed it last year so far as maintenance goes.

After a busy first day of sightseeing, we met some friends at a pub, by pure chance. Where did we find them, you ask? A little place called "The Yorkshire Terrier." Not a live dog to be found, but scary just the same. As they say, just call me "Claire-voyant." I found that a pint of cider took the edge off my self-inflicted heebie jeebies.

Much more on York to come...

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