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Monday, January 26, 2009

"The one with the York trip..."

This would be the second-last entry I'll be penning down in the UK, insyaAllah. Due to some unforeseen circumstances I'm now left with a laptop condoned of a GPU; which means I'm virtually would be computer-less until I set foot on Malaysian soil. What a waste, but there's a good consolation however. Due to start his clinical duties come Monday, Afzal would leave his laptop in my hands - I'll try not to fry his instead.

Our latest British endeavor - the historical city of York, a good 90 minutes train ride from Sheffield. Afzal's energy picked up throughout the week, and since it would be my last weekend in the UK he decided to once again leave the banes of home and brought me for yet another wonderful expedition. This time it was just the both of us, and we quickly were on our feet walking towards the train station in brink saturday morning - 10am. Being my second train ride after Manchester, I was quickly reacquainted with the surroundings of the area. Ever the custodian of warm gestures, the train fares were borne by none other than chemoboy himself.

Indifferent to the previous Manchester journey, the train ride up north towards York involved us passing through the great plains of Britain. That means miles and miles of fertile land composed of tunnels and bountiful, beautiful suburbs over what makes up one of England's vast agricultural area. Hmm, I guess this is where all those potatoes and carrots I bought cheap from Tesco comes from. Well let's just leave that to the imagination shall we.

Apart from our Manchester train ride, the journey quickly beckons yawns and boredom but three quarters through I set eyes upon something that I can only describe as a nuclear power plant. The last time I saw one full scale was in Gyeongju, Korea three years ago. I started to wonder whether it was a smart idea to place such a volatile structure very near to your edible crops and livestock. Not to mention next to your train line, full of tax-paying citizens (and soon-to-be-awed tourists).

That was when I further clarified this with Afzal, who dismissed it as being only a cooling plant for some sort of industrial process. Upon further investigation, turns out this was one of many other cooling sites nearby; within eyesight there was already about three so I'm guessing there're more spread across the presinct.

Anyways, it wasn't too long until our train called in at York Station. First impression that the station was no comparison to the ones in London and Manchester, but still retain that English identity that never ceases to amaze you. Probably its just the architecture of it, you know. Resembling a proper train station. Back home a train station can look like a bus station, or even a taxi centre. It wasn't until further that day both Afzal and I prayed next to one of their less-packed platforms; an experience also I've last faced in Korea.

York, according to Afzal was once a town heavily guarded and confounded within a specified premise. Interestingly, the very first monument we'd set our eyes on was a huge wall resembling what looked like a real-life imitation of China's. This was the great York walls, built during the collonial times to protect the city from all invaders alike.

This was no mere wall we're tailing about; it extends throughout the whole city; well preserved as ancient reminder of what York used to be. Every length of brick and stone fortified and modified to be perpendicular with the current times; and made it one of the most wonderful tourist attractions. Its amazing to see such a collossal structure be this well preserved in a city most of us outside UK never hears of. It was a wonderful day, so this factor coupled just added to the wow factor, very early into our arrival.

Afzal mentioned that like the Great Wall itself, you can actually walk on top of it, which he had done before three years back. He contemplated doing it again this time around, but as the day progressed and we were off with our travel schedules our intentions quickly got dampened. It's okay, though. It's gratifying enough just by the sight of it.

A few hundred metres away from the York city gate awaits the York river. I'm sure that it has its own name but since I'm not made aware of that, let's just call it York river for argument's sake. A simple comparison would lead to the Thames river in Central London, but instead of tourist boats and The Eye itself, York trades these with plentiful rowing boats and ambient scenery. Very countryside, I loved it. A stone bridge was spread across the river, flanked by two towers which I consider were defense towers in the 1300s.

One of them, was called the Lendal Tower.

Lendal Tower was indeed part of the city's defensive chains of the river; and was leased to predecessors of The Yorks Waterworks for use as a water tower the next 500 years, with an annual rent of one peppercorn. How do you even classify 'one peppercorn'? It ceased its use in 1850 and was refurbished in 1932 to house the Company's board room. That tower alone embeds 10 centuries of history. I wonder whether our Orang Asli's were still in their cawats during that time. Guess we'll never know.

The architectural landscape of York follows a blend of archaic Nordish, Roman, Scottish and English elements. I suspect a major part of its population was composed of these immigrants in the past, and has been influencing the very existence of York till today. There is a museum dedicated to this historical documentation, but since you needed to pay a fare of 5 pounds to enter we scratched this off our to-see list. We are, thrifty and kemut travellers anyways.

