These city streets (The Yorker archives)

So, welcome to your new city. We know trying to discover all the best offerings of a new place can be a bit of a pain, so the Lifestyle team have been real generous and are giving you a helping hand in your path to unearthing York’s most interesting spots.

York is FULL of gates. No, not kissing ones. It’s a fancy way of saying street, basically, and it can be quite difficult knowing your Coppergates from your Colliergates. We’ve handpicked the most interesting ones you need to know about!

It may sound like something from a Lewis Carroll poem, but it’s not in Wonderland, it’s just off Parliament Square. Home to York’s main market, pick up fresh flowers, fix your phone, and browse local artists’ work.
Swinegate has an unusual history; originally a lane where pigs were kept, it later developed a slightly seedier nature when it became home to brothels and prostitutes- then known as “Swingate”, with neighbouring Grape Lane being known as “Grope” lane (charming). Now home to more respectable joints, you’ll find student musts Vudu Lounge and 1331 here.

Here you’ll find York’s largest and most ambitious excavation site. DIG is literally unearthing York’s astonishingly long history, and although the guided tours have stopped there’s still plenty to be marvelled at over at the exhibition that’ll be hanging around all year.

Short street, long name. The plaque that lives on this street tells us it means “”What a street!” and is probably the only street name to be considered this quirky & adorable anywhere. The “Whip” element comes from the days of public humiliation as punishment- stocks were erected here so petty criminals could receive a good old fashioned flogging.

No guide to York’s best streets would be complete without heralding the famous Shambles. This cobbled lane has pretty much the coolest namedropping potential out of all York’s streets, having been mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Usually full of tourists- because it’s plain gorgeous, make sure you check out the incredible chocolatiers, and head down for a romantic stroll at night.

Originally published in Y Magazine, Issue 1 (view here), 29th Sept ’12

Ning York: Restaurant Review

Having promised myself a visit to the newly opened Malay restaurant upon reading of its opening here, I could barely contain my excitement when I eventually rocked up at York’s latest Asian cuisine offering. And, thrillingly, my excitement was justified.

It was pretty quiet on the Wednesday evening when I arrived with my friend. There was no need to book, and we had a choice of the many available tables. There was a choice of a two course set priced menu at just £14.00, which we went for.  We students do have an eye for a good value bargain, after all.

As I was there with a friend who happened to have an incredible inside knowledge of the food- convincing someone who works a t a restaurant to eat there as a customer is no mean feat- I didn’t bother reading the menu. I just asked him to pick out what he thought were the best meals, and sat back as he did the hard work for me.

My friend, the charming Ian Lau, talked me through the menu, translating where necessary, and recommending what he thought I’d like. Though the menu is pretty accessible for those of us who have never actually eaten real Malay food before- and would have no idea what Nasi Ayem is normally (I have possibly made that dish up, excuse me)- it was definitely to my advantage having an insider on the job.  That, and in the same way Emma Bennett who hails from Blackpool, the spiritual home of fish & chips, knows a damn good chippy when she sees one, Ian knew exactly which dishes were going to be the real thing.

Gado Gado Salad & whatever Ian had…

I don’t usually let people order for me in restaurants, my feminist urges squirm with rage if a guy tries assumes I can’t manage the task for myself, but not wanting to ridicule myself with the pronunciation of the exotic but impossible sounding  delicacies, Ian kindly took the burden off me. Having avoided the embarrassment of trying to pronounce some of the more interestingly named dishes, me and Ian settled in a well needed and animated catch-up.

Our starters arrived shortly, and taste delicious. In fact, having been starving myself all day in preparation for this mega meal, I could have just about made out with the plate. They looked impressive, and though I’m not usually one for peanuts, I could have cried over the sauce, I was enjoying it that much. I had the Gado Gado sald, which for laypeople such as myself, basically translates to “get into my mouth oh my god”. Ian had gone for a cool stuffed and layered fried pancake thing, which I can also reassure you tasted amazing. The salad was a considerably larger starter than Ian’s, so I definitely got the better deal since I was famished.

I had been advised to order an extra side dish in order to qualify for the set priced menu, and stupidly went for Jasmine rice, despite ordering seafood Kuey Teow which is a wok-fried noodle dish. I love my rice as much as the next person, but there was just no need for both noodles and rice, so the small side bowl went untouched. Grumpy that I hadn’t gone for prawn crackers, I swiftly moved on with my life when I tucked into my food. Again, delicious. My only complaint would be that my starter and main were fairly similar- but was fine by me seeing as I’d all but necked the first dish.

Kuey Teow and the Beef Rendang

We lingered over our mains for a good long time; I pinched some of Ian’s mind blowing extra hot beef Rendang, and we were left to it by the staff. After an hour or so, we surrendered what was left of our food and asked for the dessert menu. I’m not usually one for warm desserts, so when Ian ordered an odd green trifle thing, I had to wait for it to cool down before I could enjoy. The service was friendly and attentive- stopping to chat even when I could see they were busy and happy to make special kitchen requests on our behalf. While paying the bill I had a great time singing their praises on the comments card, and had a merry little chat with them.
I think I’ll try to go for a meal with someone who knows the food inside out every time, as Ian did a marvellous job as Chief Recommender. Impressed and stuffed, we pootled our way off to the nearest bar to celebrate a good meal.

Starting the Must List.

Left to my own devices this weekend, instead of padding around my disgustingly messy bedroom wondering where my vow to keep the place spotless went wrong, I popped on my sunglasses and went exploring. It’s been on my mind for a while that I’ve lived in this stunning city for well over a year now, and have done a grand total of NO THINGS. Excluding trips to The Willow or H&M.

A few weeks ago, I composed a York Must List- things I MUST do before I move out of this city. It’s not too long, I kept it all achievable. I promised myself I’d get through it over the next year or so, so what better time to start than now?

So me, my iPod, my camera and my copy of Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars went on a little walk into town. After pottering around the market, and the devouring a gorgeous cupcake from this lady, I headed up to Museum Gardens. The park in the centre of town is so idyllic, as though someone has scripted the perfect summer day and set it there.

Awkward moment when hair from a Viking grave is
in better condition than mine

Now, this may surprise some of you. I’m actually a bit of a nerd. I know, it’s hard to believe. In between doing really cool things and being in really cool places, I love nerding out over poetry or history or the like. So going into the museum was actually a really exciting prospect for me. And even though the staff clearly thought I was a little pathetic for going to a museum, on my own, on the sunniest day the North has seen all year, I was determined to spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with every single exhibition. And with my student card, entry is free- so I was fully prepared to take every advantage.

Obviously, York being the centre of all things Viking-related, much of the museum was devoted to the brutal and thrilling history of all things Jorvik. There was also a natural history bit- though I’ll always prefer human history to that of animals and plants or whatever. (Saying that, The London Natural History Museum blew my mind so severely that I just wandered round muttering “science” for the entire day.)

Museum Gardens

Easily the most impressive part of the museum is the audio-visual exhibit, where they start at the present day, and take you backwards through the pivotal moments in York’s history. One particularly poetic moment of the show- “but meanwhile it flees, time flees us irretrievably while we wander around prisoners of our love of the moment” was definitely my favourite line. And other than revealing how despairingly little I know about the city I love in, it was seriously entertaining. For a pretty small city, turns out York has been crazily important in British history. Who knew?! (Apologies to my friends studying history, who will most likely never speak to me again after reading this. Especially Sam Dumigan. I’m sorry for being such a failure.)

Hello shadow/castle walls!

Inspired by my educational trip, I finished the day by walking about a quarter of the Castle Walls- I did not realise how gorgeous the view would be from up there. And seeing as almost all good roads lead to a pub afterwards, I found myself in the cultural highlight of York- the local Wetherspoons. I don’t half know how to treat myself.

So that’s me starting my York Must List! Exploring a city I already know like the back of my hand was quite a charming experience. Being a tourist for the day was so much fun- and excellent practice for my future escapades in lands less familiar to me. Doing it all on my own was interesting, too. I thought I’d get bored or lonely, but instead I was so caught up in unearthing York that I went the entire day without once drifting off. Maybe I’m more cut out for this travelling lark than I thought- or maybe I’m just being daft comparing going round your own city for a day with global backpacking. Probably. Either way, this particular Saturday is going to go up there as one of my favourites so far.

On the Walls- hella awkward.

Newcastle; A Wide-Eyed Review of an Intense Nightlife

This past weekend, I ventured (even more) up North for my fourth ever visit to Toon. Being a student, and as I was staying with friends at Newcastle University, this was never going to be a trip drenched in high-brow culture, five star rooms, fine cuisine and finer wine. Much more likely was the “Skool Disco” themed bar crawl, student halls covered in cider spills and Dubstep Night posters, and a late night McDonlads after a round or two of alcopops…

But then, who says the height of sophistication is the height of fun? Certainly not Newcastle, in any case.

