Friday, April 27, 2012

Afternoon Tea in Historic York-England

To the English, tea is more than a drink – it is the universal pick-me-up, the “cup that cheers.” Combined with scones, sandwiches, and cakes, the English afternoon tea – served with nearceremonial reverence – approaches an art form. There’s nowhere better to indulge in this tradition than in heritage-drenched York, one of northern England’s most alluring cities.

York has a central place in English history that makes it one of the country’s most popular visitor destinations. It’s a picturesque riverside city of pale stone buildings, with a central old-town area that’s entirely concealed within a great fortified wall. Unsurpassed as a touring base for northern England, it’s within easy reach of genteel Harrogate, stately Castle Howard, and the bluff North Yorkshire coast.
A day in historic York will find you walking around the stunning medieval walls or exploring York Minster, Britain’s biggest and most impressive Gothic building.

Little Bettys is a smaller, cozier branch of York’s famous Bettys Tearoom; it sells provisions downstairs and delicious teas upstairs .

Getting lost in the tangle of cobbled streets is half the fun, happening upon fascinating timber-framed houses and grand Georgian buildings, while a score of innovative museums, hands-on history centers, and restored churches reveal the city’s Roman, Viking, industrial, and religious heritage. Worn-out visitors need no persuasion to fall gratefully into a welcoming café for a restorative “cuppa” and something to eat.
The English have had a taste for tea since the 17th century. King Charles II’s Portuguese queen, Catherine of Braganza, is usually credited with popularizing the drink, first brought back from India and China by Portuguese traders. By the 19th century, taking afternoon tea – a light meal between lunch and dinner – had become a social occasion in upper-class circles, and it’s a tradition that survives today in the grand salons of fancy hotels, where pristine-jacketed waiters serve tiered platters of wafer-thin sandwiches and dainty cakes.
Away from the starred hotels, there’s a more rustic tradition of cheery, old-fashioned tearooms serving generous slabs of homemade cake or, most typically of all, warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam – the so-called “cream tea.” Whether this originated in Devon or Cornwall, both in England’s rural southwest, is a hotly contested point – wars have been started over less – as is the correct method for eating the scones. A true Devonshire cream tea, for example, requires that the cream should be spread first, followed by the jam second, and there’s even a campaign to seek for the cream tea the same European protected status afforded to Champagne or Gorgonzola cheese. That an afternoon snack could arouse such passions might appear strange, but as with the perennial question about the beverage itself – milk or tea in the cup first? – the vexed social habits of the English are a window to their very soul. A Day in York
Exploring York on foot is easy, as most of its attractions lie within the city walls. This compact area is a treasure trove of architecture and heritage.
Afternoon tea is served all afternoon and may include daintysandwiches with their crusts cut off, as well as cakes

Start at York Minster to see England’s finest stained-glass windows, and then walk down the former main road in Roman times, now called Stonegate, lined with shops, boutiques, and historic buildings. The nearby Shambles – the site of York’s medieval butchers’ shops – is equally photogenic.
Simply choose a historical period and pursue your interest, either at Jorvik (the Viking-era attraction), Fairfax House (Georgian period), the Castle Museum (Victorian and Edwardian times), or the fantastic National Railway Museum (railroad history and working steam engines).
Evening ghost walks are a York specialty, following guides around the walls and alleys and hearing tales of royal villains, treasonous nobles, Civil War battles, and dastardly highwaymen (Dick Turpin was hanged in York).


There are direct trains to York from Manchester International Airport. York is just under two hours from London by train.


Bar Convent (inexpensive) has simple but comfortable guest rooms in a working Georgian-era convent.
The Blue Rooms (moderate) are contemporary studio-style apartments.
Hotel du Vin (expensive) is in boutique style, with a classy bistro.
1 Museum Street;

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