North Yorkshire calls me.
It embodies everything romantic in my walker's soul despite the reality of Emily, Jane and Charlotte's particular corner of it being uninhabitable. North Yorkshire is dales that hide sweet villages and hidden gardens, moors shining golden and purple under a soft autumn sky, real pubs with real ale and real fires and a wildness that embodies all that Nantucket used to be back when it was an island and not a causeway just off the Hutchinson River Parkway.
There are other Yorkshires in the east and west and south but it's the magnetic north that pulls me.
On our first Yorkshire stay we rode the train from London and spent a week in a flat just behind the Minster with fifteen year old Xander who was immensely patient with his parents and took full advantage of his temporary access to beer disguised as lemon shandies. The sun shone and the River Ouse sparkled as crews in racing sculls avoided slamming into gaudy narrow boats moored to the shore. We walked the city walls in the early morning mist and thought we could just see the Howardian hills. Xander and I galloped horses across green meadows in Helmsley, picnicked on fresh milk and apples by a lively stream and won a round of beer at a Monksgate pub on quiz night.
It's years later and we have visited York twice since then, most recently after Christmas this year. We stayed one dark winter's night in a bed and breakfast overlooking Kit Kat Stadium, the chocolate home of York Football and wandered into the city center to eat dinner. That eye catching seventeenth century bakery with the funny gables and leaded windows is now an Aisan fusion restaurant where they do a nice mojito and pint of prawns. Teenaged girls giggled bare-armed and already drunk down High Street despite the bitter bitter cold.
After dinner we moseyed back towards the Minster only incidentally rediscovering the quiz night pub and its friendly neuk with a cheerful fire.
Tom had a pint of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome and I had a glass of a creditable chardonnay which really marks the change time has wrought as I would have settled for the only plonk suffered by serious beer pubs way back then.
Our visits to the greater Shire of York have been far more frequent. A week here and a week there or a few days as we pass through on our way to or from Scotland, it is an intentional diversion always beckoning as we negotiate our way up the M-1.
There is an excellent motorway stop near Penrith where you can get a good sandwich and a cappucino and sit outside on these big boulders looking across to the Yorkshire Dales and wrestle with an immediate longing to abandon the car and walk on.