Sunday, 27 October 2013

Places to visit in England - Chester

Recently I had a work meeting in Manchester on a Monday. Rather than spend eight hours that day travelling there and back, I decided to take a weekend away beforehand. I had a weekend in Manchester last year so I didn't want to go there again. I asked around and folks recommended Chester. After a weekend there, I recommend it too!

River Dee in Chester, England

Chester is an old city (founded as a city in 1541) with lots of Roman ruins, medieval city walls and lovely ornate Tudor buildings. It has the River Dee running through it with some nice walks on either side, boat trips and (rather overpriced) peddle boats and dingies to hire by the hour. Lovely husband and I whiled away Sunday afternoon in a river-front pub with gorgeous views over the river.
Tudor house in Chester, England
The Tudor buildings were more ornate than others I'd see with moulded plaster in-between the black wood trim, lots of carving (including dinky little statues) and many of the houses were named like this one 'The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life'. They got called shortened versions of the proverbs written on them so this one could have been called something like 'Fountain house'.It's hard to tell the difference between the Victorian 'Tudor replica' houses and the genuinely old ones, but they were all pretty.

Roman ampitheatre in Chester, England
There were the ruins of a large Roman amphitheatre in the heart of Chester. Chester was the site of a Roman fortress then a settlement grew up around it so of course the people needed entertainment. The amphitheatre was built around 1000AD and could seat around 8,000 to 10,000 people. Amazing to think that things like this and the main roads that were built so long ago have shaped modern Chester.

Ruinds of St John's church, Chester, England
Close to the amphitheatre is St John's church with some lovely ruins beside it. Three chapels were ruined by that vandal Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries. When we went back at night, there was a subtle and lovely light show of ancient texts fading in and out all over the stones to remind us of how ancient the building is.

Grey squirrel in a park in Chester, EnglandBeside the St John's church, there is Grosvener Park. It is a very pretty Victorian designed park which was simply HEAVING with squirrels! Being from New Zealand where there are no native mammals (except maybe a bat or two), I love squirrels so I happily watched them cavort about for ages. We took heaps of photos but I think this blurry one best captures the scampering motion of a squirrel racing across the ground.

The only downside of Chester is the difficulty of getting a reasonably priced hotel room during the weekend. Evidently it's fine during the week, but because it is such a tourist centre, hotels were very expensive and most rooms were booked out. We ended up in an expensive but not-that-fabulous hotel a 10 minute bus ride out of town. Luckily there were really good buses every 15 minutes or so but it still would have been nicer to be walking distance into town.We took the train to Chester so we didn't have a car, but we wouldn't have wanted to deal with parking in town either.

Still, overall we had a lovely weekend with plenty to see and do so I do recommend Chester for a weekend break.

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