Day 13: York (Museum of York, Yorkminister, National Railway Museum)

We stayed in York at a local B&B. It was incredibly hot on our second floor room and even though we opened the windows, it did very little to help. It took way too long for the kids to finally sleep, but at last they fell asleep and we did too. In the morning we had a full English breakfast. Our host was wonderful.


And we left from there in a taxi to the train station “left luggage” lockers where we could put our stuff for the day. We then started to walk around York, headed to Yorkminster. Below you can see the train station straight ahead/on the left and the old city walls on the right. It’s a neat mix of old and new in York.

We headed to Yorkminster.

When we got there, we found out it was closed for mass (which we should have realized, it being Sunday and all), so we left to go to the York Museum and see the Vikings exhibit.

York Museum

Shelley paid for us to go into the museum, but unfortunately Micah was having none of it, so Erin waited outside. Zeke had fun, though, at the prehistoric exhibit and the viking exhibit. In the picture below, he’s not quite as tall as a Deinonychus dinosaur.

And here he is rowing toward English from Scandinavia.

And here’s Zeke posing like the statues. He thought it was funny.

We then decided to have lunch outside the museum. We found a food truck and got BLT sandwiches.


When we heard the bells ringing at Yorkminster, we packed up and headed back over there. It was a short walk.


This was a massive gothic cathedral where the Romans built their headquarters when the town was a fort, then the Saxons built their church on top of it, followed by the Normans, and finally a gothic reworking and expansion of it.

Inside it was pretty amazing. The stained glass windows were taken down and protected during the World Wars, so they are quite old and still original.

We found out that Yorkminster almost collapsed several times, but quick work by engineers, architects, and archaeologists saved it from structural failure. I’m glad I learned about this AFTER I took the tower tour: climbing 275 narrow steps to the top of the main tower.

It was amazing at the top!

In the undercroft (below the church), they had an exhibit set up about the various layers under the church: Roman, Saxon, and Norman. They also had on display the York Gospels, which is a copy of the Gospels in Latin brought by an archbishop in 1020. It is one of the few surviving artifacts from Saxon-era York.

Below is a picture from their website.

And below is the picture I took of the York Gospels as they were at the display.

And here’s the sign that was next to it.

I also saw this (below) on the wall in the undercroft and it was moving for me. It reminded me that Yorkminster is a place of tourism and ancient heritage, but it is also a holy site and has inspired generations of Christians.

After this, we got a few things from the gift shop and headed to the next location.

National Railway Museum

This was pretty much all for Zeke, as he is currently obsessed with trains, but it was still a lot of fun to go to and see. We were able to ride a small train from Yorkminster to the museum.

Inside the train museum, Zeke could hardly contain himself.

He got to play in one of the engine cars and thought it was the coolest thing.



The bottom right picture above is Micah and I in the mail railcar.

After we had walked around the museum and looked at all the neat trains, it was time to head to the modern train station to head back to Oxford.

Return to Oxford

At the York train station, Zeke was exhausted from a full day and fell asleep in the stroller.


Micah was tired, but didn’t fall asleep. She had taken a nap earlier at Yorkminster.

Once we got on our train, she did eventually fall asleep. We weren’t together at first, but as people left, we eventually got four seats together.


Our train went from York to Birmingham where we would have to catch a different train to Oxford. We had planned a 35 minute layover in Birmingham to be safe. However, the train faced delay after delay and we were certain we had missed our connecting train to Oxford. But when we arrived in Birmingham, they told us that the train going to Oxford had also faced long delays. So we raced from platform 5 to platform 7. Perhaps a minute after we stepped up to the platform, the train to Oxford rolled into the station and we made our connection!

On the second leg of the trip we had four seats together from the beginning and it was quite nice.

We arrived in Oxford about an hour after we had intended (due to the train delays). We tried to get a taxi, but there was a long queue and were told it would be about an hour. So we hauled all of our junk from the train station to city center (about half a mile) to catch the bus up to our street. Walking to our flat from the train station is 1.1 miles, so it saved us quite a bit of work.

Finally, at last, we were back in the flat at Oxford and ready for a little bit of regularity.


Day 8: Museums in Oxford

Since we had originally planned to go to London today, but could not due to the recent terrorist attacks, we instead used today to visit some of the museums in Oxford: Pitt-Rivers Museum, Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of the History of Science. It was a lot to do in one day, but it was good.

We started out at Pitt-Rivers, which is museum of cultural and historical anthropology (pictured above).

Exhibits are not organized by provenance (place of origin) or originating culture, but rather by type of thing. So all the fire-making tools were in one place, all of the personal religious miniature statues were together, all of the spears were together, all of the religious masks were together, all of the amulets were together, etc. For example, here’s a picture of all the writing equipment from various cultures and time periods. The Roman ones are in the top right on that greenish/grayish background.

James led a group of students around the museum, looking at important artifacts from the Biblical time period. Meanwhile, Erin, Shelley, and the kids walked around briefly and then headed over to the cafe for a snack.

After Pitt-Rivers, we headed next door (connected buildings) to the Museum of Natural History. It looked very impressive.

And Zeke got to finally see some dinosaur bones! Below Zeke is showing off his scary T-Rex claws. When he started roaring, Micah decided to start roaring too and had to also be a scary T-Rex.

And here’s one with Aunt Shelley. 🙂

Zeke also liked seeing some other bones.

He was so good at the museum that Aunt Shelley bought him a T-Rex dino stuffed animal. He loves it.

After the museum, we headed over to a nearby middle-eastern semi-permanent food truck and had felafel and hummus for lunch with our faculty co-sponsors, John and Laura Homer.

We ate at Martyr’s Memorial just north of the center of town…in the shade, of course. John is wearing black and Laura is wearing purple in the shot below.

After lunch, we headed over to the Museum of the History of Science.

The students were supposed to find some things in there relevant to the History of Computing class they are all taking. One of those relevant things is a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine, a specific-purpose mathematical calculating machine. He began working on it in 1820 and never completed because his funding was cut after 20 years. Needless to say, he was well-ahead of his time. Below is a picture of James in front of that piece of the difference engine.

After that, everyone was tired and walked back to the flat. The kids didn’t take naps because they had taken some small portion of a nap earlier while we were waiting on something, and so refused to sleep. Awesome. James worked on a recent conference paper that got accepted. After that, it was time for dinner, so we went to a nearby food truck for some kebab wraps.

Below you can see Aunt Shelley and Zeke being silly while we ate dinner outside of a local college. Regarding the bandaid on his nose: Zeke did a face-plant earlier in the day and the inside of his nose bled a little, so we put a bandaid on the outside to make him feel better (it’s all about psychology with kids…seriously).

Micah decided to be silly too.

On the way home, Micah wanted to walk. Sometimes when she runs, she throws her arms behind her. We finally got it on camera.

After a long day out, it was time for bed for the kids.

The students all got together in the common room upstairs to watch The Imitation Game, the movie that dramatizes the work of Alan Turing and the Allied codebreakers during World War 2. It was a great movie!

Tomorrow, we leave for Newcastle on our first long travel weekend!