Kicking off my trip with a two hour train delay (without a book to keep me preoccupied- huge oversight on my part), I was already freezing. Pacing the platform in York to avoid freezing solid in the wind was good preparation for the inevitably bitter Newcastle weather, and was just the first opportunity that weekend for me to scold myself for not owning what my mum would call a “proper coat”.

Once I’d eventually pulled into the station and met my friend, we walked back to her university halls. We immediately started getting ready for a night of drinking games & trip into the city centre to experience the infamous Toon nightlife. Originally we intended to go to Digital, possibly Newcastle’s most famous club, but the (at least) hour long queue dampened our spirits a little bit, and having already turned down a night at the Student’s Union, we opted to go to Powerhouse instead.

Easily amused by a flashing dancefloor.
Being a student in a city where the nightlife is humble, and the peak of most wild evenings is generally spent in The Willow; a former Chinese restaurant’s function room which serves free prawn crackers all night and plays Rod Stewart in between Pixie Lott and Nero hits; walking into any club in Newcastle can be a little overwhelming at first.

For a starter, I’m yet to go into a club in the North-East that isn’t massive. On another (entirely unrelated) note; I’m yet to spend a night in a North-East club without getting lost at any point. The first time I ever went into Riverside, it took me a good half an hour to find the rest of the people I’d gone in with. Perdu is aptly named.

Easily amused by unusual lampshades…
The clientele was a mixture of locals and students, the music was your standard chart & club hits, and the drinks were a little overpriced for my pauper/student budget. Exactly what you’d expect from a Saturday night on the tiles. What was new to me, however, was the sheer size of the crowd, and the extravagance of the venue itself. Flashing dance floor, enormous and bizarre light shades, and enough podiums and platforms for everyone to have a go at being centre stage. I was impressed.

The second night was a student bar crawl, cringingly called “Carnage” (bit too much of a “Gap Yah” term for my liking, but the branding isn’t really up to me). It’s a notorious event among students, and tickets (t-shirts) are hotly sought after in the hours leading up to the event. Although it officially began in Players Bar at 8pm, most students hadn’t recovered from the previous night’s hangover by then, and were still customising their Carnage t-shirts into something related to its school kid fancy dress theme.

As a side note, how weird is dressing up as a school pupil when you’re only just at University yourself? Many Uni students will have only been out of school uniforms for a summer, or at the most for two years whilst at college. It’s a bit like doing a beach themed fancy dress a week after you get back from a holiday on the coast. Whatever, Carnage needed an obligatory theme- and having already previously used up “Cops & Robbers”, “Sexy Santas” and “Nympho Nurses & Dirty Doctors”, the Ann Summers catalogue they seemingly use to decide on a costuming premise was probably looking a bit battered. Not that the women of Newcastle had any difficulty in providing all kinds of imaginative ways to turn up wearing a compulsory t-shirt ticket and very little else, all within the theme’s limits.

Vast crowd in Liquid
Finally, loaded with 3D glasses and drawn on freckles, we gave Tiger Tiger a miss and headed straight next door to another unfeasibly enormous bar, Sam Jacks. Was pleasantly surprised at the price of a double vodka cranberry, so decided to order another one at the following bar to be met with a disappointingly higher price in Bambu. Another Bambu related complaint- the entry stamp took severe and repeated scrubbing for several hours before disappearing. Loved the oversized discoball, loved the balcony from the upstairs bar area overlooking the downstairs dancefloor. That is, until the spectators watching the dancing realised how hilarious it would be to spill a little of their drink to watch the dancers’ outraged reaction. Other than these (admittedly minor) complaints, this bar/club didn’t fail to impress.


Once we’d had enough of it here, we headed to the final destination, Liquid. I’ve been to the franchised club before, once before on a similar event the year previous in Newcastle, and in the Halifax version when I’m a bit closer to home. Liquid Newcastle dwarfs Liquid Halifax, though you can clearly see the similarities in the décor and style of the clubs. Not as edgy as other Newcastle nightlife venues, it’s probably my least favourite club I’ve visited so far in the Toon, but it still makes an impression- if only due to its sheer size and labyrinth of routes to and from the smoking terraces, bars and toilets.

The nightlife in Newcastle is definitely a major attraction. With so much competition so many different demographics to excite, and such a notorious reputation as the party capital of the North, the clubs and bars really strive to stand out, in an off-hand and impossibly cool way. Rather than being home to several massive and soulless venues, most place has real character and soul, in a way many other cities’ clubs omit. A Toon night out mightn’t have any class, but it certainly has its own unique style.