Chester Valentine

It’s not Easter yet but it was half term (at least in this part of the country) and so Heather and I took (an actually much delayed trip—thanks to train strikes) to Chester.

Gate In Pink

The Eastgate illuminated for Valentine’s Day

Having had a direct train to Chester booked for a couple of months the useless Avanti West Coast cancelled it with less than a day’s notice, which meant we had to squeeze (along with the rest of our train and it became apparent, another cancelled train) onto the next available journey via Crewe. We did manage to get a seat (no thanks to customer service’s promise of early platform alert—Heather’s app beat them to it) and were conveniently near the onboard shop—which had no working proper coffee maker, which meant Heather had what she described as an awful cup of coffee. Arriving at Crewe there was another squeeze to get onto the very small shuttle train to Chester (filled with our fellow dispossessed).

Arriving—finally—at our destination we were glad to stop off in the traditional calling point of Town Crier. There was another almost traditional stop off into Primark in town. From there we headed into the fairly new bar The Leopard, mainly to try and find the lovely big dogs we’d seen in the upstairs window, but it turns out they just live upstairs, and the bar wasn’t that attractive (good for sports though).

The Pattern Of Love

Hearts arranged over dinner

After that it was time to check into the hotel where we got ready for the evening. With it being Valentine’s Day we’d had the foresight to actually book a restaurant, so off into the centre of town we went. The Eastgate clock and surrounding walls, and it turned out the town hall, were romantically lit in pink as we headed beneath and round the cathedral for a pre-dinner drink in old favourite the Pied Bull. It was a convenient location for just down the road, and Chez Jules, which turned out to be an excellent choice, with gorgeous food, great service and a good ambience. We thoroughly enjoyed dinner, and after another call into the Pied Bull to raise a glass, it was off to bed.

in The Chair

Heather is ready for surgery, or a haircut

Unfortunately it turned out that Chester’s half term doesn’t coincide with our bit of London’s, so we couldn’t see the nephews as much as we hoped. That meant we essentially had a day to ourselves in the city, so had to find our own amusement. We began by a visit to an attraction we’d seen mention of, located in what was once a church. Sick To Death bills itself as a history of medicine through time. I suppose in a way it is, but it more goes in for cheap fake disgust and scares than anything else—certainly a lot more child orientated than we’d quite been expecting. The overly jokey man on the front desk should have been a warning, as was the frankly terrible little video we were made to endure before getting into the attraction proper (these things are never a good idea—and I have no idea why there animated death looked like ET). Inside there’s a little passage with “dirty rags” and the usual touch this, smell that, isn’t it so awful activities. There is some history hidden among it but it’s quite hard to find (or makes you overly work for it—I don’t need to be lifting toilet seats to be told a small fact). Probably the most interesting part was the “parental guidance” gated off sexual diseases section (how often does one get to actually see what these things really look like?). It killed a morning, if nothing else, and would certainly entertain younger children (Joe later informed us he thought it was good when he visited).

Minerva Shrine

Let us pray for wisdom

Stumbling back out into daylight we headed down the hill to visit the Bear and Billet as lunchtime rapidly approached. We considered food in the pub but discovered a there was a recommended sandwich shop just across the bridge in Handbridge. So we did something we’ve never really done and went to the other side of the river. In the end we had bakery goods rather than sandwiches, but found a dry enough spot to eat them by the water side (Heather will insist on sitting down). As we were there we then decided to investigate Edgar’s Field, if only because it used to be a Roman quarry and contains a shrine to Minerva, which made Heather happy.

We explored the rest of the little park, passing an interesting weather vane stink pipe, and debating whether to continue along the river. In the end we decided that to go further and then cross would involve too much hill climbing, so turned back. That brought us to The Ship, with big windows facing onto the park. Having refreshed ourselves we recrossed the Old Dee Bridge and headed along the river on that side, past the boats and along to the Boathouse where it’s always a pleasant time to sit and idly watch the river go by.

