Montag, 5. August 2013


Chester City Wall - begun by the Romans in 79AD
with good friend Timothy
 PART 1: ENGLAND Chester

This post is part of my Travel Picks and Tips from my recent visit to England, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria in April/May 2013. To simplify things, I have divided up my posts into areas in each of these countries. This post is about Chester, England. Click on any of the following links to take you to other regions/countries of your interest. I hope to enlighten and share with those who wish to travel to these areas with some of the highlights of my adventures in these beautiful parts of the world.

 This post: CHESTER
Also see  London & Oxford, ENGLAND/ Dingle & Galway, IRELAND

Medieval Chester buildings and Cathedral

Following quite the stay in my old hometown of Oxford, I packed-up my things one beautiful blue skied morning, hopped into my little rental car and hit the Motorway to drive 3 hours north towards Manchester to RUNCORN, England, where another dear and very old  friend of mine lives.

Tandoori Night Indian Restaurant
I have to admit...the industrial town of Runcorn is not worth a visit, apart from visiting Timothy and sharing a  surprisingly fantastic Indian meal at  Tandoori Night Indian Restaurant, where Timothy took me that evening upon my arrival.

Posh interior of Tandoori Nights

Tandoori Night has been in the area for 35 years and have a long standing reputation for great quality Indian food - to which I can attest...being one of the World's top connoisseurs of  authentic, good Indian restaurants. LOL  :)

I would even drive the short 20 minutes over from Chester to go there again - should I stay in Chester next time which I plan on doing!

Tandoori Nights 19 High St., Runcorn, Cheshire Tel. 01928-577440

OK, back to my visit. Timothy had invited me up for the weekend, as he wanted to surprise me on the Sunday with a belated Birthday present. I had a feeling what he had in mind when he told me we were going into the picturesque medieval town of Chester and were required to dress "smart" for the occasion - but more of that later.

After a fitful night's sleep, I awoke the next morning to the aromas of sizzling bacon rashers and soft scents of Earl Grey Tea.
Classic English Breakfast at Timothy's
Timothy was already up and busy preparing an English breakfast fit for a King...or Queen for that matter. Complete with a perfect scramble (my preference for eggs), bacon rashers, fried tomatoes AND local Black Pudding! Yum! What a start to the day. IF you have never tried Black is highly recommended...but you should have it in the north of England which is where it originated and is made the best. Don't look up its ingredients...just try it. You WILL survive and might just like it!

Following breakfast, we donned our finest Sunday outing apparel and headed into Chester for the afternoon. Chester is a beautiful city, strategically situated on the  River Dee and near the border of England and Wales.

2000 year old Roman Wall next to Chester City Wall

Chester was founded by the Romans in AD 79 as a fortress called Deva Victrix...which later grew into a thriving major settlement for the Romans - one of the top three in Britain. 20% larger than the others, it is supposed that it was set to become the Capital for the Roman Empire in Britain over London or Londinium.
Deva Victrix (Roman Chester) was occupied for 400 years by the Romans and sports the largest military amphitheater in Britain, with a seating capacity of 8,000-10,000 spectators.

Largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain

The ruins are open to the public and free to walk around. It was one of the unexpected surprises I encountered on my visit to Chester. How I LOVE the greatness of some of the cultures that came and went before our time. Did you know that the Romans invented brick making...and were indeed master builders?

Many of their walls and structure remains are still standing in Chester and can be found built into Medieval Chester architecture in many of the current buildings in the City.
Entering Chester through Northgate

Chester's four main roads entering into its town  - Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out by the Romans – 2,000 years ago.

Beginning of our
walk on the
City Wall
The roads enter through "Gates" built into the City's Walls and which during medieval times were closed each night to protect the City. Chester's walls are not only impressive, but they are the most complete Roman and Medieval defensive city wall system in Britain - well worth seeing.

Timothy and I walked a good piece of the wall, from which we saw the town, the Cathedral, the Clock Tower and got up close to some of the Towers that were used during battle to defend the City.

Defensive tower on the
Chester City Wall
Chester Wall on the Chester Canal


Part of the wall follows the River Dee, which posed as a natural moat for defense.

Clock Tower on Eastgate
Chester Cathedral behind
Cherry Blossoms from
City Wall walk

We began our Wall Walk at Northgate and ended in the shopping pedestrian zone in the city centre at Eastgate.

Perched on top of Eastgate is a most impressive clock, erected in 1899 for the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It chimed on the hour which I captured on Video...and will try to get posted up to Youtube soon.

Timothy standing on the upper part of a Row
overlooking the street 
Classic Chester Medieval Architecture called
"Black and White"

Descending from Eastgate to the main shopping precinct called The Rows, I learned that Chester still retains much of its Medieval architecture throughout its city centre. 

"The Rows" consist of covered walkways on the first floor (2nd floor in the US) behind which are entrances to shops and restaurants. At street level is another set of shops and restaurants, many of which are entered by going down a few steps. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, are unique; nothing precisely similar exists anywhere else in the world!

