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Did You See the Undercroft?

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2010

November 22, 2003

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Two of my friends exploring in the cold

The Wheels on the Bus

While attending the University of Manchester, I spent a lot of time at the International Society. There was always something going on there. At the very least, they served delicious, inexpensive meals and the staff was always friendly and willing to chat your head off.

In those days at the International Society, every meal was a surprise. The head cook was an Indonesian lady named Maria. She mostly cooked what ever she felt like. But, if you asked her to, she would cook a dish from your home country, as long as you gave her a recipe. I read in an e-mail from the International Society, a few years back,  that she died. She was a great cook and she was always very friendly to me and my friends.

Other than food, what I like about the I.S., were their trips. It was always well planned out. All you had to do was sign up, pay for your ticket, and show up on time. The I.S. did all the planning and provided a bus.

Sometimes there would be an hour by hour tour planned. That mostly happen on visits to big cities. But for smaller areas, you were left to roam free. Either one was fine with me.

They also had a take-a-book-leave-a-book library when I was there. I hope they still have it.

We’re pretending not to be cold.

All right already, we’ll look at your crypts!

This trip to York was an agenda-free trip. They parked the bus downtown and told us what time we were expected back. They also gave us an idea of some of the stuff that we could see in town.

“…and be sure to see York Minster,” the leader called as we bounded out the bus.

In the US, churches aren’t very old. Therefore, they aren’t very interesting. I was surprised that a church would be a tourist attraction. I wasn’t interested in it. My friends and I went wondering around downtown aimlessly looking at statues and old buildings.

It didn’t look anything like New York. Everything was so old. It looked like a Christmas card version of a small English town. And the fact that it was around Christmas time and all the decorations were up, only helped. The town was romantically beautiful, but at the same time it was really cold and we wanted to warm up indoors.

Visiting this on a cold day, was a very bad idea.

We stopped a lady on the street and asked her what indoor things were there to see in this town. She recommended York Minster. “A church, really?” I whined. “Yes, dear. It’s really nice. And make sure you see the undercroft.”

I turned to one of my friends and asked her, “What’s an undercroft?” She explained that it is a place under the church, like a cellar, where dead people are kept. “Wow, these Yorkers are very morbid. And how horrible that the city’s claim to fame is a bunch of dead bodies under a church.”

We did go to see the church, but it had no heat. We walked around the freezing church, looking at grotesque images of Jesus on the cross and ones of Mary. We looked at more statues while losing the feeling in our fingers. As we were about to leave a lady stopped us.

“Where are you going. You haven’t seen the undercroft yet. It’s the best part of the tour!”

Nice sandals…

So we went downstairs. It wasn’t too bad. Down there you could see the original streets and foundations of the roads and walls the Romans built. It was all very interesting, because until then all that “Roman conquering Europe” stuff had just been a bunch of forgotten pages in my high school history book.

Then someone asked us if we were ready to see the crypts. “Sure, why not? I’m already walking around on old Roman roads several feet underground. I can’t possibly get any colder.” No photography was allowed in the crypts. It was very creepy.

Later we found a museum of Roman history in York. We asked if the museum was well heated before paying to go in. Since it was, we stayed in there until it was time to get back on the bus and head to Manchester.

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The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.


  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance





How to get there:




  • This was a day trip I did through the University of Manchester’s International Society. They have lots of great trips for all the students and people living in Manchester.
    • Here is their address and phone number:
      • 327 Oxford Road William Kay House, Longsight Manchester M13 9PG
      • +44 (0) 161 275 4959
  • Make sure to see:


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