The magic of York is a strange and beautiful one. Most will understand why I say it is beautiful as few would argue against the magnificence of York as it reveals itself in the folds of the ‘Medieval’ walls, the grandeur of the Minster overlooking the city, the quirkiness of the Shambles and the charms of the ‘Snickelways’.
But why do I say strange? Because beyond the beautiful and the magnificent, there is this sort of enchantment which comes not from York’s splendid history but from the city itself, her people, her bits and pieces of histories buried deep within her mazes of lanes and yards and little hidden passageways.
I first fell in love with the beauty of York and then, as I uncovered her secrets, I wholeheartedly fell prey to her strange and wonderful enchantment.
I first stepped down in York exhausted, jet-lagged, stranded and empty-handed for the luggage
I counted on to rebuild my life in this new city had been lost somewhere between Montreal and Manchester. No matter how often you do it, uprooting yourself from one place to another is never an easy thing to do and it was no different for my move to York. This was the city of my dreams and yet, as I opened the door to my empty, lonely flat, I felt utterly lost. Today, just over a year ago, I can hardly imagine calling York anything but home.
I spent the first months of my relocation exploring the city’s historical sites, visiting the Yorkshire Museum, the Castle Museum, the Art Gallery, partaking in the city’s guided walks, joining workshops offered at each and every one of the museums. I toured the Minster again and again, amazed every time, as most would be, by the depth and richness of the city’s history. There is so much. Around the same time, I also started cycling around the region, taking myself and my bicycle into the Howardian Hills, down little country lanes of which I remember neither their name nor their place on the map. I often stopped, amazed by fields covered in poppies and chamomile and once I discovered a beautiful cemetery in a tiny village where roses and flowers and trees grew bountifully. I walked out of the city into fields of hay and along the river where I sat for hours reading a book. That is when the enchantment of York and her surroundings started working their magic on me.
There was also the food, all the coffee shops, the tea rooms, the restaurants, bars and pubs to try. I elected the warm and friendly Spring Espresso as destination of choice for my Saturday coffee + pastry treat. On sun-drenched afternoons I would head to the Star Inn the City for a drink by the river or sit in the shadow of the city wall up in the Lamb and Lion Inn. I purchased my cheese at Love Cheese, fruits + veg came from the market and my bread form Bluebird Bakery. Little by little, I started eating my way around the city, trying the new places and those which caught my attention. Everywhere, people were happy to chat and slowly by slowly a network of recognized faces and stories was woven. York was becoming so much more than just a beautiful city set in history.
Then, one cold and dreary November day, I walked into The Flax and Twine where I found the best scones I had ever tried and that was the beginning of a new project that was to take me deeper still into the heart of York.
Tours in a Dish was born from my passion for food and history but mostly from all these encounters which revealed to me a city so much more alive and so much more magical than her standard postcard perfection. Beyond the general cityscape, beyond the museums, away from the shadow of the Minster and within medieval, georgian, victorian walls, I met with some of the most hardworking and dedicated people who all bring something unique and different to the city’s culinary + business scene. To the passerby or the tourist or even to some of us locals, these people too often remain invisible and all of York’s stories are lost within the grander scheme of her History but I now realize that all these stories are the true charm of the city.
I now eat and chat my way through the city, never-endingly discovering new places to eat, climbing up century-old staircases, tiny spaces or pushing the doors of yet another guildhall to meet with yet another of the city’s great ‘foodiepreneurs’ and through it all, that strange magic of York ceaselessly keeps winding itself up around myself.