A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

In the city of York

When in York, ghosts and shadows surround you. The history of this majestic city, much of it tragic, lives in the walls of the old city. By following the trail of ghosts from the past, we got to learn about the city’s history. The guided terror trail we chose to follow led us through some old medieval streets from the Shambles to Swine Lane bypassing Gr_pe Lane (you may substitute for an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ whichever you like and whichever reference you may want to give it), going around York Minster and Constantine’s statue all the while skipping through each intersection. Yes, you read correctly, this guided walk was… let’s just say unusual (ou spécial pour les bons Canadiens français 🙂 ).

So this young actor-guide actually made us hold hands in a single file and then skip while crossing the street. I may be a French-Canadian of Irish descent, but I am more English than none when it comes to holding a stranger’s hand so let’s just say the walk did not exactly start on the right (skipping) foot. The oral history shared, however, was interesting if not downright scary. I could probably go on for an hour and a half, as long as the walk itself, to explain all its intricacies, but to keep you from closing your browser, I will stick to two references. The first being that, as we passed through the Jewish quarter, we were told of Richard the Lionheart’s search of war money and the following rumors against the Jewish community members (regarding them coveting money). Fearing for their lives, the Jews, upon hearing this rumor, sought refuge in Clifford’s Tower. Knowing that they would either be murdered or forcibly baptized by their attacker should they choose to evade the tower, 150 Jews chose to meet death at their own hands – the father killing his children and wife before turning the sword on himself. This senseless massacre took place on March 16, 1190. This date does live in infamy and is remembered each year. Every society has played its role in trying to be victors and erasing another’s beliefs and customs, but after following the trail of the Jacobites and my own heritage, this walk left me somewhat drained.

Now let’s lighten up this dialogue and highlight the good, the bad & the ugly of this marvelous trip.

Trafalgar Studios

The Good can be many things, but I’ve chosen Orlando Bloom’s play, Killer Joe, which we saw yesterday afternoon. We were sitting in row A, seats 8 & 9 which were right on the floor (the ACTUAL STAGE FLOOR), as in we were like three feet from the actors, as in I was three feet from… Orlando Bloom (ORLANDO BLOOM!!!). Ok, the play is dark and disturbing and I’m sure many North Americans, in most scenes, think of crazy (good!) Matthew McConaughey but dear Spaghetti Monster, we were in spitting distance of the actors!

On to the Bad and to the second reference to the Terror Trail guided walk. As we were walking around York Minster, the guide told us another story about a little house kitty-corner to the Minster. It was a house in which 24 members had died of the plague. The only people remaining were a family of three – the mom, dad, and 7-year-old daughter. Then one night, the mother saw red marks on the little girl’s throat. Thinking it was the first sign of the plague, she put the girl to bed, painted a big red X on the front door, locked it and left with her husband. The following morning, the little girl found herself alone in the house and hungry. It is told that for three weeks, she cried from her bedroom window asking for food. Not one soul stopped to help her; all presuming she had the plague. The house was right in front of a market and just behind a huge church and all that has been recorded is the bishop’s diary of the time which says that when passing that corner to the church, he had to raise his voice to be heard over the cries of a child. After it was clear that the little girl was no longer alive, they went to get her and realized she never had the plague but a simple case of child-onset measles. This poor little girl died of starvation. The bad is that I believe the same would occur today as much as I want to believe in the goodness of humanity.

Our Fancy Vauxhall

And now on to the Ugly. The ugly in this case is spelled Enterprise Rent-A-Car. This cute little company just started using iPads to conduct its business but, as with new technology, agents sometimes make mistakes, and our specific agent upon renting the car lost all our information after we had swiped our credit card. When Justin went into the office to re-enter his information, the agent told him the payment had not gone through and to swipe once more. Well… two separate charges are clearly shown on our credit card! (surprise, surprise) We have now been sending emails and calling for 11 days to no avail. The couple of agents we did speak with assured us this would be taken care of, but the charge is still there and we will probably have to contest it with our credit card company once we are back home. The time will come when Enterprise will have to contend with the wrath of Anne!

So this is it, I bid you farewell United Kingdom! Until we meet again… love, Anne

Enjoying the city!


PS Here is my list of books read during this trip:

  1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah;
  2. 1984 by George Orwell;
  3. The Custodian of Paradise by Wayne Johnston;
  4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (still in progress)

All excellent books!!!

Culloden Battlefields

Actually, our trail of the Jacobites ends with Stirling and the William Wallace Monument, but our visit of the Culloden Battlefields was quite moving; and its history (versus that of the Braveheart movie!) gave us a good sense of the Jacobite rebellions. These fields were, after all, the place where the Jacobites, after 60 years of English resistance, were repelled for good. You can feel the bloodshed and the crushed dreams of freedom in these desolate fields. Just thinking how the Scots were reprieved from their customs, culture and even lands for 40 years, makes you ponder on the desire for freedom.

Funny how Braveheart was pivotal for so many of us in terms of Scottish history, yet this award-winning movie is full of historical blunders. And after Mel Gibson’s debacle, the whole thing somehow turned sour; which is somewhat unfortunate for the real William Wallace whether he be known as Braveheart or not.

I’m so glad the Scots were able to reintegrate their wonderful culture into their everyday lives. They may not be a republic, but they have an identity that is theirs and is to be preserved and valued. They have been nothing but welcoming to us, especially in the highlands. I wish my pictures could give a true sense of the vastness and beauty of the mountainous countryside, but like my pictures of sheep from the car which look more like fluffy dirty snowflakes in the fields than actual sheep, the mountains and fields in my pictures end up looking like bland empty hills.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

We did, however, get some great shots and we were very lucky in getting to the right place at the right time, like arriving the exact moment when the Jacobite – or Howards Express 🙂 train went across the Glenfinnan viaduct.

Eilean Donan Castle

But one of the best pictures, I believe, is of the Eilean Donan Castle which has a Mont Saint-Michel quality to it. And, like Mont St. Michel, the same picture has been taken over and over, yet it is breathtaking every single time.

Having a vehicle for our travels this time, we have been able to visit hidden gems all over the country. One of these gems was the town of Dunkeld with its centuries-old Cathedral of St. Columba on the banks of the River Tay. This little town also had the most pleasant townfolk and wonderful cafés. One eclectic furniture shop was in an old renovated church. The surroundings, as well as the furniture, was quite stunning. It certainly made us want to buy one of these old buildings, going for next to nothing, and renovate it to its glory days. We have nothing to sell, nor do we want to take care of a B&B or even need such a place to live-in but the dream is real!

Our sojourn in Scotland in coming to an end, but our journey in the Scottish world is far from over.