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East Coast

Started: 2014-06-02 20:09:43

Submitted: 2014-06-02 21:00:12

Visibility: World-readable

Thursday, 22nd May: in which the intrepid narrator travels down the East Coast Main Line to York and visits York Minster

On our last day in Inverness I booked train tickets to take us on to York, site of the National Railway Museum, which was enough, all by itself, to get me to spend a day there. I picked the one direct train from Inverness to York (continuing on to London King's Cross), but the downside was that it left early in the morning at 07:55.

We woke early and headed down to breakfast in our hotel when it opened at 07:00. This proved easier said than done; the kitchen appeared to be overrun with orders from another group in another room, so it took twenty minutes for our food to arrive. We ate quickly, checked out of the hotel, and hurried to the train station. Kiesa picked up Calvin and carried him to make sure we made it in time. I picked up our tickets from the automated kiosk and we found our train, a long InterCity 125 trainset operated by East Coast with two streamlined diesel locomotives at either end, waiting for us on the platform. We found our seats and boarded the train with four minutes to spare before the train quietly pulled out of the station right on time at 07:55.

The A9, somewhere in Scotland
The A9, somewhere in Scotland

The train took us south along the Highland Main Line, in the opposite direction of our train into Inverness on Sunday. (Much of the route through the highlands was single-track, forcing trains to wait for one another at stations before proceeding.) The weather was grey and brooding, and felt just about right for Scotland.

Scottish countryside
Scottish countryside

I took advantage of the onboard wifi (and, once my battery started to run low, the power plug located next to my seat) to research York to nail down the final details of what I wanted to see, besides the obvious railway museum. I took notes on my wiki, then exported an ebook with my notes and loaded it onto my tablet to peruse on the ground.

Our train took a different route between Perth and Edinburgh, giving me a chance to see different scenery out the window, including the Falkirk boat lift. We stopped in Edinburgh and continued south, joining the East Coast Main Line. The route took us right up to the North Sea, giving me the chance to gaze out at the waves crashing on the rocks just outside the window as the train accelerated to 125 miles per hour. I checked our speed on my GPS app on my tablet and was happy that our High Speed Train was, in fact, living up to its name.

We ate lunch from the on-board cafe, which involved stumbling several carriages toward the front of the train as the train rocked around us. Our meal was not the best I've ever had, but for food served on a train it seemed pretty good.

Calvin watches the English countryside roll by
Calvin watches the English countryside roll by

We pulled into York Railway Station a few minutes after our scheduled arrival of 13:53 and joined the crowd of people disembarking. (After York the train ran non-stop to King's Cross, and London was not on our schedule today.)

Kiesa and Calvin on the platform at York Railway Station
Kiesa and Calvin on the platform at York Railway Station

We watched the train depart, then made our way out of the station in search of our hotel, the "Hampton by Hilton York", a short walk from the train station. The rain had stopped, but the clouds remained and the air was cool and humid, suggesting it might resume raining at any moment.

East Coast 43309 departs York Railway Station
East Coast 43309 departs York Railway Station

We checked into our hotel and headed out into the city, taking a detour to walk along the medieval city walls that still ring the center of the city. (Our hotel was just inside the walls, presumably giving it more prestige than addresses just outside the walls.) We stopped for a snack at Costa Coffee, then headed to York Minster, the massive cathedral at the center of the city.

Kiesa and Calvin walk on the York city walls
Kiesa and Calvin walk on the York city walls

York Minster is one of the finest medieval cathedrals in the United Kingdom. It was built in stages throughout the Gothic era and therefore displayed three distinct building styles (at least, distinct to students of medieval architecture; I was only vaguely aware that there were differences). I bought up a guidebook at the entrance and looked around while Kiesa followed Calvin wandering around. I was impressed by the intricate stone work, some of which had stood for 800 years, and the gigantic panels of stained glass that were being restored, and wondered about the economic resources that had to be diverted to build the edifice.

Front of York Minster
Front of York Minster

At 17:00 we queued in front of the Quire to be admitted to the Evensong service. (To Kiesa's amusement, the only time I go to church is when I'm on vacation and I can justify it as partaking in the local culture and history.) At least three-quarters of the people attending the service were tourists (some more obviously tourists than us; I left my camera in my hotel room), and the remaining quarter were attending a special service to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Hope and Homes for Children charity. I enjoyed the boy's choir and followed the liturgy in the program we were given.

York Minster and the surrounding street
York Minster and the surrounding street

After the service we headed into the nearby streets in search of supper and found El Piano, an only-slightly-weird vegan restaurant, before heading back to our hotel for the night.

For more photos on Thursday, 22nd May, see Photos on 2014-05-22. For Kiesa's parallel account, see Scotland – Day 8 / York – Day 1.

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