Trafalgar Square and the National Galleries

After visiting the Tower of London, we said “Goodbye” to our “Midwest Nice” and brought out our city sides, meaning we refused to let anyone push in front of us, to make our way onto the iconic red double-decker bus, and headed to Trafalgar Square.  After checking out the Square for bit, even catching a glimpse of Big Ben, we went into the National Portrait Gallery.


The portraits included royalty, politicians, writers, musicians, artists, actors, and scientists from the 16th century to the present day.  There were painters, sculptures, and photographs.  Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Shakespeare were just a few among the British writers displayed there.  After an hour in the National Portrait Gallery, we went around the corner of the same building to visit the National Gallery.


The artwork in the National Gallery spans from the 13th century to 19th century and includes a vast number of well-known artists.  These artists include da Vinci, Monet, Degas, Cezanné, Renoir, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Titian, Van Eyck, just to name of few.  A few of the most popular masterpieces are Botticelli’s “Venus and Mars,” Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond,” da Vinci “The Burlington House Cartoon,” and Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne.”  The Gallery’s architecture is quite the site to see as well.  One could easily lose track of time and get lost strolling the halls and exploring the hundreds of pieces of art.  Unfortunately, we had only an hour and a half.  After exploring the National Gallery, we picked up food for dinner and to the bus back to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Some people enjoyed their dinner in the almost rare London sunshine and ate on the grounds of the Cathedral and others just went back to the hostel.


Day Five: Experiencing York



Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

This morning, we walked across town to visit Clifford’s Tower.  On March 16, 1190 around 150 Jews sought protection at the Royal Castle at the tower while being pursued by a mob. Led by Richard Malebisse and others, the Jews chose to die by each other’s hands rather than renounce their faith. They did this by setting fire to the tower, and survivors were killed by the rioters.  The Jews of York were probably inspired by the Jews of Masada, who in 73 CE committed mass suicide by setting fire to the village’s buildings when the fortress wall was breached by the Romans.  However, the tower we saw is the one that was built after that by King Henry III. It is believed Henry of Reyns designed the tower, who later designed the new Westminster Abbey.  Many of us made the short climb up the spiral stairs to enjoy a panoramic view of York.

York's Old City Wall

York’s Old City Wall

When we finished at Clifford’s Tower, we made our way to the Treasurer’s House.  However, we were disappointed to discover that the House is closed on Fridays.  So we all ended up with an addition free hour to our free afternoon.  Upon the suggestion of the clerk at the National Trust Gift Shop, a large group of us walked along another segment of the old city wall that has a great view of gardens and the York Minster.  After the walk, Dr. Clark, Amara, Amy, Jessica, and I had tea at Betty’s, one of the most famous tea rooms in England.  We all enjoyed the conversation and a few cups of tea.  I had Betty’s House Blend Tea and a couple of sultana with strawberry preserves and clotted cream and it was delicious.

Tea and scones at Betty's

Tea and scones at Betty’s

After about two hours of conversation and down time, Amara, Amy, Jessica, and I headed out to explore the street market and shops.  While walking around, we came across St. Martin Coney Street Church.  We spent a little bit of time exploring the little Church using the provided guide.

Inside St. Martin's Coney Street Church

Inside St. Martin’s Coney Street Church

Before heading back to the hostel, Amy and I stopped in a deli to get something for dinner.  We asked the woman working about which local cheeses we should try.  She was very helpful and we eventually decided on the Wensleydale Special Reserve, a popular choice in York, and Ribblesdale smoked goat cheeses.    On the way back to the hostel, we decided to stroll through the park and gardens neighboring the hostel to enjoy the beautiful weather a little bit longer.


Part of the gardens


A couple of people took the train to Edinburgh.  A few explored the York Railway Museum.  Others walked around checking out the shops and the city. For me, the day was a relaxing, yet fun way to spend our final day in York.