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Travel & Holidays in later life


An attendant at the Jorvik Centre, in Viking dressThe city of York, founded by the Romans over 1900 years ago, offers something new every year. Even if you've been there before, it's always worth going back again. In fact, York tourism today is mostly based on people who want a repeat experience. 

When the Jorvik Centre - a reconstruction of life among the Vikings - was opened in 1984, it was an instant success. Since then, Jorvik has welcomed 13 million visitors to the kingdom of Erik Bloodaxe, where the sights, sounds and even smells of AD 948 live on amid the excavations beneath today's street level.

In more recent years the queues have tapered off to a mere 500,000 annual visitors. But visitors still flock to experience other events based on the Viking culture, including a Viking Festival every mid-February. That's when the Viking settlers a thousand years ago celebrated the beginning of Spring, and today's children celebrate half term. 

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Mobility: apart from the city walls, York is mostly flat. The Tourism Bureau can recommend lodgings to fit all needs, including wheel-chair friendly accommodation. 

York Racecourse meetings in 2010: Dante Festival, May Festival 12-14;Spring Meeting May 22;June 11&12; July 9-10; Ebor Festival Aug 17 - 20; Sep 5; Oct 8 -10.  


Traditional Dance Festival -  September 3 - 5

Other York Festivals  

Stay longer and visit other attractions around York, such as Castle Howard, Harewood House and the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, commemorating the World War II air and ground crews.

Tourist Information Centre, York Railway Station, York, YO1 7HB. Phone: 01904 550099; email: 

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Excavations have revealed that craftsmen were making everyday objects like shoes, bowls, spoons, combs, swords, brooches and glass beads. Archaeologists have found everything from the raw material to the finished object.
Dressed ready for battle
Occasional exhibitions explore the skills and artistry of the 10th century residents, and visitors can discover how some of the Viking Age objects were made. Craftsmen can demonstrate skills like weaving, braiding, carving and leatherwork. 

A spokesman said: "Everything at Jorvik is about historical accuracy and conveying the diversity of life in the Viking Age."

For another view of life in the good old days, you can take a 2-mile walk around the Roman walls, stopping off at any of the four Bars. In fact, you have to be sober to walk along some parts of the walls, which mostly have guard rails on those sections where a falling body would inconvenience the traffic below. 

In the Scandinavian language that's still a hangover from Viking times, a Bar is really a city gate, while a Gate is a street. 

You certainly won't find anything to drink in Micklegate Bar, for instance. This was the main gateway of York, with turrets that were frequently "garlanded with the grisly fruits of medieval times" - the spiked heads of traitors or of anyone else who irritated the people in power at the time. 

Today it's a museum, packed with legends and ghosts. Anyone who broke through the entrance would find themselves in a barbican - a narrow tunnel, with archers firing down from all directions. The only liquid poured from the Micklegate Bar was boiling oil or pitch. 

Of course, many visitors come for shopping in The Shambles, where during medieval times blood and entrails sloshed along this street of butchers. But today it's all cleaned up and filled with tea-shoppes and stores selling tourist giftware.

The ShamblesIn this area, thick with half-timbering, you get many unexpected viewpoints by diving down the narrow side-alleys which the locals call snickels. Just off the main tourist conveyor belt, you can find giftware with individuality. 

There's a shop selling Vintage Clothing, for instance - a large selection of men's and women's recycled togs, from leathers to ball gowns, tweeds to velvets, waistcoats to frock coats, dinner jackets to kimonos.

However, York doesn't live off tourism alone. At the University's Science Park, revolutionary new health care products are being created in a high-profile Bioscience partnership. Within a mile of York Minster - the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe - stands Nestlé's largest food factory in the world, formerly called Rowntree's.

York is the home of Milky Bars, Bassett's and Terry's, and where they manufacture the holes for Polo Mints. Chocaholics can visit the superb Castle Museum and peer like schoolkids into a reproduction old-time sweet shop. 

The city's top attraction is the National Railway Museum. Even for people who aren't railfans, it's always worth visiting again. There's so much to see, ranging from a replica Rocket through to the world's fastest steam train, the streamlined Mallard and thence to a Bullet Train from Japan. Special favourites are the palaces on wheels - the Royal Trains. 

Off on another track, you can visit York Racecourse which features 15 days racing per year. The Romans started racing in York in 208 AD. On race days, entrance is free to the racing museum, but otherwise only to groups by appointment. 

York offers a wide choice of evening entertainment, from theatre to night clubs and discos. Curiously, according to the local tourist office, York has become the hen party capital of Britain. 

Why York? "Because they feel it's a safe city for young women. They go for a meal, and to the bars, and to the night clubs and discos. And they're right, it's a safe environment. Literally every working day we get enquiries at the Tourist Office. We do get stag parties as well, but mostly it's hen."

There is frequent access to the 3 miles of city wallsTo round off a tourist visit, York claims to be the most haunted city in Europe. Night-time storytellers relate endless tales of ghosts from Roman legionaries onwards. Ghosts clatter up and down creaking stairs, mostly without heads. Monks parade where cloisters once stood. Along dimly-lit alleys, icy hands tap shoulders or clutch the backs of tourist necks. 

The ghostly yarns multiply, and at last count had reached over 170 certified sightings. You can even take a ghost cruise along the river. What better way to spend a breakaway weekend?

Where else to visit in the North East

LEEDS - Soap trail around EmmerdaleH

NEWCASTLE - Cultural capital of the North

NEWCASTLE - Down memory lane at Beamish open-air museum

NORTHUMBERLAND - Go furthest north in England, Alnwick to Berwick

TEES VALLEY - Exploring Captain Cook Country

WEARDALE - Explore Weardale and the North Pennines

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

"On the Trail of the Vikings in Britain" by Peter Chrisp - a useful guide to further encounters with Viking remains.

"National Railway Museum Guide" - Worth buying before you visit the NRM, to enable you to plan what you'd most like to see during your visit. 

York (Insight Compact Guides - A handy pocket guide to the main attractions of the city, with route plans for self-guided walks. 

York: More Than a Guide (Jarrold City-break Guides) - Part of the series which covers many of Britain's sightseeing cities.

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