Last weekend we found ourselves in beautiful York for a wedding of two close friends. They had chosen The Hospitium in the York Museum Gardens, an intimate 14th century, two-storey building which was the perfect setting for their ceremony, dinner and dancing.
The next day, we met up with some family for a stroll around the centre of York, which is one of our favourite cities (and, for once, we weren’t there to sing!). The day started as every Sunday should [apparently], with tea – and this time we went all out at Betty’s. Yes, we probably should have gone to Harrogate, but this Southerner had never experienced Betty’s at all and was too excited to wait any longer. It lived up to the hype: silver teapots, cosy corners and very good tea.
We walked down the cobbled streets to explore some of the less well-known attractions, with the Minster still always in sight around the corner.
No, we’d never heard of it either. All we knew was that it was a city in northern Wales and we’d been asked to sing there. Enticed by some good music and lovely friends, we agreed – and then realised that it was rather a longer drive than we thought; about 4.5 hours from London [urgh]. So, we decided to make a weekend of it and go up early, spending Friday night in a hotel nearby.
St Asaph is the second smallest city in Britain [it was only awarded city status in 2012], but the cathedral has been a cathedral for 1,400 years, while the building itself dates from the 13th century. Musicians may recognise Mathias’s name – a composer of considerable renown, he was buried here with his wife upon their deaths.
The cathedral is simple in design, but with a historical feel to it:
Neither of us had visited Lincoln for a long time (I had once, at university) and had forgotten quite how stunning it is. Perched up the appropriately-named ‘Steep Hill’, the cathedral looks out over the city.
As John Ruskin said, “I have always held and proposed against all comers to maintain that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles.” [And I whole-heartedly agree with him.]
Building started in 1088, under William the Conqueror’s instruction, and in heavy Norman style, opposite the castle he had already built across the city. Around 100 years later, a fire and an earthquake between them caused extensive damage to the great building, and parts were rebuilt in the Gothic style, which included the use of flying buttressing to enable huge stained glass windows, and pointed arches replacing the original rounded ones.
I suppose Cambridge is easier to get to from London. And it is quite pretty, I guess. And a *fairly* good university… [I’m not going to rise to any of this. Some people are just jealous.] Nonetheless, I was very excited to give the tour of my own university, way up at the other end of the country in the tiny city of Durham.
Even more special to me, though, was a visit to my old college, University College, or Castle as it’s known. It is, indeed, a castle, built in the 11th century [although the keep was rebuilt in Victorian times] to defend against marauding Scots, and was lived in by the Prince Bishops before the students took over.
I lived in the keep, with a very lovely roommate:
Sang (often hungover) in the tiny Tunstall Chapel, built in 1540:
As we’ve mentionedbefore, we’re musical types. This is great, because it takes us to some of the country’s most gorgeous cities and cathedrals. Last weekend, we were in Ely – not somewhere I’d ever been to before [I’d sung there once before when at university, although I’d forgotten just how stunning the cathedral is]. It’s one of those places that isn’t much of a city beside its cathedral; nonetheless there were some great pubs and places to while away our (limited) free time.
More noteworthy, though, was the cathedral. Oh wow. I have a book on the world’s cathedrals (yup, I’m cool like that) and this place makes the cover. We went on a tour of the roof and up into the Octagon tower, so were lucky enough to see the views from above as well as below. To anyone visiting Ely, we’d definitely recommend the tour – £8 well spent, with a fascinating and lovely guide, and access to some breathtaking parts of the building.
The main quire, with rood screen and altar behind:
Quite a colourful cathedral, apparently the Victorians restored the original colours – amazing to think all cathedrals were this vibrant when newly completed!
Last weekend we wanted a fun time away, so we decided to head to Bath. Not too far from London, and with plenty to see, it was an ideal place to spend a lovely weekend. We arrived, and went for a wander around the city. So much beautiful Georgian architecture:
We then went to the Assembly Rooms; although they were closed for an event we managed to sneak a couple of photos… [I might have been ushered out soon afterwards]
As we mentioned in this post, we enjoy a bit of singing, a pastime which takes us to beautiful buildings and cities (and sometimes we’re even paid to go to these places!). A little bit off the beaten track, Exeter is a lovely city with plenty to do and a simply stunning cathedral.
Amazing vaulting in the main nave – and beautiful organ: