Saturday, July 03, 2010

Adventures in merchantry

The place: York. The time: Friday. The mission: exchange time and money for entertainment and goods. The outcome: only partially successful.

One unexpected success: We dropped off the suitcase in the morning at a small luggage shop, and in afternoon, picked it up, repaired, for only £5. They didn't think they'd be able to, since the sizes of parts used in the US are different from everywhere else (of course!) but they were able to force a fix in. The repaired wheel doesn't turn quite as easily as the others, but it'll certainly get us home.

One unexpected 'failure' (so to speak): Despite several hours browsing Newgate Market, the Shambles, Coppergate Centre, Marks & Spencer, and other shopping venues, we actually bought nothing. Suri picked up some yarn, but Siobhan and I came away with nothing. I suppose it's not really a failure to not have spent money we could certainly stand to use elsewhere! At the same time, I was hoping Siobhan would find something she liked, since she enjoys that. And we do have enough budgeted for her to buy a few pretty things for herself. She just didn't see any she liked.

We'd actually put off most of this shopping until today just because of the farmer's market, only to find that there wasn't one today. But on arriving at Newgate Market, we found that despite the lack of the farmer's market, there was quite a lot of produce, meat, and fish to be bought, and now we wish we'd come here at the beginning of the week. It wouldn't entirely have displaced the supermarket trip, but it would have gotten us better food, and what remained might have been shuntable to a local pharmacy ("chemist") which would have been a lot easier to get to.

The food explorations of the day were a mixed bag. For breakfast, we checked off another one of the "English experience" checklist items: a "full English breakfast". That is, eggs, sausage, rashers (bacon), beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, blood pudding, toast, and marmalade. Siobhan and I shared one (and even at that, we left behind some of the beans and tomato, and most of the mushrooms). My conclusion: there's nothing mystical about that particular combination that synergizes or anything. Blood pudding's okay, but nothing I'd miss if I didn't have it. I like bacon well enough, and the sausage was okay, and I always like eggs and toast. The other things that we rarely have at breakfast didn't really add anything, or feel like they fit in, to me.

Lunch was going to be at the Danish Kitchen, but on getting there, we found it not nearly that appealing. The food didn't seem that fresh and nothing really seemed appealing. The most appetizing things were also ordinary, familiar things like BLTs. So we went out wandering and ended up at a carvery. We should have shared a single plate, though I bet they wouldn't've allowed that (given that, apart from the meat, everything is 'all you can eat' -- though that everything is mostly veggies, potatoes, salad, and the like). The pork was very tender and everything was fairly tasty, but nothing special, and nowhere near the costs. But when it comes to costs, £3.50 (thats about $5) for a pint (that's 16 ounces) of Diet Pepsi is something that should only be said by people wearing a pirate's hat and eyepatch. (I decided to just have water.)

Dinner is going to be a reprise of last night's dinner at Red Chilli, that is, reheated leftovers.

In between all the shopping outings, we stopped by the Merchant Adventurer's Guildhall. This is a building that dates to the 13th century (and has been in the same ownership the entire time), and is the guildhall for the Merchant Adventurer's Guild -- that is, a guild of merchants (the "adventurer" part is more analogous to the word "venture" as used in the phrase "venture capital" than it is to the way we use "adventurer" these days, though trading goods between seaports was certainly rife with danger, from weather, pirates, and bankruptcy, to name a few).

The guildhall is an impressive bit of architecture and history, and is filled with an interesting bunch of things, such as banners of various guilds, lots of silver and art, an evidence chest dating to the 13th century, some stained glass with rich provenance, and other goodies. The audio tour and displays tell the tale of how guilds and merchantry worked from the 13th century to the present, and how shifts in politics affected them, all very interesting stuff, though for Siobhan and me, mostly stuff we already knew. All in all, it took us about an hour, with us taking our time and being as complete as we felt like. So while I enjoyed the visit, £5 seems a bit much for it.

We all returned a little early to the flat to rest, take some baths, and try to work off the accumulated fatigue, foot-ache, and back-ache (and in my case, knee-ache) from all our travelling around. Not sure how much we'll do Saturday -- probably the rail museum, but more than that, I don't know what. Might be a light day to help us prepare for the big press of the following days. Sunday we check out here, take the train to Marsden, go to the wedding, then another train ride to Manchester and checking in at an overnight stay. Monday starts another two-day air travel adventure, including a seven-hour layover in JFK. So if Saturday ends up a light day, that might be for the best.

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