Monday 18 October 2010

Some thoughts about York, blogging and the buying experience

The brainwashing starts whilst young!

Veni, Vidi, Vestigavi! (Hadriana at the "new" Yorkshire Museum)

Eboracum = York

9th (missing?) legion's stamp @ Yorkshire Museum

The Hadriana Family Say "Caesus!" @ York Castle Museum

Clifford's Tower

Sign at the bottom of Clifford's Tower

Rainbow @ Clifford's Tower

Is this the best sign ever? (just beside Shambles and Dig Jorvik)

Models at York Model Railway

Master H. can't get enough of 'em!

Roman tombs outside Yorkshire Museum in the Gardens

Little diggers at Jorvik Dig

Model of York outside York Minster

An Autumnal York Minster
As the season is slowing down a bit we grabbed the opportunity to go to see the marvellous city of York. I have been "through" York about five billion times by intercity train but had never stopped there so off we went....for the weekend...en famille.

I've also been to two excellent seminars recently given by the marketing gurus, Geoff Ramm and Heather Baxter and they've both got me thinking about the whole buying experience. Geoff, in particular, mentioned two "highlights" of his own...whereby two lots of people in business had gone way beyond what he was expecting to provide him and his family with a superlative buying experience.

With this in mind I decided to become a mystery shopper, if only in my own head, whilst we were in York. (After all I've been reading Mary Portas and her newspaper columns for quite some time now. . .)

I must say that I can now rave about York. Individuals, couples and families could absolutely adore it. We did the park and ride scheme which was super easy to use. It also allowed me to look at the architecture on the way (an added plus was that there were no parking arguments) and the children loved travelling by bus. There are individual shops galore and periods of history to suit just about everyone...fascinating little streets and alley ways.

We were able to sample: the new restyled Yorkshire Museum (revamped at a cost of £2 million or thereabouts) and mostly done by the museum staff themselves. A phenomenal undertaking. Inside there are Roman bits and pieces, dinosaurs and other time periods - all laid out in an accessible way (both mentally and physically). We would have stayed longer but the children got hungry. Unfortunately there isn't a massive cafe space there (just a snack/tuck shop area by the shop - the staff admitted that it had not got the space). Definitely, definitely worth a look. (Our children sample museums by just how good the shop is as we go in: "What are we going to buy here?")

We tumbled out and by the time we "hit" York on a Saturday lunchtime the place was absolutely teeming with shoppers and visitors. We were all hungry..."Do we fall into the fast food trap?" we wondered as we sometimes do that to please all tastes especially little boy, Master H., who is incredibly choosy. Very luckily and due to my husband's keen eye we found: De Clare Cafe/Deli in Peter Street. This pleased mum and dad no end...something yummy to eat plus a glass of wine. A huge plus was that the staff also found something to keep the young 'uns happy straightaway.

Little Miss H. is a pretty good eater but she'd fallen off her ultra modern white chair as soon as we had attempted to sit down and was feeling very embarrassed. One female member of staff rushed over to look after her and got her a hot chocolate to make her feel better. They even brought the children's food as fast as they could so as to fill up their tums. (Allowing me to try to earwig other conversations..someone was talking about archaeology and someone else was bravely practising their Spanish with a Latin American friend.) Mr. H. and myself had different platters...a Spanish one and a vegetarian one. (I'm not a veggie but I'm not a great meat eater either much to Mr.H.'s chagrin.) Truly delicious. I was extremely impressed the way in which the member of staff had looked after us and especially my daughter who can be very sensitive at times.

We also "did" the York Castle Museum (part of it) and Clifford's Tower. Both are very interesting. York Castle Museum's shop and cafe also got the thumbs up from the kiddies.

We also had a superb evening meal at The Dawnay Arms, Newton on Ouse. We nearly always take the children with us when we dine out. Despite being pretty exhausted they were on their best behaviour. The staff there were wonderful too when Master H. knocked his orange juice off the bar. They dealt with it with the minimum of fuss - again superb. We had found this place by complete accident. We were staying at a B&B just a few miles away. The food is very good and the wine and the service. What more can I say? I just wished this pub was located a few miles away from us. We had grown attached to it within the hour. Fabulous menu, great atmosphere, welcoming staff. The bill was pretty decent too.

The next day I was determined to go to Dig Jorvik - the sister museum to Jorvik. This one is all about archaeology. It's a shame we couldn't stay longer but we did manage to get an hour and a half there. The children and hubbie had been pretty unwilling to go in and I did interrogate the poor staff about what it was all about. I had a hunch that the children would like it and they did! In fact I'd say this museum is the best of the bunch for hands on entertainment. A trained archaeologist showed us around for an hour (with a talk) but the children were well up for it. She engaged them well. There are also digging areas where children can discover/dig for things...the Roman trench, the Viking trench, the Victorian trench and a modern day one (I think). Our two did it and it was hard to get them out. It's not real soil but pretend soil. I did a bit myself and it is FUN! We then finished with a handling finds session. What is also amazing is that the museums in York seem to have collaborated on their displays and a lot of them are using actors and holograms to explain things. Amazing, educational and fab...all at the same time. This museum gets 10 out of 10 from the whole Hadriana family.

