Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekend away in Chester

In October 2002, I stopped off in Chester on my way from London to the ferry in Holyhead with my Sportster. I had several hours to kill and decided to check Chester out – I had never really heard much about it before. What I found was a lovely city full of Tudor-style buildings and a unique high street with two rows of shops on each side of the street (called The Rows). I promised myself that I would return with Roma for a few days – so nearly six years later I fulfilled my promise!

We had excellent weather and Chester was very busy. We arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel in the city centre and went to The Victoria pub for a late lunch. Following this we toured the city centre – especially The Rows where there is plenty of variety. We went to the city walls where you can walk along the top – they are beautifully kept and are a real tourist attraction. We walked along the river Dee and explored inside the ruins of an old chapel beside St John the Baptist Church. After this went to the excavated Roman Amphitheatre and stood in the centre – about 2,000 years ago gladiators fought each other to the death on this spot. We then went inside St John the Baptist Church for a look – bleak but interesting. We stopped for beer in The Custom House and The Watergates Bar and enjoyed relaxing for the evening. Not feeling terribly hungry we decided to go for tapas in a Spanish style Bar and Restaurant called Fiesta Havana. This was an extremely noisy place and I felt about 15 years too old compared to everybody else that was there – but it was buzzin’.

Saturday morning I bought a Barmah Australian bush hat in The Hat Store. As I have a 63cm diameter head it has always been very difficult for me to buy any type of cap or hat – 63cm is an XXXL size (must be the brains!). They had to stretch it with heat and steam to get it to fit a bit more comfortably – but now I can go around with a Crocodile Dundee look! Following some more shopping we went to The Falcon pub for lunch. I had been speaking to the owner of the pub in 2002 as I had parked my Sportster on the path outside and it turned out that he was a big Harley fan. We also visited Chester Cathedral and did the tour inside. A really historic and magnificent building – a digital guide expertly told us about everything. Late afternoon Roma went for a pedicure in the hotel and I headed for the Cheshire Military Museum, but was too late to gain entry – I went Waterstones instead and bought Peter Hart’s new book on the First World War, 1918 – I had heard him interviewed about the book on RTÉ radio last week. For dinner we went to a Middle Eastern restaurant called Meze on The Rows - we had a table right on the balcony and enjoyed people watching. There seemed to be a lot of stag and hen parties – very boisterous, but stylish.

On Sunday we took a Walking Tour of Chester at the local tourist office. There were just us and our guide Christine. Despite the fact that the tour was around the same sights as we had already seen it was very interesting and informative. After this walking tour we felt we had earned a nice lunch which we had in the front window of Chez Bernard. Following this we split and this time I did get to the Cheshire Military Museum. There were lots of interesting displays and stories about the Cheshire Regiment down through the ages. Most interesting was one of the pens used during the signing of the Japanese surrender to the Americans in 1945 on display. This museum is well worth a visit. I met up afterwards with Roma who was shopping. We both had a look at the new iPhone 3G in an O2 store – I really like it. Fingers are crossed that I get one of these for my birthday in October.

For our final evening we went to a Mediterranean Restaurant called La Tasca for tapas. Despite only ordering three items each we were barely able to eat it all. It was very late and the restaurant staff was clearly wrapping up for the night and unfortunately ignored us after our main course. I had to get up and go to the bar to pay (they weren’t pleased with this). I left no tip and afterwards discovered that they had not charged us for wine on our bill. I did not feel the urge to go back and point out this error.

On Monday morning we did some last minute shopping. We bought a Sue Howells signed limited edition print at the Watergate Street Gallery and stopped off at a Tesco to buy some wine and beer which were slightly cheaper than in Ireland. Our final activity for the weekend was to stop off at the Treardur Hotel in Treardur Bay which is beside Holyhead. Roma’s parents, Billy and Mary Rose, once stayed there and knew the then owners whom they had met on a skiing trip. We both thought that Treardur Bay was very like Achill Island.

On arrival in Dún Laoghaire we were the third last vehicle out of the port and also had to deal with a traffic jam. There are only two ferries a day in Dún Laoghaire port and it is annoying that the port authorities don’t do anything to relieve the traffic congestion caused by the traffic coming off the boat. There are Harbour Police who could help traffic get out of the port – it would only take two half hour sessions a day. However, they are probably too busy clamping cars who are parked five minutes longer that their ticket allows. Rant over.

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