We couldn’t be too idle though, as we were finally getting to see Richard, Caroline, and the boys that evening. So we strolled back to the hotel, and were picked up a whisked away. To be honest, I’m not even sure where to (it was dark, we were driven…)! There was food, and good company, and it was nice to see everyone, if only briefly. And so to bed.

The Best View In Chester


Friday saw us with our last full day to fill. We started by deciding a good way to fill it would be to walk the walls, something we haven’t done in a while. We started at the Eastgate, finding a nice little cafe up on the level of the walls, with the “best view in Chester”. They fed us scones and cake (we may have been over ambitious) which at least gave something that needed walking off. We headed anti-clockwise, passing the cathedral and its fields before coming down for a rest at Northgate. There we found The Liverpool Arms next to the canal to have a quiet drink.

Chester In Lego

A selection of the models

We then detoured from the walls to head down Northgate and into the new Chester Market. It’s a nice space, which seemed to have a good buzz, with a mix of little stores and food outlets. We’d actually been attracted to visit by the promise of Chester in Lego, which didn’t disappoint. In a row of cases along the main seating area we were amused by scenes of Chester past and present laid out in minifig scale. There was even pub favourite the Pied Bull, so minifig us would have somewhere to drink!

Back up onto the walls then, and round the corner, criss-crossing the railway cutting through beneath by the canal and river. The water Tower sticks out at the corner, showing how much closer the river was, it’s path now changed to run the far side of what was the bustling medieval port. We walked on past that port, where the racecourse stands damp in testament to early times, with the scant remains of the castle up above. That brought us to again to the Old Dee Bridge, and a return to the Bear and Billet.

Evening Light

Catching the river

We were holed up there killing a bit of time, because Heather had booked us onto a little boat trip up the river and back. She’d actually managed to book a “Valentine’s special” which meant that while everyone else sat there we got a glass of something fizzy and a little bag of chocolates to enjoy as the boat serenely took us round the nearest bend in the Dee and back, which made for a pleasant enough half hour or so.

Back on dry land we didn’t take up the walls again straight away, instead returning to the Ship just over the bridge as we’d enjoyed it last time. It was certainly busier this time, not least because a load of teachers were celebrating their escape for half term. We did leave them behind though, and work our way around the rest of the walls, passing above the Roman Gardens, and right round back to the Eastgate. From there we found our way into the town again, to the cross and The Victoria, always a favourite visit.

It was getting later, so we headed for the hotel, having booked dinner for a little later. That dinner wasn’t exactly far from the hotel, The Yard being essentially next door. It had actually been on the list of possibles for Valentine’s Day, but in the end we were glad we chose otherwise, because it wasn’t up to Chez Jules. It was okay, but we weren’t overly impressed before heading to bed.

There's That Clock Again

This time in daylight

A last bit of time in Chester saw the luggage left in the care of the hotel and us wander. We considered a mooch around the cathedral, but found instead a little row of market stores around the town hall, to sell us cheese and pies. Pondering what to do we headed along the canal to the Lock Keeper, to sit by the water for a drink. From there it was a nice little walk further along to the Harker’s Arms, for a as usual excellent lunch.

That was all we had time for in Chester. The trains back were at least sensible (and this time expected to have to go via Crewe). The Euston Flyer, traditional stopoff point when going between Euston and Kings Cross, had however gone silly, roping off the pub so half of it is “food only” (despite this half being completely empty). They lost custom then, as we made it to an actually closed Kings Cross, which left The Parcel Year therefore being quite quiet which suited us. Then it was home, and food, and bed. A nice little break away.


Comments and Pings

There are no responses

Leave a response

At least a name and email address are required. Email address is never displayed. Required fields are marked *

You may use the following markup: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <var> <del datetime=""> <dd> <dl> <dt> <em> <i> <li> <ol> <q cite=""> <span title=""> <strike> <strong> <sub> <sup> <ul> Comments policy