There was fortunately a park that housed ruins of these heritages, so that was a great consolation for us to look into. Old remains of buildings and structures from the yester-years were plentiful around the park's perimeters, and somehow seemed so tranquil yet exude such an extraordinary respect as to how much history this town has. The blend of cultures - Roman, Nordish, Scottish and England is somewhat a Malaysia on UK soil back then. It's probably very much similar to our mixed race community here in the past for all we know it.

As we progressed further up into the city my eyes caught hold of a Cathedral that quickly reminded me to Notre Dame. A visage of that Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney movie caught my attention, and I was suddenly in a musical trance, as I skipped across the road towards the cathedral. After a pinch in the arm by chemoboy, he told me that this huge landmark is one of York's finest attractions; the Yorkminster Cathedral. He asked me to drop the 'Cathedral' part because it was simply just referred to as The Yorkminster by locals - but since this is my blog so 'ikut suka hati aku la kan'.

The last time I was awed by such an amazing building was a month ago in London's Big Ben and The Eye of London, but this time I was mesmerized. Such an architectural masterpiece that is traditionally Victorian. Every inch carefully preserved as testament to the very Catholic community of York. This is one of many Christian churchs around.

York City Central was similar to most city centrals we've been to - blocks and blocks of shops as well as street stalls. It was a Saturday so the city was packed with people. In the bustling busy crowds we treated ourselves to a Greggs lunch of donuts and tuna sandwich. Afzal asked that we have our lunch on the go; because he had one last York historical landmark to show me.

He says that this tower alone defines York. This is Clifford's Tower, described as "The Great Tower" built between 1245 and 1262. This was what remains of the original Motte and Bailey Castle situated near this site, erected by the legendary William the Conqueror. It was circled by a man-made moat (which diminished in the 1800s) and this tower as well as the grassed centre of the castle was known as The Eye of York; a legacy from the days when York castle once belonged to the crown. In 1988 this historial landmark was tranferred to the York City Council for a 'princely' sum of one pound.

There's another story to the tower, which I made to know about. It seemed that on the Friday night of 16 March 1190, some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York - having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob moited by Richard Malebbise and others, chose to die at each other's hands rather than renounced their faith.

How an arrogant people there are, even from long ago. Scary story, isn't it? So this tower should be called Clifford's Haunted Jew Tower la kalau macam tu.

York had more than homo sapiens as their residents, as it also pays homage to an abundance of local ducks, swans and geese. You can practically see them everywhere grass are rooted. I had a feeling one of them was guarding Clifford's tower, as you can see from his/her gaze; slicing through me like knife to butter.

(I was poked by this goose a moment after taking this picture.)

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After dusting myself off and running for my life, Afzal took me on the city bus to our desired final destination to end our day trip to York. Yes, the SOLE reason why we intended to go this far from Sheffield. To go where else, but one of Europe's largest warehouse mall - the York Outlet Mall.

It was said that on Boxing day, this place is mighty crowded, and you can get two Clarks shoes for a mere 30 pounds. Convert that to Malaysian Ringgit, and you can't even get one Clarks shoe. True enough, the mall comprised major outlets such as Ted Baker, Cadbury, M&S, Thorntons and many more that imposed factory prices for retail products not accessible in normal outlets. Because I'd already bought enough stuff, this visit was used for me to borong on Cadbury chocolates and Thornton's for my esteemed Profs back in UPM.

Little that I know, that Afzal had one last suprise on his sleeves. Considering that my birthday's a few days away from last Saturday, he decided to be the first to buy me a birthday present. We decided on shoes, and I settled for a UK classic brand - Lonsdale (which I mistakenly thought, was Lionsdale because it had the picture of a lion on it).

Thanks Afzal, for both the hassle of bringing me on the York trip and for the smoking fine shoes.

After York Designer Outlet, we retraced our steps back to the Train Station to disembark home. It was already nearly Maghrib, and we needed to reach Sheffield before Isyak. The city of York really suprised me as being one of the most beautiful cities UK has to offer. So much heritage and history, all well preserved in a wonderful place. InsyaAllah, with God's will I shall return an visit again in the future.

As the train made its way through the plains again, I ran through the notion that this was my last weekend in UK with Afzal. I've been here for more than a month, through his best and worst days through his initial chemotherapy doses, and I'm dumbfounded to the fact that I might miss all this. Miss every struggle and hard work, patience and pain. All the laughter, smiles and good times. I had fun, and an experience that's truly worth the journey and time. I'm lucky I have at least my brother to share it with.

-JeP

2 comments:

azie said...

Assalammualaikum. Happy 26th Birthday. May Allah SWT Bless You Always

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum Jep,

With all the out-station trips and visits to rock-bottom prices stores, its no wonder you need another bag to haul all the stuffs you've bought. I like the photos you've put up...you are lucky to have Afzal as your tour guide..See u in KL soon..can't wait to see the rest of the photographs..mama