England – Part 2

Hey again everyone,

This post is the second in a series of articles about our Friendship Force home stay in the northeast part of England.  We’ll take a tour of the York Minster, the North Yorkshire Moors, Whitby, and Swaledale. Let’s get started.

A few posts ago, I described our experience in York with the Normandy Veterans Association. It was so powerful that I thought it merited a post of it’s own. After that moving experience we had a scheduled tour of the York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals of it’s kind in Europe. The present day church was built in the 1200’s, completed about 200 years later and added to as time went on. During the Protestant Reformation, many of the original artifacts were looted or destroyed in order to rid it of any semblance of it’s Catholic heritage. Mostly left intact were the massive stained glass windows. Our guide for the tour was an expert on those windows and spent most of the tour describing the symbolism created by the windows and the current state of restoration. He was a lively and knowledgeable chap.England-York Minster-1678

Our group was attentive as he described the windows and enjoyed his English humor!England-York Minster-1687

One of the beautiful windows in the Minster. All the panels have some religious and historical meaning.England-York Minster-1680

The exterior of the Minster is equally impressive and dominates the skyline for miles around. During this visit it was difficult to see the main part of the interior of the church as they were setting up for a series of performances of Shakespeare plays as a fundraising event. The stairs to the tower overlooking the city were also closed for repairs. England-York Minster-1694

On one of the days of our homestay, our hosts took us to Whitby, a seaside port and tourist destination. For Midwest US readers, think Door County, Wisconsin. On the way to Whitby, we drove through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, home to lots of sheep and heather. The weather was very cool, windy, and misty so not too many stops for photos in the Moors on our way to Whitby. However, we did stop at the tiny seaside village of Runswick Bay.England-Whitby-1538

After a few minutes of looking at the rough water in the bay and complaining about the wind, our hosts suggested we have some morning coffee, a daily ritual in the UK. First let me explain, Bill, our host was the driver but his wife Pam wasn’t able to go with us that day. So they invited a friend and member of their Friendship Force Club, Elsie, to make the trip to Whitby. She was such a wonderful, proper English woman with a great sense of humor. It was actually her idea to have coffee and warm up, her treat. Here’s Elsie and Donna have a laugh over something. At one point, Elsie said ‘you Americans got us into this drinking coffee thing’ to which I replied ‘well if you Brits wouldn’t have taxed the tea, we might all be drinking tea!’ We had a great laugh.England-Whitby-1535

After touring the Moors, we stopped at a old country inn for lunch. I like that the pubs serve beer in either pints or half pints making it an easy choice to have a tasty beer with lunch! We found out that our hosts have their favorite inns and pubs, like who serves the best bangers and mash or fish and chips.England-Whitby-1553

Whitby is divided by the River Esk that flows into the North Sea. The first inhabitants arrived sometime in the the mid 600’s. When arriving in Whitby, one can’t help but notice the huge marina of pleasure, charter and fishing boats in the harbor.England-Whitby-1559

Overlooking the city are the ruins of the picturesque Whitby Abbey. This monastery was established in 657 by the then King of Northumbria. After the original building was destroyed by a raid by the Danish Vikings, it was rebuilt in 1000’s and fell into ruin after the Reformation. The Abbey grounds were closed before we could get a close up look but here’s a photo taken from cemetery of St. Mary’s Church. Looks like it was mighty impressive in it’s day.England-Whitby-1610

And a photo of St. Mary’s, an Anglican Church built in the early 1800’s overlooking the Whitby harbor.England-Whitby-1609

We heard a lot about the Church Steps, 199 steps on the path up to the Abbey and St. Mary’s. However, the view is worth the huffing and puffing effort. Here’s a photo taken at the overlook of the city of Whitby.England-Whitby-1618

Being a tourist town, means that there are many shops trying to interest you in spending your money! We did pop into a shop where the operator was demonstrating how “jet” was made into jewelry. Jet is a black or dark brown type of very hard lignite, a precursor to coal. It’s considered a minor gemstone but was very popular during the Roman reign and later at the time of Queen Victoria. Jet is found nearby and from what we could determine, regulated on how much can be mined. Here the jeweler demonstrates how he prepares the stones for setting in jewelry.England-Whitby-1591

As we walked around Whitby, we came across an oddly named alley where lots of the tourists stop to have their photos taken. When in Whitby, do as the tourists do! (Note, cold enough for gloves and a stocking cap!)IMG_0704

The evening ended with the Friendship Force ambassadors and hosts having a traditional English fish and chips dinner at the famous Trenchers Restaurant in Whitby. And Donna couldn’t pass up the dessert!IMG_0754

Another day, Bill and Pam took us on a ride to Richmond and the area known as Swaledale located in the northern part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. What a lovely (as the English say!), serene part of the world. The countryside is very picturesque with small shareholder sheep (mostly) farms and a small bit of tourism. While this photo doesn’t do it justice, I think you’ll agree how beautiful and quaint it is in this part of England.IMG_0786

After lunch at the old railway station in Richmond, we stopped in the tiny village of Muker to walk around and visit a couple of the small gift shops.IMG_2664

It was in this shop where we found these fun coasters that we continued to look for the rest of our trip.IMG_0833 (1)

Get it, “Friendsheep” for “Friendship!” We ended up bringing several of these and other similar products home with us to promote our dedication to friendship. That will do it for this post. Next week, the last post from our homestay in England and then on to Scotland.

Take care. Until next week,