The Model Railway Museum sited just outside the Railway Station at York gets the thumbs up too. Plenty of model train entertainment and lots of ways to get adults involved too. Just keep pressing those buttons! It is tiny but well worth a visit. No cafe or loos but the station is close by for those. Very friendly member of staff who said she had worked there for over twenty years.

I'd like to give the B&B a good write up too but despite the accommodation and food being more than fine...the people owning it didn't seem very interested in their guests. That seemed a shame because they have got a superb business and location...we both felt that they could capitalise on this and get to know their visitors a bit better. There was one European gentleman there both mornings who seemed very smiley and friendly. Both my husband and I thought he needed a bit more attention...maybe we caught them at a bad time. I don't know....

York is a fantastic place. We had a really good time and we can't wait to go back and do some more....
It needs several visits as there is so much to do there. So if you can get there...we recommend it whole heartedly. I'm sure that it caters for all age groups. It's very compact so it's perfectly feasible to do lots of things within two or three days. There is plenty there too for a longer visit.

I'd  be interested to hear about your "superlative" buying experiences too. I've thought about it a great deal and I can't say that anything sticks out massively...maybe I just have an appalling memory! (I was very impressed by the way Mr.H. ran his diving centre but that is indeed another story!)

I've also toyed with the idea of starting another blog because I'd like to write about other stuff apart from  Roman history et al. The thing is...I'm feeling a bit lazy so I'll mix and match the history stuff with the general stuff if that's OK by you?

We recently lost a lot of computer things (business and personal documents and photos - two years' worth  - about which I've blogged) which was not entirely our own fault. Despite getting two lots of people to look at the hard disk it is a write-off. I've just about come to terms with the whole thing (it's taken me months of angst to get to grips with that).  I've learned a lot from that. I'm also learning that if you value certain items then you have to try to hang onto them at all costs. Nevertheless sometimes it's impossible to do and I read an article recently about how Anthony Haden-Guest lost ALL of his worldly possessions. And boy!...did he lose a lot. Read about it here. I'm assuming that this wasn't a superlative buying experience for him either. Do you have any profoundly bad purchasing experiences that you might like to share with us...?


the fly in the web said...

That was a super guide to going to should put it on that Simon Seeks travel website.

You made me think about 'the buying experience' and you are right that the treatment you get from staff makes the difference between something being all right and something being top rate.

Sandy's witterings said...

I have always fancied a visit to York as all reports I get from there come back as glowing. A few years ago on Bev and me's travels we once managed to drive into the middlish of York (we were trying to see the Christmas lights in the Minster)but were repulsed by pedestrianisation and a lack of parking spaces - the occasional touristing disaster provides a good laugh in later years.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Fly...thank you for that. I haven't heard of "Simon Seeks" but will check that out!

Sandy...yes...York is very keen on pedestrians. Good for them I reckon! We did drive in yesterday but, of course, the car parking is none too cheap either. We did see a "free" parking area right behind Jorvik Dig... we always see those after we've paid though!

I have to say, maybe controversially, that I'm in favour of keeping cars out of cities and towns. It's the hard thing about keeping the right balance so the little shops can thrive and then (literally) driving the custom away. Hexham hasn't quite solved it yet. Leatherhead had a good system. It is a tricky one for sure!

The Minster at Christmas must look fab so maybe it's there for the next time? ;)

Unknown said...

We've been to York a few times and really enjoyed it especially The Shambles.
Reading your reviews makes me think it's about time to go again.
What do you think of the new Hancock Museum by the way? I preferred it old and musty.

Maggie May said...

I have been to York (just staying a couple of hours at a time while on coach trips).
It is a beautiful city. (We have Bath, another roman city near us.)

Lovely photos, especially of the rainbow and that name on the directions. Wonderful!!!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Hadriana's Treasures said...

IO: Very sadly I never got to the Hancock Museum before it was made over. I've heard lots of lovely stories about The Museum of Antiquities (esp. the Mithraeum) which I also missed as well.

I too like old and musty museums. Let's hope they never change the one at Chesters. BTW they are going to change the one at Tullie House for next year (Roman Gallery) and of course...Vindolanda and Roman Army Museum are changing you have about 10/11 days left to see the old ones before they are gone forever! ;)

Maggie: Bath is gorgeous too and I must go again. I once organised a (very civilised) hen party in Bath. We hired a double decker bus and everything. I'd love to go and see the Roman remains properly though. :)

Gill - That British Woman said...

I must forward this post on to my mother as they would enjoy that day out. It's been "donkey's" years since we have been to York.

Gill in Canada

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thanks Gill. I'm sure they would have a great time there. We are definitely going back!

Catharine Withenay said...

York is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I was lucky enough to be brought up there, and I still love returning to it, particularly on a crisp spring day, with daffodils blooming around the walls and the sky a vivid blue. Delighted you enjoyed my home town so much!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Catharine - We love York! I was seriously tempted to move there. So if it all goes pear shaped here - we may have a back up plan! :)