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Can I call you mine?

Quite a bit has happened since I last posted. One of the biggest highlights since my last post was the group trip to York. We had to get up at 6:30 in the morning to make the early morning train; I felt like I was back in middle school again. It was pretty exciting to get outside of London for a bit. While there is so much in London, it was nice to be outside the city limits for once and finally get a glimpse of the beautiful English countryside and the small towns that inhabit it. Upon finally arriving in York around midday, it was shocking how different it was from London. Both of the cities are very old, bit the oldness in York seemed much more present and alive. York was a huge Roman stronghold in during the time it was occupied by the massive empire, and little bits and pieces of that time still remain within the city along with the incredible landmarks that showed that York has played a gigantic role in the history of England. There are several ruins that line city blocks and have little plazas all to themselves. One might find the ruins of a castle, then walk a block over and be confronted by a Starbucks. The clash of ancient culture and modernity in York is utterly fascinating. The two biggest landmarks in the city are easily the wall and Yorkminster. The wall, which used to outline the entire perimeter of the city in medieval times is still standing and is actually quite an efficient route for getting around town if you don’t want to wait to cross streets. Going down the very thin walkways on the wall, it felt to me as if I were in the middle of a historical film about wars in old England. The wall even still has small holes for archers to peek out and shoot arrows from. The wall also gives you a grand view of the city. From the wall (and almost everywhere else, for that matter) one can also see the town’s gigantic cathedral: Yorkminster. It towers above all other buildings in the city and often announces its presence through the ringing of its loud, deep and very old bells. I found myself completely lost and infatuated with the city’s oldness and beautiful connections to its past.

                It just so happens that on the day we ventured to York, we arrived on a national holiday. Upon arriving, our group leader informed us that today just happened to be the anniversary of the coronation of the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II and that there was to be a large ceremony in town today and that we would be able to sit in on these ceremonies if we wished to. All we needed to do was follow the crowds. It wasn’t hard. After making our way through the packed, tiny streets, we found ourselves in a square where a royal brass band was playing away, all dressed in formal garb. After a few tunes, they began to march toward the park and we followed. We followed them to the park and got ourselves prime viewing for the main event: the 21 canon salute. Everything was done in a meticulous military fashion. Soldiers carried out their orders from their superiors jerkily and quickly, loaded the guns, and after a loud and clear “FIRE,” each canon went off with a flash of red light and the resounding sound not unlike that of a thunderclap. 21 times the canons sounded off over the river, and when they were done, the soldiers were met with thunderous applause. We left the ceremony afterwards to meet up with the rest of the group, get lunch and then begin our tour of York. The tour was fairly extensive. We traveled all around the city, scaled the wall, wandered through the main shopping area called the Shambles (I swear to you that the people from Warner Brothers used the Shambles as the model for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films) and then wrapped everything up at Yorkminster. Our tour of the church was a little long but was filmed with a lot of really interesting history. Yorkminster is an incredibly beautiful building. The ceilings are high and the stained glass windows are elaborate. Something that struck me about Yorkminster was how different it felt from all of the other cathedrals I had seen in London. Perhaps it was because we were in northern England, but the design of everything seemed, well, colder. There was not nearly as much gold in Yorkminster than there was in many of the other cathedrals I have been in so far. Everything was in an elegant shade of gray and there were countless windows that allowed for the cathedral to be filled with natural and gentle light. It seemed more solemn, darker and older than any other religious space I had been in prior.

                After our grand tour, a group of friends and I headed back to the Shambles to check out some of the shops we had passed earlier. The Shambles used to be a meat market, and the architecture of the building was designed around both displaying meat and keeping the sun out of the alleyway to make sure that the meat didn’t go back as quickly. Each building had a bench that came out into the sidewalk and some of the shops even veered away from the walls that kept them strictly vertical and jutted all the way into the street, causing much of the street to in shadow. During our small excursion, we explored a couple souvenir shops, a record store, and then stumbled into a small chocolate shop where we got the best hot chocolate I have ever had. It was perfect on that day since it was absolutely freezing outside. After exploring the Shambles, a couple of us decided to check out an Evensong at Yorkminster. We entered the church again at around 5:00 PM and were lucky enough to get seats directly behind the choir. The echo in the church was absolutely breathtaking and I was extremely impressed by the singers. It was a bit of a revival for me of how much I love vocal music. It also made me miss singing very very much. I hope to go to many more Evensongs while I am here. After the Evensong was over, the group seemed pretty hungry, so we went in search of a pub, and my goodness did we find one. With a great atmosphere, great British food (hoorah for sticky toffee pudding) and surprisingly low prices (I got a full meal and a drink for under a fiver; this would be unheard of in London), we had a lovely night, all of us returning to our beds pleasantly tipsy to our beds.

                The following day, all of us made our way to another large English city: Birmingham. I didn’t like Birmingham nearly as much as I liked York since it was far more urban. We didn’t stay too long in Birmingham since we only headed over to see a single concert. Our group had gotten tickets to see one of the best brass bands in the world, the Black Dyke Band. This band was extremely precise, showy and LOUD. I was in the back row of the balcony and there were still some times when I felt that if they pushed just a LITTLE bit harder, they would risk deafening me. It was an extremely entertaining and impressive concert featuring many pieces that showed off the power and glory of the instruments that these people had dedicated their lives to. Some of the musicianship that night was nothing short of astonishing. After the concert, we were all pretty worn out from such a wonderful evening. We all headed back to London and went to bed. I wouldn’t mind going back to York in the future. I could see myself living there. It’s such a beautiful city.


Song of the day:


19 February 2010