Day 15

July 4, Thursday
Mileage: 6 miles (walking)
Night's Lodging: York Bishophill Youth Hotel
Weather: Sun!

Up at 7 a.m. - a good night's sleep in spite of the saggy bed. Out the door at 8 a.m. in search of breakfast, we walked hungrily throughout old York and found local farmers pushing tables together, erecting awnings and carefully arranging fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers in the open air market. Plump red-blushed peaches crowded against ripening tomatoes and green bananas. Aroma of fresh baked bread wafted by from another stand.

The weather was sunny and warm! The welcome summery weather was an opportunity to wear a new t-shirt purchased here. I didn't believe I could elevate a simple cotton t-shirt to such important wardrobe status. Alternating among three shirts for more than two weeks was exceedingly tiresome.

We walked atop the Roman-built gray stone wall encircling most of the old city. At Michelgate Bar [gate] we imbued ourselves in the town history and viewing the city from a elevated perspective. In days past, the English put beheaded heads along this section of the wall as a deterrent to others considering engaging in similar heinous crimes. Barbaric!

Atop the wall the scenery below us changed from middle class clothesline-delineated yards to industrial waste areas. Much could be surmised about people's lives by merely assessing their laundry waving in the sun. Aprons, long johns, t-shirts, lycra tops. I crafted a life style for each clothesline.

Elaborate formal English gardens intervened between the Minster and the wall. Full complements of gardeners tidied shrubs, groomed rose bushes, and meticulously removed each stray leaf from expansive deep green lawns.

It is the Fourth of July. It nearly passed me by. A holiday in the States, and certainly recognized, if not celebrated,here.

The local Gap store window was festooned with American flags and Levis, proclaiming, in merchandise, their native roots. Americans, easily identified both by appearance and speech, wished each other "Happy Fourth of July." York seemed a fitting place for me to be on the Fourth. Most of my ancestral roots were in England.

I craved thirst quenching iced tea, an item nonexistent in York, in spite of the pervasiveness of hot tea. The only place to get iced tea was at the nearby McDonalds. Having a moral inability to patronize fast food places in general, I could not justify it at all while traveling. Too plastic. We bought sandwiches and drinks near the outdoor market and sprawled on a tidy patch of church lawn to eat, watching the crowds of locals and tourists bustling through the narrow streets. Earl collapsed in total recuperative posture. We walked Earl much more than he was accustomed to and although he bikes long and hard, I believe I had more walking stamina.

Unwinding our bodies off the green, we aimed toward York Minster Cathedral for an inside look during daylight. An exceedingly knowledgeable elderly white-haired gentleman with a quick wit and British sense of humor, seemingly type-caste for his role, toured four of us throughout the cathedral for a detailed inspection of the stained glass windows, the crypt (underground chapel), the St. Nicholas Children's Chapel with it's needlepoint cushions stitched by mothers, the choir area, the areas burned in the fire of 1984 - now virtually invisible, and other areas of interest to all but the most blasé. For two hours our guide discussed the Cathedral in depth. During the last half hour, I "musuemed out," and was glad when the tour ended.

Post church, we found inexpensive tea and a scones. Food prices in York are high, so discovering King's Manor refectory was refreshing. After tea in a large spartanly furnished dining hall with long dark parson's tables and ladder back chairs, Earl left to pursue his own interests. As Tracy and I explored, street musicians in the Shambles serenaded, playing and singing American music. It was strange indeed to be in York (albeit on the 4th of July), 6,000 miles from San Francisco, hearing country and western music.

The Archbishop of York, assisted by the Bishop of Edinburgh, conducted a special evening Eucharist service, in honor of the final day of a week long British/U.S. Episcopal Conference. The nave was filled to capacity with Anglican conferees. The service was a High-Episcopal liturgy - "smells and bells" as an Episcopal friend described it. As the service ended, the man behind me, dressed in his cleric collar, commented,

"I noticed that you didn't take communion."

We were seated right under the bishop's nose in a pew five rows from the pulpit, and very obviously the only three people in the front of the cathedral who didn't go forward for communion.

"I'm Presbyterian and I don't know what to do up there," I responded.
"Do you take communion at home?" he queried.
"Yes, I do, but you don't go up to a rail," I answered.

He smiled kindly, patted me on the shoulder, saying,

"Episcopal cannon law encourages visitor participation. Please feel welcome."

We did. There was something special about being in York Minster for the 4th of July.

Bar meals. I was tired of them. They were all different and all the same. £4.60 incl. 1/2 pt. Guinness Stout.

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