(If you missed Part 1 you can find it here)
To sum up the story so far- It took more effort than it had should have done to get to the train station, I ended up briefly stranded in Leeds and got ripped off as well as discovering that I’ve inexplicably become some kind of a sex symbol- And that was just day one! But as I awake on the morning after, sunlight pouring in through the curtains, I find I have a problem. After yesterday’s adventures my legs have decided to stiffen and every time I try to move they start to throb something awful. But that isn’t going to stop me from getting back into the city and doing what I do best… Exploring.
Because of my legs I decide to take it easy and so I begin the day by gently ambling along the riverside and eating a chocolate donut I had left over from the day before. I intended to eat it on the train but as the day’s events took their turn, I didn’t. So that chocolate donut becomes breakfast and that has to be the least interesting thing I could possibly write. But it was a nice walk anyway and although my legs aren’t exactly playing ball I don’t mind at this stage. They aren’t as bad as all that and I’m sure that once I get the circulation going again they’ll be fine.
My first stop once back inside the walls of the city is the Richard III experience, which is not really an experience in the true sense of the word. It’s not like some kind of a theme park where you relive his entire life and get yourself killed by Henry Tudor before being dug up in a Leicester car park five hundred years later… It’s more a small, more traditional style museum which is housed in one of the gates just up past the Minster. Unfortunately it doesn’t open for another ten minutes so I have to fill that time with something… And that something is walking along the walls, which isn’t that exciting and probably not that good for my legs but it’s still better than hanging around the door like a chump. So I end up slowly ambling along the wall to the next gate, which turns out to be home to some kind of tramp, and then turn back again, which takes up all of the ten minutes. And when I get to the museum it still hasn’t quite opened so I continue along the opposite side of the wall for a bit, having to navigate an army of school children along the way- which isn’t easy on a wall that is hardly even big enough for two people to stand side by side. As the school children are back the way I’ve come from I hang around on a watch tower a bit further up the wall, admiring the scenery (which in this part of town consists of a few houses and a Carpet Right) until the army has had chance to either turn around and come back the way the came from or get off the walls. Theorizing that the latter is probably the case after a few minutes of staring at Carpet Right I head on back to the museum and this time find it open.
The lady behind the counter is expressly happy when I walk in and ask for a ‘medieval pass,’ which gets me into this museum and two others for a reasonable price. Somehow I end up with a guidebook as well which isn’t so bad a souvenir (except that it’s only for two of the museums, not three… You have to pay extra for the third one.) And it’s a nice little museum too. It isn’t big or fancy but it’s a suitable, more traditional kind of museum. The tendency for museums in the modern age is to make them all interactive and disneyfied and they could have just as easily had some hologram of Richard III as a tour guide and all sorts of other computerized displays around but what’s there instead is something of a much more traditional nature. There are some boards on the wall explaining his life and times and some artefact displays, including the crown that they’ll eventually rebury him with. The only problem is that there’s a small kids area in a tent on the top floor and they appear to have themed it around Horrible Histories and they have a small TV screen and they’re playing this, which is loud enough to be heard around the whole top floor of the museum:
Now I’m all for Horrible Histories and the TV series was far funnier than most adult comedies (What was that Mrs Browns Boys? Yes, I was referring to you!) but when you’re walking round a museum and you can hear that playing in the background it’s kind of distracting. Still, it’s an alright museum and there aren’t many Monarchs in Britain who have their own museum… There are only two other specifically dedicated museums to my knowledge… And one of those is also a Richard III museum (recently opened in Leicester).
But time is pressing on and although my Medieval Pass is valid for the next year I really want to see the next place, Barley Hall, an old medieval town house. What stands today is a reconstruction of how the hall would have looked in 1483 and it’s a kind of ‘living history’ type place. All is touchable and lickable in a way that most other museums aren’t (because what exists is only twenty years old and not five hundred and twenty.) Though again, it’s still mostly traditional and there is (thankfully) no silly music playing in the background. As I walk in through the main door (hidden away down an alley that leads to the Latin Quarter) the woman behind the counter (who is more or less my own age) can’t believe her luck and she get’s very excited over the fact that this extremely fit and highly attractive guy has just come into her museum. She fancied me… I could tell… But disappoint her I must as having been given the choice between her and the hall I’d rather look around the hall.
And what a hall… With the way it’s been set out it it’s almost as if the occupants could come back at any minute. I say almost… I doubt the occupants ate plastic food and kept signs on the walls detailing the history of the building and late medieval society. In the first room There’s all sorts of baskets filled with straw and plates and other stuff… It’s some kind of a servants room I think… But the thing I immediately notice is some broomsticks tucked away in the corner and my hand instantly goes to the nearest one. My first temptation is to stick it between my legs and ride around like I’m playing Quidditch but hearing somebody booking a ticket in the room next door and not wanting them to walk in on me looking like a total nut I opt instead to try sweeping the floor with it… It doesn’t do that well as there isn’t a lot of flexibility in the thing. So I move on and continue to look around the place, coming to the grand banqueting hall where I spend a while attempting to take a few photographs (unsuccessfully as I can’t seem to get the focus right) before seating myself at one of the tables. It’s not the head table though… That would just be wrong. Instead I sit at the very end where the lowliest of servants would have been seated… And where I’d have got the scraps nobody else wanted come to think of it. But hell, I’d have still been the sexiest servant who ever lived!
