Tuesday, 17 August 2010

York - The Last Word

So where was I? Oh yes. In York.

Those of you still with me from part one will remember that I was initially turned away from the Jorvik Viking Centre due to fire regulations. I wasn't carrying any matches or fidgeting gormlessly with a cigarette lighter. They told me that they could not accommodate more than one wheelchair user at a time.

All of which disability inaccess led to our arriving on Friday morning for a second bite at the cherry. Clearly they had ran out of excuses to dismiss us, and they let us in without too much fuss. Via a small lift we made our way down to the visitors centre, the main feature of which is it's glass floor.

It may not sound all that exciting, but when you take into account the fact that the room is only lit by the glare of the television monitors dotted around it changes your perspective. It genuinely looks like there is no floor in the middle of the room, and the model of the old Viking Digs set a few feet below the glass only adds to the effect. Despite what your eyes tell you, it is quite safe to step (or wheel) on to the glass and have a look around. The Digs aren't much to look at however, and the main pleasure to be gained is a kind of Homer Simpson-esque delight at being able to skim across the top of a seemingly invisible floor and not fall face first into the rocks below.

The Jorvik Centre has it's own ride too. It's not The Hulk at Universal Studios, but it is very similar to some of the more gentler attractions that a place like Orlando has to offer. Another miracle of access (could this be the reason for their strict one at a time policy?) allowed me to board one of the carriages which takes you on a historical tour of all things Viking. The idea is to educate you on how the Vikings used to live, hunt, work and behave.

Undoubtedly though, the highlight is meeting the gentleman who gets caught short on his toilet. Upon being greeted by the ride's audio narrator the man lets out an embarrassed and muffled Scandinavian utterance before promptly 'dropping the kids off'. For authenticity the air suddenly becomes filled with a decidedly ploppy smell. I found all of this hugely amusing but I think Emma felt a little queasy once the smell escaped.

Excrement is a theme at the Jorvik Centre, as on display there you will also find what I can only describe to you as a lump of shite. There, in a glass case all of it's own, is a sample of human excrement accompanied by some scientific jibber-jabber about how much we can learn from the chemicals in shite or some such. To my mind it looked like something you might get out of an old fashioned joke shop at Blackpool but then I should remember that it fell out of it's human vehicle some 1200 years ago. It's bound to have let itself go.

Our final destination would be the Merchant Adventurer's House. The Merchant Adventurers were basically tradesmen who sailed the world trying to sell their goods and make a bit of wonga. It is perhaps best to think of them as an early version of a worker's union, and the house is a grand old place where they would hold their meetings and social events. Your tour of the house is accompanied by a free audio guide which on appearance looks like the Sky Digital remote handset. 'Press your red button now to watch Lord Poncemby sail to Bordeaux to buy wine live and exclusively in HD'. The trouble with this little gizmo is that it cannot be paused, so you find yourself struggling to keep up with the descriptions of the art work and other exhibits on display.

By the time you have sussed out how to get the right information at the time that you actually want it you have reached the chapel, and you get the feeling that you are just about done with religion and churches. For a little light relief, and to keep the house in touch with the technological revolution, there are touch-screen games which place you in the Merchant Adventurer's boat and challenge you to sail the world trading your products. I visited Bordeaux first obviously, but also took in Bilbao, Copenhagen, and somewhere in Belgium on my way to a glorious £8 profit. I was then informed that while my haul was a worthy one allowing for economic inflation, I still had to pay my crew and so would probably only have gone away with enough money for half a hogs head for the banquet.

But that's York. It's a wonderful city but it proves that you really can't have everything.

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