Totally top place to spend New Year's Eve. Everyone from all the pubs around comes out just before midnight and joins hands in a huge circle round York Minster Cathedral, to sing Auld Lang Syne. There's a countdown to midnight as the cathedral clock rings the hour, and then a massive surge, with people of all ages and types singing, yelling, hugging and snogging.

Yup, there's not much in the way of nightlife. But it's friendly, pretty and has some damn good second-hand junk shops and bookshops, plus a couple of decent record stores. And some of the pubs do a grand Yorkshire pudding with righteous onion gravy, and ALL of them have games to play (dominoes, cards and so on) which is something you rarely see down South.

York is a medieval historic town with plenty of other things to look at too: take a walk round the old city wall, or check out one of the 'ghost walks' run by local Goths. If you are a foreign tourist and like souvenir shopping, make your way down to the Shambles, a twisty little street near the cathedral where you'll find a mass of little foofy shops full of hand-made expensive tat to rummage through.

York was the name of the black servant who accompanied Captain William Clark on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1803-1806. He was given to William Clark by Clark's father and was roughly the same age as Clark.

York, who's first name was rumored to be Ben, astonished the Indians that the expedition encountered. Few had ever seen a black man before, and he was the subject of much interest. He was known as a practical joker and on more than one occasion took advantage of the Indians' fear of him by telling them that he was a wild man and ate children. Stories of his sexual prowess and conquests among the Indian women didn't surface until 1814, when an interview with Clark was exaggerated greatly.

From the expedition's journals, it appears that York functioned as a full member of the expedition, rather than just as a man-servant to Clark. Two geographic features were even named after him: York's 8 Islands and York's Dry River.

Upon return from the expedition, York again resumed his role as William Clark's personal slave. York asked Clark repeatedly for his freedom, or to be allowed to hire out, in order to be closer to his wife, who had a different owner, but Clark refused until at least 1816, when he finally granted York his freedom. York then opened a freighting company in Kentucky and Tennessee. He died of cholera sometime before 1832.

There are many Yorks in this world, old and new. The oldest of them all lies in Yorkshire in the north of England, 200 miles north of London, where the rivers Ouse and Fosse meet.

71 AD ~ Quintus Petillius Cerialis founds the Roman fortress of Eboracum

Originally built to subdue the confederation of Celtic tribes called the Brigantes, the fortress of Eboracum grew and became the capital of Roman Britain and even a leading city in the whole Empire. In about 400 AD, the Roman legions were withdrawn to Gaul and the Anglo Saxons invaded the country. In legend King Arthur may have recaptured the town, but in life Eboracum became Eoforwic and main seat for the kingdom of Northumbria.

866 ~ Ivar the Boneless and his Danish Vikings capture York

The bloodthirsty Vikings renamed the city to Jorvik and settled there as farmers and traders. The capital became an important river port. The city grew and fortified but was taken back by King Eadred of Wessex in 954, and Northumbria was united with the southern kingdom. The ruling of the city was fought over by locals, Southerners and Vikings from the north until 1066, when the the Vikings were driven out at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, while the Normans moved in in the south.

1069 ~ William the Conqueror conquers York from Northern rebels

Over the next 300 years York became the second largest city in England. The impressive, still standing stone wall and gates were built during this period, and rebuilding of the Minster Cathedral, with history from the 5th century, was started. The prosperity came to an end in the 1400s, however. Due to plagues and wars the population declined and the important wool industry was taken elsewhere. It seemed to churn out underdog rebels - Guy Fawkes was born here in 1570, and it was one of the king's last strongholds in the English Civil War.

1644 ~ After the Battle of Marston Moor, York is besieged and surrenders to the Parliamentarians

Although trade and manufacturing were in decline, York grew as a social and cultural centre for wealthy northerners. Many new town houses and public buildings were bult. The coach service to London, formerly a four-day journey, was improved to taking 20 hours in the 1830s.

1839 ~ The railway comes to York

York became a major railway centre, which meant a rise for the manufacturing industry. Special goods like chocolate and cocoa became and still are important products of the city. New churches were constructed all over the place during the Victorian era, and today there are about 20 of them inside the city walls.

And then came the tourist invasion.

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