Grosvenor Hotel, Chester
Timothy was now in a bit of a hurry, as we had a reservation to keep. Within minutes, we were standing in front of the impressive five star Grosvenor Hotel in the center of town, with bell boys and butlers ushering us into its posh, perfectly polished lobby with titles of "Sir and Madam" to make us feel even grander.

It was precisely 3pm and Timothy had planned a most memorable experience: to have a signature Afternoon Tea in the Grosvenor's Arkle Bar and Lounge. 

Timothy and I: Afternoon Tea at the Gosvenor
We were seated into a comfy corner and presented with a vast assortment of Teas. Each tea (or coffee if one prefers) is of course perfectly brewed and served in its own pot.

Three course Afternoon Tea

What makes the "Afternoon Tea" experience so special at the Grosvenor is the quality and quantity of food one is beautifully served on a three tier silver platter. First course & top tier: A selection of hand made sandwiches on freshly baked bread. Second course: Freshly baked plain and fruit scones served with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. Third and final course: Assortment of home made French pastries which were absolutely to die for.
Butter, Strawberry Preserve, Clotted Cream
to accompany the Scones
As each tier disappears it is automatically replenished until one instructs the well appointed, enthusiastic staff to stop.

The Grosvenor is one of the many properties owned by the Duke of Westminster in the area and is indeed named after the family name. It is in a grade II listed building with an old world black and white timbered façade, disguising the modern elegance of the hotel interior. Someday, I plan on staying at this impressive property to do a review, but for now will merely report on its famous Afternoon Tea to which we were privy and I highly recommend if in the area.

Reservations highly recommended!

The Grosvenor Hotel - Eastgate, Chester CH1 1LT  Tel. 01244-324024

AFTERNNOON TEA TIDBITDid you know that the tradition of the British Afternoon Tea originated in the 19th century from Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o'clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford
Later friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey  and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.

Impressive Stained Glass Windows of Chester Cathedral
Ever since my first Cathedral experiences as a student in London, making weekend trips to Winchester, Canterbury, and St Albans, I have been in love with Cathedrals and the great churches of Europe whose construction began a thousand (plus) years ago and whose dominating structures house a thousand years of fascinating history and architectural trends.
CATHEDRAL FACT  Did you know that the difference between a church called a Cathedral and a church called an Abbey or a simply a church is that a Cathedral gets this title only because it holds a Bishop's seat in the Diocese? It has nothing to do with how large the church is or how impressive its architecture. It is simply because it is the officially appointed church to host the Bishop when visiting the area! A great example is St Pauls (London's Cathedral) vs. Westminster Abbey, (which is what I feel is an even finer and more impressive structure than St. Pauls), as St Paul got the privilege of housing the Bishop's Seat for the Diocese of London over and above that of Westminster Abbey.

Chester Cathedral Choir

As one enters Chester Cathedral, one is immediately immersed into a state of awe and reverence. It is not only the sky scraping ceilings, the Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the impressive stained glass windows everywhere, but also the energy one feels when walking throughout this magnificent structure.

Indeed the sacred land on which the Cathedral sits dates back more than two thousand years  - a thousand years earlier from when the current structure was even considered. On this site stood a pre-historic Druid Temple and then later the Romans decided to build their own sacred temple dedicated to Apollo on this exact spot.
The current structure was commissioned to be built as a great Monastery by the Norman Earl of Chester in the heart of his administrative capital. Begun in 1092, it was initially constructed in Romanesque, an imitation of the Roman building style. In 1260 the building style converted to the then more fashionable Gothic style, which is what one sees most of when touring the Church in present day. 
Tombs in the side of
the Cloisters
13th Century Grave Slab
The church remained a Monastery for 500 years until King Henry VIII dissolved it in 1539. At this time many beautiful structures in the form of Abbeys and Monasteries fell into ruin with King Henry the VIII outlawing Catholicism in lieu of his newly created Church of England.  In this case, fortunately a year later, Henry VIII handed the monastery back as the Cathedral of the newly created Diocese of Chester, so the building was preserved. Indeed, the last Abbot became the fist Dean of the Cathedral while the senior monks became the first Canons.

Inner Courtyard Gardens surrounded by
the Cloisters

The Cathedral has some beautiful gardens tucked into a courtyard surrounded by the cloisters. A peaceful sanctuary to sit and reflect.

Stained Glass Detail
Chester Cathedral Cloister

There is so much history to be found in this beautiful edifice, however I will leave some for you to discover when you visit.
For more information, visit CHESTER CATHEDRAL.
Ancient Arches - Part of the Rows
Medieval Shopping Street
ca. 1274AD

CHESTER  - a great place to visit in the North West part of England.
For more information on where to stay and things to do in Chester, go to their official WEBSITE.

Check out all pictures of my trip on

Standing on top of Eastgate
Enjoy your visit to Chester and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions when planning your own trip to England, Ireland or Europe! I love to help and recommend when I can!
Mary Dawn DeBriae
European Tips and Picks
Alpen Schatz Style
 Also see London / Oxford
Spring Euro Trip 2013

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