The interruptions of Covid mean that getting places has this year been difficult, or at least delayed. So during the relative calm of the moment Heather and I took the opportunity of taking our annual visit to Rochester. This time though we made the decision that we wouldn’t be rushed for time, or having to get the train home after a lovely dinner, so we made the effort to stay over night.
The train down to Rochester is pretty simple, a single change, and arrival (and making us wonder why we bothered with a ticket given the barriers at both ends were open and never checked). We arrived around lunchtime and headed for old favourite The Deaf Cat. We sat outside and watched the always diverse people of Rochester pass us by for a bit. We were being adventurous, partly out of curiosity, to stay in a Wetherspoon Hotel, which is basically just a few rooms above the pub. To be honest check-in was pretty chaotic. The check-in area is next to the bar area used for table service, which means standing there you’re in the way. The guy dealing with it basically was relying on his manager, who was largely absent. After too long we were basically handed a keycard and told to give it ten minutes to make sure the room was ready (and we had to ask what room number). We had a drink to make sure and then headed up. The room itself was fine, nothing spectacular, well insulated from any noise. It’s just a shame the aircon would keep turning itself on!
After all that it was a bit late to try and make it to the castle so we went for a wander around early evening Rochester instead. We strolled through the pretty Vines, where Heather could be reacquainted with the hedgehog sculpture. Just beyond the Vines is the Cooper’s Arms. I’ve made the joke for ages that it’s Heather’s pub due to her maiden name but we’d never actually entered it. This time we did venture in for a drink, and were glad we did so, finding a very nice courtyard garden to the rear, complete with an assortment of dogs.
There’s one place in Rochester, other than the castle, we definitely have been before, and that’s the most wonderful Baggins, the largest second hand bookshop in the country. We allowed ourselves to get lost in its warren maze of shelving (basically what our flat would look like if we didn’t control ourselves) and didn’t emerge with that many books. So much for travelling light though! Incidently, the other shops in Rochester seem to have something of a glitch in the matrix feel—particularly the seemingly ever repeating Kiss Kiss Heart.
It’s a good job Ye Arrow was nearby to go and recover in before we made our way back to the hotel to deposit the books. Heading back out we were still a bit early for dinner so had a drink in The Eagle, where we learnt to look out for men wearing slasher masks and carrying a cat…
Dinner was in the old faithful and always good, even when very busy as it was, Don Vincenzo (sadly the restaurant we stumbled on last time has become a victim of the pandemic). The food was as good as always and we headed off back to our room, via the still weird Two Brewers.
The next morning Heather dared to venture for breakfast with the Wetherspoons’ early crowd before we shipped out. It was at that point we slightly regretted the weight of the trip to Baggins but no matter, for we were off to climb the castle anyway. We are, of course, very familiar with Rochester Castle so didn’t need much in the way of guidance getting around (we did check the guide book hasn’t been updated—it hadn’t). Heather, as is tradition, pointed out the well running through the centre of the castle. Half way up we stopped for the all important photograph on a bench.
The views from the top are still worth the climb, particularly on a bright sunny day like this. The Medway sparkled below, and the Cathedral looked pretty with priests and their hangers-on milling around outside. There was one large building we couldn’t identify so we resolved to go looking once back down.
That climb down seemed harder than getting up somehow, and once we’d had a mooch around the gift shop we headed once more for a rest in the Arrow. Sipping drinks in the sun bathed terrace with the castle in view was pleasant indeed. What we’d set our hearts on though was Sunday lunch, and we had an idea the Eagle might well provide. We set off that way, first discovering that the imposing building we’d spotted from the top of the castle was the old Corn Exchange.
Mystery solved off for lunch we went, and though we had to wait for the kitchen to calm down enough to manage to serve us it wasn’t too much of a hardship to sit in the sunny courtyard for the afternoon. The food was hearty when it did arrive, and saw us off nicely to eventually head back home.