York for the Weekend
Following the success of Anna’s River Cottage Cheese Making course for her birthday a couple of years ago I decided to couple that with her love of chocolate this year and gave her a chocolate making course at the York Cocoa House. This meant we were heading Northeast for the weekend.
Heading to York
As usual for our weekends away we tried to make the most of it by leaving straight after work and school on Friday Evening. Our accommodation of choice this weekend was Premier Inns so we were in the car, not the camper as we drive through a very wet Wales. Morgan hadn’t been looking forward to the 4½ hour drive (I don’t think 14 year old boys particularly look forward to anything though – apathy is king!), so we had planned to stay at a Premier Inn just outside Pontefract tonight so as to break the drive up a litte. It wasn’t the nicest of drives really with driving rain, poor visibility and standing water everywhere.
I was in need of some new walking boots as well, so first stop was a Go Outdoors in Warrington. We arrived safe and sound and had a much needed break and stretch of our legs in the shop. I tried some boots on but didn’t quite find that elusive perfect pair. With thoughts of which boots to buy we headed into the town centre for dinner at an ASK Italian which was Morgan’s choice. At least the rain had eased now. We didn’t take long to eat our dinner so were soon on the road again for another hour or so to our Premier Inn in Pontefract. We’d have a fairly early start in the morning so it wasn’t long before we were off to bed.
The next day dawned wet and miserable again as we drove into York. We stopped at a Park and Ride where a bus was waiting to whisk us into the city centre. From here it was just a short walk in the rain to the York Cocoa House where Anna would spend the day. We had a coffee there and then Morgan and I headed off for a day in York while Anna headed into the kitchens to learn how to make chocolate. Hopefully Anna will blog about the chocolate making herself sometime soon.
Tourists for a Day
Morgan and I were going to be tourists for a day. We had bought York Passes (£60 for the two of us) which would permit us access to most of the top attractions in York. Most weren’t open yet though as it was only just 9:30am so we headed off to another outdoor shop first to look at more walking boots.
First of the tourist stops after this was the York Dungeon. We wandered down to the river first and then saw that a queue was developing for the dungeons so decided to join it. At 10am were were allowed in out of the rain and prepared ourselves for a dungeon tour. It reminded us of a similar tour at the Silver Mountain Experience not far from home. Essentially it consists of a number of rooms where ‘actors’ in fancy dress tell you a story, some history and try to scare you. There was lots of darkness, flashing lights, the occasional wobbly chair, vibrating floor or water squirted at you, some jokes and of course a little bit of history education too. It was pretty good but Morgan and I spent most of our time hoping not to be singled out and picked on. We escaped the dungeons unscathed and headed back into the Centre of town.
Betty’s Tea Shop
We were now after some breakfast/brunch as meals were going to be at odd times today thanks to the fact that the YorkPass included a free meal at ASK Italian, but it had to be redeemed between 3pm and 5pm. We weren’t going to miss that!
We had hoped to go to Betty’s Tea Shop which Anna had told us about as one of the most famous attractions in York!. We found it, but also found a queue that went around the block. We would have had to wait for at least an hour just to get in. We didn’t bother and ended up in a steamy Costa coffee shop instead. Not quite the same, but Morgan preferred it and keeping him topped up with food and not grumpy was going to be important today.
York Chocolate Story
Suitably nourished we wandered around the shops, strolled through the Christmas Market and headed to the York Chocolate Story. Here we waited in a queue for a while so as to book ourselves onto a tour. Once we got to the kiosk we were told that the next available tour was 4:45pm. That was no good to us as we were supposed to be meeting Anna at 5pm. It looked as though we wouldn’t be able to visit this attraction.
The Jorvik Centre
Instead, we wandered back through York to the Jorvik Centre where (you’ve guessed it) we joined a queue in the rain. This queue took just over half an hour but eventually were were in the dry again and boarded a little ride around a recreation of York in the time of the Vikings. The ride took us through various streets and houses accompanied by educational audio. It was nice enough but nothing too thrilling. We took a look at some of the museum items after the ‘ride’ and bypassed the gift shop as best we could.
A River Cruise
Next on the agenda was a pleasant cruise up and down the River Ouse accompanied by a commentary on what we could see. We started off on the open top deck but as the rain increased in intensity we went back downstairs into the warm and dry cabin.
Again, it was a nice enough way to while away some time and see a few sights.
Museum and a Meal
Once back on dry land it was into the museum for a quick look around. We didn’t spend long in here as it was nearly 3pm so nearly time for our ‘free’ meal. I say free but we had of course paid £60 for the YorkPass so we had paid for it really. The museum was good with some nice fossils and plenty of other ancient relics. The ASK Italian was good too.
Shops and Chocolates
We now had a bit of time to kill before meeting Anna so we had a bit of retail therapy. We didn’t actually buy anything, but we did have a good look around a few shops before returning to the York Cocoa House to meet Anna. Once there we managed to join here for a bit of a ‘factory’ tour and a few chocolate samples and then the three of us headed back into the centre. We wandered around the shops and Christmas Market again and then started to head back to the bus. We sampled some of the chocolates Anna had made on the way. The looked very professional and tasted good too.
From the Park and Ride it was just a short trip to a Premier Inn just outside York where we had another oddly time meal in the form of a McDonalds takeaway. Tomorrow morning would be a little more relaxed as our only appointment was in Manchester, but not until 2pm.
Breakfast and A Drive
Sunday started with a big breakfast in the Premier Inn and then we headed off through the rain once again to Manchester. First stop here was the Trafford Centre. What we didn’t realise was that nothing opens until midday so we spent an hour wandering around closed shops. To be fair, it wasn’t actually much different to what we usually do in a shopping mall as we don’t usually actually go into many shops. When they did finally open we visited the usual selection of shops and as usual bought nothing!
We then took a short drive to a recreational area which includes an indoor ski slope, some outdoor type shops a huge Evans bike shop and the iFly indoor SkyDiving centre. We took a quick look around, I sacrificed a visit to the bike shop just to keep the others sane and then we went to iFly. Morgan and I were booked in for a ‘flight’ at 3pm. We had loads of time to spare so time for a snack and to watch the other people in the flight chamber. It all looked like good fun.
It’s expensive mind at around £50 each and you only end up with 2x 1 minute sessions in the chamber for that. They do however explain that this would equate to more than the average freefall time of a couple of real outdoor skydives. Even so, it’s not cheap. Fortunately for us we used the Tesco Vouchers that we had earned this year to pay for it (Last year they paid for a family trip to Longleat). There are additional extras that you can pay for as well. 360º Virtual Reality goggles that you can wear during your ‘skydive’ and an extra £8 for the instructor to take you to the top of the chamber.
It was soon our time to get kitted up and have some pre-flight instruction. We then squeezed into the waiting area airlock and were soon waiting our turn in the chamber. Morgan went first and did OK. His legs flapped around a little too much to start with but he was much better the second time around.
The instructor has control of you the whole time and the operator in the adjacent booth adjusts the windspeed based on your weight as well. With the help of the instructors it’s fairly easy to get onto the correct position and then hover there in space all on your own.
On our second goes we were taken to the top of the chamber as well, but it was all over far too soon. It was good fun though and good to watch everyone else trying it. Once back in the waiting area we could see ourselves on a video screen as well which was quite helpful for the second go as it allowed you to see where you were going wrong. All good fun but pretty expensive if you had paid full price for it.
Once we were done, the instructors have a quick go to show us how it should be done.
All that was left for us was another drive back through Wales after a busy weekend away.