shotfuls of shared time

Flying to London with less than three weeks notice is definitely unusual for me. Spectacularly spontaneous, as it has been put. I’m quite solidly the ‘purchase-your-ticket-six-months-in-advance’ type. But, honestly, I didn’t really even need to think about it. There was no mulling, no careful consideration of costs, no hesitation about taking the time off work. I was going, I was absolutely going, and that’s just how it was going to be.

You see, while yes, I am in theory flying to London for a party. It’s definitely more than that for me. My good friend Jean-Marc is taking leave of his flat which I’ve come to think of as another home. Which…may be weird. That a place I’ve been to only a handful of times could feel so hugely like home to me. But it does. It feels at least as much like home as any of my previous residences. When I have visited my old roommates in my old apartments, I still always felt like I was coming back home. I still knew where everything was, and I still felt like I was a part of life there, albeit an infrequent part. And that’s how I feel about Jean-Marc’s dear old flat. I know how to get there from anywhere in London (blindfolded…or not), I can just about guess the exact contents of the refrigerator and freezer, I know what the light coming in through the bathroom window looks like at any point during the day, I could trace from memory the decals on the wall. And then there’s Jean-Marc himself: I can’t name too many people that I’ve spent so little time with and have such a huge affinity for. Indeed, our so-called ‘quirky bond’ is the stuff that legendary indie films are made of. It’s just…from the most epic and entertaining stories you will ever hear, to the ceaselessly brimming enthusiasm about…life?, to the entirely random chunks of the encyclopedia that must be lodged in his head, to his passion for visiting every part of this extraordinary planet, to the infuriating command of an enviable amount of languages he casually throws around, to the mastery of interacting with practically anyone on any occasion in a matter of seconds, to the umm…skilled (and by skilled I mean magnificently amusing) dance moves…I dunno. Everything. Everything about that man makes me glad for his existence. And grateful for having the pleasure of knowing him.

While Jean-Marc wasn’t my first couchsurfing host, he was the first good one. He was a superb one. After our real first couchsurfing experience, Christy and I both felt sort of meh. Couchsurfing seemed a cool concept, but turned out to be less awesome than it sounds. We had this conversation while lugging my entirely-way-too-overly-filled backpack and her two baby-elephant-sized suitcases across the very stair-filled underground stations of London. On our way to the flat of the guy who had responded to our emergency couch request. We more or less decided that we probably wouldn’t do any more couchsurfing after the conclusion of this two week trip to London. And then, and then we heard a contagiously friendly voice greet us before we even reached the open door of Jean-Marc. Jean-Marc, one of the most exceptional human beings I’ve encountered. Jean-Marc, who’s seen me at either the beginning or end (or both) of just about every trip I’ve taken to date. If we were unenthused about couchsurfing before our whirlwind few days with Jean-Marc, we were enchanted completely by the time we left. My parents are known for their exceptional hospitality (it is, in fact, so ingrained in me that I went to school for the damn concept). Likewise, my childhood best friend’s family was ever social and seemed always to have company casually lingering around as though their house was the local favorite coffee shop. I’ve known hospitality and sociability. But I had never experienced it at this level, had never known it from strangers. I became intoxicated by this new potential, this unexpected aspect of life I had stumbled upon.

So I’m in London with my best friend and we’re trying this newfangled couchsurfing thing. And I find myself falling in love with these people whom I had never even heard of a few days prior. Like, head over heels in love. I don’t want our time together to end; I want to hold on to these new relationships like I desire to hold on to all of the goods things in life. But instead I’m just enjoying the ephemeral time we have. It’s all I can do. Jump in and swim before the water dries up around me. It is temporary, but it is good. It is enough. Don’t get me wrong – I love the people who are constant in my life. I need them. But there is something so inexplicably magical about choosing to invest, too, in people who won’t always be there. Being real with people who are present in the here and now. There is a whole universe of potential out there when you open your circle beyond just the people you’ve known.

I guess my point in all of this is: Jean-Marc was the beginning of this. Jean-Marc set the standard for this sharing-a-snippet-of-life-with-strangers phenomenon. For embracing the unknown as much as the familiar. And so, I attribute the life changes that have come from all of this greatly to him. And there have been many. My entire outlook on life has shifted, the whole way I interact with the people and the world around me has been transformed. I’ve shed all of my childhood fears of strangers in favor of hopeful potential, and it has brought about a terrific satisfaction to my existence. To not allow whether or not I know someone discourage my ability to have an authentic interaction with them. It has changed everything for me.

So, that is why I’m not just flying to London last minute for some alcohol-infused party. I’m flying to London to celebrate the end of a dynamic that has unequivocally rewritten my life. The dynamic of a man I didn’t know, his ordinary flat, and his peculiar passion for captivating strangers. I have no idea what my life would have been like if Christy and I had decided to call it quits after that first couchsurfing experience. If I had never met Jean-Marc and, consequently, all of the incredible CS hosts (humans) that followed. Not to mention all of the other strangers with whom I have shared various experiences. But I can’t believe it would have been nearly as exciting or fulfilling. I’m glad my life has gone in the direction it has. I’m glad I am open to interacting with whomever I might encounter. I’m glad I’ve seen the world from the inside of dozens of residences across the globe; felt life by sharing it, briefly, with people in vastly different situations than my own. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to share my home and my little life with people I’ve never before met. And a huge portion of my gratitude goes to Jean-Marc Knoll for showing up to change my life. So thanks, JMK, and let’s give a freaking phenomenal sendoff to that spectacular old flat.



earth…definitely earth

I arrived in Copenhagen a few hours before Sunita. In Toronto I had received a message from her saying “sooo….my couchsurfing host pretty much only ate fish…and now I might smell like it.” I chuckled and forgot about it. When we finally met up at the airport in Copenhagen however, it was no longer forgotten. That girl reeked of fish. Not if you stood at a distance, but if you stood close or smelled any of her clothes or hair, or if she moved too much it was totally gross. And I thought she was kidding. We ended up stowing our backpacks in a locker at the airport, since we wouldn’t be meeting up with our host until later in the evening, and also we had to be out early the next morning. We mostly did the tourist route: The Little Mermaid, the kastellet, we tried to see the free city of Christiania, but somehow failed. We did go to a market though, where Sunita choose one of an assortment of the prettiest sandwiches I’ve ever seen, as well as bahn mi. Or maybe that was the next day? Yeah, I think it was. We got bread, cheese, and tomatoes that day.

It was the name day of our Greek couchsurfing host, Thalia. This is apparently a big celebration in Greece. We didn’t have a party or anything, but she made us (delicious) spanakopita that was meant for the name day/completion of masters/some other sort of celebration she had held over the weekend. We had a really nice dinner and chat. She told us about living in Greece and living in Copenhagen, talked about her past and upcoming travels, and showed us the acoustic version of that Gangnam Style song. I asked if she found Danish men attractive, and she said no, because they don’t know how to flirt. I really enjoyed hanging out with her.


To start off the next day we took a chilly walk around the botanical gardens. It was filled with greenhouses filled with all manner of plants, long walks labeling all of the different flora, and in the center a really large, really pretty building. Then hot chocolate to warm up. We were really biding our time waiting for the National Gallery to open. It was really cool. We saw some really interesting pieces. After that we had decided to go on the free walking tour of Christianhavn, which had a focus on Christiania. Seeing as we had missed it the previous day, we opted for that tour rather than the traditional tour of Copenhagen. Which, I think, was a good choice. Our tour guide was Canadian, which I heard in his ‘abouts’ and he later confirmed. He led a good tour, and it was a fascinating part of Copenhagen. Christiania is basically its own little…country? within Copenhagen. I mean, not exactly, but it does kind of have its own culture and rules that don’t apply outside of its limits. The most obvious being that you can go and buy soft drugs there and the government is completely aware of it and allows it to go on. Aesthetically it’s a really cool place. Interesting graffiti, interesting colors, interesting setup. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures because of the whole drug thing, but it was really cool to see and to hear the story behind it. The only downside of the walking tour was that it was freezing. Quite literally, in fact; it started snowing on us. Now, I’m heading to southeast Asia for several months, so I didn’t really pack appropriate clothing for snow, except for one jacket which I’m sending home with Sunita. So every one of my toes went numb, as well as my fingers which turned worrying shades of white and purplish. Regardless, I was a tad giddy about the snow.

After that we headed back to the airport and on to Londres! The great and wonderful JMK let us stay at his place even though surprise surprise he was in some foreign country doing interesting things. We were both hungry by the time we got in so we went out in search of food. Unfortunately, since Luton freaking airport is so far away from London that by the time we arrived pretty much everything was closed. Except for GBK, that is. Vegetarian burgers for everyone! We devoured our burgers and stayed up for all of Ratatouille, despite being exhausted.

birthright backpacking breakdown

I find statistics fascinating. Therefore:

17,490 kilometers
10,868 miles


16 countries

Northern Ireland
The Netherlands
Czech Republic

32 cities
Clara, Ireland
Loughrea, Ireland
Dungloe, Ireland
Gortin, Northern Ireland
Glasgow, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Felixkirk, England
London, England
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Utrecht, Netherlands
Brussels, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Gent, Belgium
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Berlin, Germany
Warsaw, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Prague, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Salzburg, Austria
Überlingen, Germany
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Bern, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Paris, France
Hamburg, Germany
Copenhagen, Denmark
Charlottenberg, Sweden
Ås, Norway
Bergen, Norway
Dublin, Ireland

May 16, 2012 – September 5, 2012
16 weeks -or- 112 days

total: $1,650


hitchhiking lifts
125 total
91 men
23 women
5 couples
2 police (ha!)
2 forgotten

Orlando – Dublin
Bergen – London
Dublin – Orlando

Amsterdam – Utrecht
Brno – Prague
Arna – Bergen
London – Dublin

Northern Ireland – Scotland
Germany – Denmark
somewhere in Norway – somewhere else in Norway
England – Ireland

London – Amsterdam
Gortin – Omagh

Paris – Utrecht


couchsurfing hosts
23 total
18 male
4 female
1 couple

helpx host
Charlottenberg, Sweden

Glasgow, Scotland
London, England
Utrecht, Netherlands
Kandern, Germany
Lucerne, Switzerland
Pontcharra, France
Ås, Norway

hitchhiking lift
Felixkirk, England

ferry port
Larne, Northern Ireland

Burger King
Cologne, Germany

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Bruges, Belgium
Udevalla(ish), Sweden


orange lava

The journey back to London was exceptionally good. I got *two* coronation chicken sandwiches, we landed early, and not only was there no line at customs, but the customs officer was SO friendly. One by one the birthrighters parted ways on the Piccadilly line tube. Christy to Neil’s, Valerie to Dublin, and me to Jean-Marc’s.

I followed Jean-Marc’s mysterious instructions and met him at Holborne station. I was then whisked away to a Polish vodka bar, where three other ladies were awaiting us. It was kind of a momentous evening, as I was in the process of acquiring the title of JMK’s First Fourth Time Couchsurfer. An honour which I now hold with pride.

JMK was appalled that I had never seen Team America, so immediately upon our return to his flat (that wonderful place), into the DVD player it went.

Patricia, a fellow CSer (hailing from Canada), and I were on our own the next day. As usual, JMK was off to some other land. My friend Tom (whom I met while Wwoofing last year) cycled to London to visit. We set off for a walk, and found ourselves several hours later far from East Putney. Soon thereafter we met up with a friend of his and hung out in a park, enjoying ‘the very last bit of summer’, as I was informed. Eh. My two week return to Florida will be concentrated enough summer to last all year. Anyways…Patricia, Tom, and I made dinner and chilled at home.

Both of them left the following morning, so I had all of London to myself. I contemplated visiting Wapping again, but felt too content in Putney to leave. Instead I bought a case of Crabbie’s and a box of Putney Squares (formerly known as caramel shortbread). And then I watched Up. Life was lovely.


three Xs descending

The night before leaving London, and therefore England, we decided to reschedule the next few days (in other words, countries) of our trip. All because of Sarah Frecklesoup. So we looked into tickets from London to Amsterdam, and found coach tickets for £49. Since there was a possibility of having to pay nearly as much for the ferry anyways, we chose the surety of arriving in a timely manner. Hitchhiking across water and four countries in a day seemed pretty unlikely.

Before we left though, there was our evening at the Half Moon. This was (other than people) what I was most looking forward to in our return to London. It was a phenomenal last night – Crabbie’s, really talented musicians, and a chill atmosphere. Neil joined us, and afterwards we had a late supper. We parted ways with Neil the next morning on the underground, and got ourselves (just in time) to the coach station.

It was a long journey, and we were frequently semi-harassed by a few overly confident men. Figures that the one time we choose not to hitchhike is the time we are stuck with creepers. Anyways, otherwise it was an uneventful trip. I listened to nearly half of Let the Right One In and slept for the rest of the journey. We arrived nearing the end of 9pm. It was still light, but we didn’t really have anywhere to sleep. I had posted an emergency couchsurfing request, but that was our only hope. No luck with that. Camping is illegal in the Netherlands, so that was out of the question. We looked into hostels. The one that was recommended to us had no vacancies, and the one we did walk to, none of us were excited about. I had a surprise burst of energy and confidence, and I suggested the option of just finding a quiet place to sleep. It took some walking and some questioning, but we did eventually find a place where all of us felt comfortable sleeping. It was a secluded bit of concrete near a river, with a couple of benches and a short wall. There were people near enough, as well as generous, but not obnoxious light. Well done us. We talked well into the night, untired due to ample sleep on the bus. But finally I chose to curl up and sleep.

Two hours later the sound of soft patters on my sleeping bag triggered my instincts. I woke Christy and Valerie and we went off in search of shelter. We began to find that Amsterdam is composed of very straight, non-sheltering structures. At 3:30am on the streets of drizzling Amsterdam, Christy was not a well functioning, nor a happy individual. Majority rule outvoted me and we returned to our homeless corner. We arranged ourselves once again on the ground and stretched the tarp for our tent over us. I held it tightly above my head and behind my back. My hands were cold and wet, and my eyes closed with the pretense of having a hope of sleeping again. Another two hours and I chose to abandon the situation and the group. I found a sheltering building nearby and waited for the other two to join me.

I’m really glad we had that night. It wasn’t the most optimal of situations, but I rather enjoyed it, and it seems an essential backpacking story. That day I contacted our CS host Simon, back in little Clara, Ireland, and he gave me the name of a friend in Amsterdam that we might be able to stay with. I called up his friend (also Simon) and that night we found ourselves staying in an illegal squat. In a building that had been used by the police to practice squat raids. I felt safe enough though; the tenants were going to court over the matter, so we weren’t likely to be rounded up and thrown in jail during our stay. It was a gorgeous building. Originally it had been a paint factory. Now our room proclaimed walls filled with paintings by various guests and residents, as well as furniture rescued from the roadside. Simon was a fascinating individual, whom I feel we didn’t have nearly enough time with. We went briefly back into the city to acquire our Dutch pizza, then spent the night listening to the rain on the roof while snuggled in our warm, dry beds.

how to not go to Wales

York was lovely. Perhaps a bit more trouble than it was worth for us, though. We quickly got a ride straight there. The first order of business was finding a place to stow our bags for a short time (in other words: a pub or cafe). I chose a tiny little place called The Cremerie. There was not enough room in the cafe, but the woman offered the enclosed storage space in the back. We gratefully accepted and set off to see York. We saw the major sights – the cathedral and the tower, but all of the attractions required fees, which we weren’t too inclined to pay. So after a few hours we headed back to The Cremerie and collected our belongings. I purchased homemade ice cream – one scoop peanut butter toffee, one scoop chocolate. Best decision ever, and more of a celestial experience in my mouth than a ‘thank you for your generosity’.

Hitching out was a problem. None of us felt like walking several miles out of the city. After much debate we ended up buying bus tickets to a city on the ring road around York. We thumbed for ages before a flame-stenciled van blaring strong rock stopped for us. He took us to Harrogate, the location of which I was only vaguely certain, and left us off just before the roundabout for our intended motorway. I am not entirely sure how the next events transpired. As far as I’m concerned, a van was pulled off waiting for us before we even stuck our thumbs out (okay, not quite, but it was pretty immediately). He was heading to London. He was heading to London? London…? Valerie and Christy looked at me in anticipation. Ah, well, let’s go to London. In a cloud of confused decisiveness we loaded our bags and settled into the van of Ben. I could tell almost straightaway (the almost inaudible music was a giveaway), but it took maybe fifteen minutes to confirm that Ben was a Christian, but not only that, a pastor. We had a really comfortable several hours drive with him to just outside of London. We talked about politics, travel, church, his life and our plans, and loads of other things. We took a train from his town, Addlestone, to East Putney, where we were welcomed once again into the home of Jean-Marc.

Dinner and jubilee decorating was on the schedule for the evening. As ever when Jean-Marc is involved, the evening was phenomenal. There were two other American girls (whom we only met later) couchsurfing with him that evening, and a relatively new Londoner, Lucia from Spain, joined us as well. We stayed up well into the night, and Jean-Marc left for some foreign soil early in the morning. We birthrighters donned our packs and set off across London to the new residence of Neil.

Shall I tell you about the best decision ever? I wasn’t lying about the ice cream in York, but this was truly genius. Last time in London, Christy and I spent hundreds of dollars (hyperbole? I think not.) on the damn London underground. This time we invested in a week long pass. I cannot tell you how many times traveling around here I have silently cheered this decision. I have gone places I wouldn’t have otherwise because I don’t have to worry about how much it costs. Basically, I am happy about this.

Pretty immediately upon arriving at Neil’s, Valerie and I set off to ‘see London’. We took the tube to Westminster station, where the view coming up the stairs is pretty epic. We walked about and saw major sights, we saw a prevented bomb threat as well as a dead man. All in all, pretty eventful. While we were out we stopped and got a Chinese, then watched tv (Anyone? Anyone?). Other London adventures include the Victoria and Albert museum (probably my favorite museum ever anywhere), the Sandeman’s free walking tour (it was pretty darn close to as good as the first time. Apparently London knows how to choose their tour guides), and a visit to the Tate Modern, but only for the view.

Neil had a party on our second evening. It was pretty small, but (therefore?) definitely a lovely evening. We were meant to have a barbecue, but the barbecue was loathe to actually cook our food. No matter, we curled up under blankets on couches in the backyard due to the fact that the air was wet, aka it was raining.

One day Valerie wanted to peruse the world war II museum unhindered, so I decided to take a trip to Brixton. Despite being warned that there was nothing to see, I felt it was necessary. I walked about the market and through the area. It’s true that there isn’t a whole lot to do. I did listen to Guns of Brixton. By both The Clash and Arcade Fire, thank you very much. Afterwards I took the tube to Victoria station and walked in a random direction. I passed by a homeless woman and my mind started up. I dropped in a grocery store, picked up a bit of food, and headed back. Sasha kindly allowed me to share her newspaper lined alcove and we spent the next hour in deep conversation, seen only by the hidden glances of passersby. We discussed politics, her plans, shoes, the upcoming jubilee, and all sorts of other things. She is a lovely woman. Intelligent and passionate. I’ve rarely hoped for anything as much as for her to get back on her feet. I think probably my time with Sasha was one of the best parts of my time in London.

So, clearly we had to achieve pizza eating wonder in England. Christy had the brilliant idea to try in Camden. We stood in outside the tube station in the rain with no idea where to go. Christy wanted to settle for pizza from ‘King of Falafel’, but I have higher standards than that. I asked a bartender in one pub who was completely unhelpful. I asked some girls at a random table who could only advise ‘just don’t go to a kebab place!’ Finally I asked another bartender, and her face lit up. ‘You want pizza?’ She pointed me in the direction I should go and said ‘I’m Italian. The first time I tasted this pizza, I cried and hugged the pizza maker.’ Needless to say, I was pretty excited. A short walk took us to Al Parco pizzeria. Inside the atmosphere was filled with warmth and the scent of garlic. There was a debate over ‘meat!’ and ‘no meat!’, I ended this by suggesting two pizzas. Sometimes I am pretty brilliant. Though none of us cried, they were delicious. Sadly since we were going to continue walking we just had to finish both pizzas, which resulted in us eating five slices each. I have no regrets. Live, love, eat as much pizza as you can muster.

and the shadows will fall

So we made it to Glasgow. Finally. Slightly less impressed with Scottish drivers than we were with the Irish. We were to stay with the family that I lived with in Spain three summers ago. John Paul and Maria were welcoming as always. Andrea was much the same, as I had seen her the previous year, but Zaret and Daniel were so much older! Also, Daniel is developing a proper Scottish accent.

All of our days in Scotland were full of sun and cloudless skies. The first evening John Paul and Maria took us into Glasgow. It was the perfect time of day for a walk around the city. The sun glowed golden against the buildings and palish in between. This marked our first official stop in a large city. We all had curries in a grand pub for dinner. Afterwards we walked more, now in darkness. We saw the oldest house in the city and a cathedral with a graveyard composed of flat tombstones.

The next morning we birthrighters were left on our own. We slept in and spent most of the day laying in the sunshine on their trampoline. When John Paul got off work he took us to a famous loch. It was an absolutely gorgeous walk. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the bright day, there were loads of people spotted about on the verge of the lake and the rolling hills. Upon our return we had a fantastic meal that had been prepared by Maria including tortilla de patatas!!! We may not have been in Spain, but our hosts were still definitely Spanish. Saturday was our last with John Paul and Maria. We played Uno with the kids, conversed, and packed up. Our host in Edinburgh wrote to say he might not be around on Saturday night, could we pick up the key? The three of us took the train into Glasgow and made it just in time to get the key from him before he boarded the bus for elsewhere.

John Paul picked us up, we ate more delicious Maria-made food, and were on our way. The drive to Edinburgh was nice. We managed to find our host’s flat with no difficulty, and then we parted ways with John Paul and Maria with a fond farewell. I’ve stayed in a CS host’s house while they were absent before, but never before properly meeting them. So this was quite interesting. His apartment decor featured mostly sci-fi fandom paraphernalia. I tend to get on well with nerds, so this was a good sign for me. It’s interesting – no matter how much time the birthrighters have alone, it seems we always let out a satisfied sigh when we find ourselves without company, even the best of company. After depositing our bags we made a trip to Sainsbury’s to acquire materials for beans on toast. The evening was spent having the most relaxed of conversation.

We definitely wanted to take the Sandeman’s free walking tour in every city, since our experience in London had been so phenomenal. We favored walking the three miles to the city centre rather taking the bus. Everyone we’ve met has preferred Edinburgh to Glasgow, and while I did like the latter, I can see why the feelings toward the former. There is an old world charm to Edinburgh. Our tour guide was a long haired, self declared pirate-sounding man. We learned about the entirely unromantic heart set into the sidewalk on the royal mile, where the term ‘shitfaced’ comes from, about the stone of destiny, and far more.

Since only one full day was scheduled in Edinburgh, we had to get pizza in order to fulfill our pizza-in-every-country requirement. Darn. We decided a pub might be best. The first one we asked didn’t have any, but they recommended The Three Sisters. We had great difficulty in locating said pub, but after walking north and south, east and west, we did find it. And it was worth the walk. Have I mentioned that I love pizza? Finally we headed home, where were to finally meet Graham, our host.

What can I say about Graham? He was very kind and, as it goes, very different from all of our previous hosts. He has asperger’s syndrome, used to be a massage therapist, but now works as a nude model for bachelorette party art classes (yes, you read that correctly), and is way into Doctor Who. We had a nice evening with him. Tea and biscuits, late night conversation, and massages all around.

We had to get up and go the next morning – we were attempting to span three countries in the light of one day. We managed to exit Scotland and enter England, but we did not arrive in Wales as intended. I attribute this to us allowing our rides to take us off of our main road and onto smaller roads in little towns. I think we’ll not make that mistake again. But, as usual, at the end of the day I had no regrets about how things came about. Our final ride, Damian, came around nearish 5pm. We still had a few hour’s worth of daylight to try to get [closer] to Wales, but when he offered us his home we gladly accepted. This was a great decision. As we entered his town of Felixkirk, population of ‘thirty to forty’, he told us about the pub, the church, and the knight buried there. At his cottage we were greeted by his two labradors, Sybil and Hattie, as well as his partner Ginny. During the course of our stay they were so generous. After a dinner outside in their garden, we walked across the street to their pub. The last Monday of the month features a pub quiz. We joined the team consisting of our hosts and their neighbors. Admittedly we weren’t much help. Most of the questions focused on the queen because of the upcoming jubilee. But we helped with a few. Despite not winning (we were tied for second), we had a really nice time.

In the morning, Damian dropped us at a petrol station on the road to York. Everyone at the pub had urged us to visit York, so we decided to do so.