Upstairs there’s another Horrible Histories themed bit but this time it’s far more tasteful and there ain’t no music to spoil it. Instead what they have is a display of apothecary and medicinal supplies as well as surgical implements and some of the costumes from the TV series. It’s all very interesting and it works as an exhibition without managing to turn the place into some kind of joke. After this there’s the kitchen and the bedroom… Where I notice a very nice writing desk, and then another bit downstairs where there’s a buttery and a pantry. The whole place isn’t very big… It’s only about six or seven rooms, but I find there’s enough to keep me there for a good three quarters of an hour before I head across the city to the Henry VII museum…
But getting there proves tricky as my legs are rapidly seizing up and I’m now finding it difficult to walk any great distance. As with the Richard III museum the Henry VII museum (also referred to as an ‘experience’) is housed in a gate of the city walls so I cross over the river and climb up to the nearest section of the walls so the walk might be a little easier. It isn’t and a little way along I have to stop and sit down in a niche in order to rest for five minutes… The view is of an office block and it isn’t very spectacular (as I said in the first part, there isn’t much worth talking about this side of the river). And then I move on. It seems like a hell of a long way to the museum, even though it’s only about a third of a mile, but I reach there eventually and I’m hoping that this trek hasn’t been for nothing. It’s not. The museum is done in a similar way to the Richard III museum, set over a few floors with a few artefacts and signs detailing the life of Henry Tudor… And it also has another tent playing Horrible Histories music, only not as good music this time which makes it all the more irritating. Would headphones be too much of an expense for the museums to invest in I wonder? Anyway, however, it’s a decent enough museum and it makes the price I paid for the pass worth it. And if I come back to the city at any point in the next year I can visit all three museums again without having to repay!
After sitting myself down and filling in a questionnaire (for the benefit of giving my legs a bit of a rest) I attempt to head back across the river. This time I take a more direct route and along the way I come across an old Benedictine church (The Priory Church of the Holy Trinity) which has an exhibition about its history going on. It’s free to look round but I always drop a few coins into the donation box whenever I visit these places as it’s only polite to do so. I also sign the guestbook because I’m feeling big headed and imagining that in two hundred years time some Countryfile type programme will visit the church and point to the guestbook saying ‘look at this… JPC was here in June 2014!.’ It’s a nice ten minute distraction and afterwards I continue on my way back along the road, stopping off in a cool looking second hand book store of the traditional variety with old leathery volumes piled on shelves as high as the eye could see. The problem is that my legs are now getting progressively worse and walking is difficult. I am really starting to think that something might actually be wrong as there are whole packs of pensioners who are walking faster than I am. But as is the case sometimes it turned out to just be the fact that it was more exercise in one go than they have been used to of late. And it’s odd also, because usually when something goes wrong with my legs it’s my knee that’s the cause of the trouble (I twisted it whilst on holiday several years back and every once in a while that incident comes back to haunt me). But my knee, strangely, is fine. It’s my thighs that are the problem this time around.
Deciding that what I need is a long sit down I reckon to myself that it’s finally time to visit that fabled Guy Fawkes Inn which I couldn’t find yesterday. It’s an arduous ordeal through busy city streets packed with tourists but I make it there in the end. There is truly nothing more glorious than the sight of an Inn after you have travelled a great and difficult journey and this is no exception. Ok, so I’ve only come from the other side of the city but in the time it took me I might as well have been to Mordor and back. Inside the Guy Fawkes Inn is a humble, old fashioned kind of place containing a small bar area with rooms dotted about where there are more places to sit as well as a beer garden out the back. There are also candles on the table which give the place a sweet, seventeenth century atmosphere. You can almost imagine a pair of brooding conspirators talking in whispers across the room and looking furtively about to make sure they aren’t overheard. Having just been baking in the sun and wanting somewhere I can recline I opt to stay in the bar, which is empty and nicely shaded, ordering myself a pint of something called ‘Centurion Ghost Ale.’ It’s a fine beer which I drink slowly from a dark corner where I can quietly observe all the comings and goings of the world and the tourists who stop outside the place to take picture but of whom very few enter. Those few who do enter all opt to go and roast themselves in the beer garden. But I’m not complaining. It’snice to be away from the crowds and the people and out of the endless throngs of tourists flocking about the place.
Here too is my only contact with the outside world. There are some papers on the bar so I pick out a copy of The Guardian and casually leaf through it for a few minutes. The news isn’t that exciting… Cameron is still an upper class twit with no clue about how normal people live, Gove is still in charge of national education despite all evidence pointing to the fact that he is the most incompetent man ever to enter politics, the middle east is still in crisis and for some reason scientists are trying to recreate Spanish Flu… That last item could be seen as alarming but I take it as just another of those media scaremongering stories and bypass it. Although if you happen to be reading this at some point in the future and the bodies just happen to be piling up in the streets all I am able to do is admit that I was very wrong.
After my rest at the Inn my legs are feeling much better, though they still aren’t perfect. After contemplating what to do next I figure that I might go back to the hostel and chill for a while so I start working my way through the city to Dame Judi Dench and the walk along the river to the youth hostel. But there’s a problem… I don’t know what caused it but that single pint has sent me half drunk. I’m feeling light headed and a little bit tipsy and this is inexplicable because I’m not normally such a lightweight. One pint doesn’t usually send me over the edge. But maybe the answer is food… I haven’t had anything since breakfast so that may explain it. As I pass by the museum gardens I decide that food is exactly what I need and so, spotting an ice cream van, I immediately go over to see what’s on offer. There’s a list of the usual flavours, chocolate, vanilla, etc… And something called a ‘hokey pokey.’ I’m intrigued and as I can never resist trying anything that is even slightly beyond the norm I buy one… And yes, if you must know, I did have the hokey pokey on Dame Judi Dench.
It’s now so warm that when I reach the hostel I need another drink… And there’s a vending machine in a room just off the reception so naturally I walk towards the machine, put my money and… It get’s stuck. It’s not even stuck on the drop bit… It’s stuck upright in the bottom and the flap won’t open. There’s nothing I can do to get it free so, rather embarrassingly, I have to go to the reception desk and ask for help… The lady is more than willing but then she points out the sign on the door of the room saying that it’s closed for maintainance. More embarrassment. And it then turns out that she can’t get the bottle out because she doesn’t have a key… She tries shaking it but that doesn’t work. In the end she manages to dig it out by way of a pool cue but not before I’ve been left completely humiliated by the whole incident. The only thing to do is hide away in my room and read for a short time whilst I get over it and forget it ever happened.
And afterwards, with my legs now feeling far better, I decide it’s time for a proper evening meal. Determined not to get ripped off again and feeling in the mood for something Italian I look around and find a few places I’ve never seen before… Two restaurants tucked away besides the mansion house (One called the Lendal Cellars and the other being a Jamie’s Italian) and a Nandos… I’ve never had Nandos before and I’m really tempted but by this stage my mind is dead set on the idea of an Italian. There’s a pizza place on The Shambles but it isn’t open yet and as I’m already famished it’s ruled out. A wander through the latin quarter yields no results and then I find myself looking at a place called The Punch Bowl. On the menu outside there’s a list of starters and I see that they have a Mac and Cheese on there for a fair enough price, about three pounds. At that sort of price I can have dessert as well! Liking the idea I go in, place an order for that and a drink… And then I discover that they also have a main course Mac and Cheese which is a bit more expensive. This understandably causes a misunderstanding and the barman puts through an order for the more expensive one. It’s my own fault for not looking at the menu properly but I just go with it as there’s nothing much that can be done other than making both myself and the barman feel like complete muppets rather than just me. On the plus side I get a little bit more Mac and Cheese than I would have had with a starter and it’s a nice pub too, old fashioned and dingy just the way a good tavern should be. According to the back of some info sheet they have on all the table the pub was once a brothel and a hangout of Whig radicals. It’s also supposed to be haunted by a dead prostitute who got strangled by one of her punters. Besides the ghost I don’t think there are any prostitutes hanging around, nor any Whigs. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any Whigs anywhere in the UK these days. People say they’re the equivalent of the modern Liberal Democrats but that’s not entirely true as the Liberal Party (which eventually became the Liberal Democrats) was formed by a coalition of Whigs and Peelite Tories (and others) but the Whigs eventually lost influence to the Peelites and then some of them went off to form their own party which then got merged with the Conservatives in 1912. The Whigs really ended up all over the place. What i’m getting at is that it isn’t likely that you’ll go into the place and find Nick Clegg sobbing in a corner these days. Or maybe you might? Who knows! Oh and the food was good as well… I should really mention that.
And for the reminder of the evening I decide that there is nothing more to be done than drink it all away in the youth hostel bar. There’s a world cup match on so half the city is probably crawling with loud mouthed drunkards who’ve gone mental just because a bunch of overpaid pansies are having a game on the other side of the world. I find it’s best to avoid them for the sake of my own sanity and the YHA bar is the perfect place to do that as all of them who are there are locked away in the TV room with their precious football. But even here in the bar there is still one guy who comes over and asks if I’m watching the match… When I say ‘No’ he goes away looking offended. Good.
At the time that day seemed so full and it seemed like I did so much but looking back now it seems all I did was visit a few museums, a few church wander the walls, eat and drink. But oh well… I had fun (despite the legs) and that’s what counts. And hey, I still have some time left in the city before my train tomorrow afternoon and there is still so much more for me to do…