18 November 2013

Chester: Rivers, Cathedrals and Clock Towers

I never knew that Merseyrail's Wirral line terminated at Chester, making my way from Liverpool to Chester effortless for James Street station offered me a direct route from Liverpool's city centre! I was ready to be amazed by Chester and to see the border with Wales. It's no secret that Chester's cool, it's quite like a North West version of Stratford-Upon-Avon, maybe?

I reached Chester early, after my short walk from the city's train station I was greeted by the Eastgate Clock Tower that I loved instantly! Dating back to 1897 had I walked in to a Medieval settlement rather than a 21st century city? I had stepped back in time during my Liverpudlian experience but Chester took me further back into history, I was in a completely different 1800's! Needless to say I had just left the bustling city of Liverpool behind me to find an equally lively Chester going about its business, the build up to Christmas was in full swing for sure! I had already been to other parts of Cheshire before but I had never heard of Chester until my latest Liverpudlian trip. Was I on time? Yes I was but I had no idea about the clock tower!

I stumbled upon Westgate Street where I saw so much! Westgate Street offers some of Chester's best shopping hot-spots, my whistle stop trip didn't allow for any purchases I did see many top brands such as The White Company and Barbour. Independent shops were plentiful with a wide range of price brackets carefully considered. Going hungry in this part of town would have been impossible for the wide range of cafes and restaurants broke away from the usual high street chains that shall not be named. Nonetheless, Chester's city centre core is beautiful for I had only ever seen such a history before in William Shakespeare's home, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Yes, there's a hearty serving of Shakespearean like charm in Chester that effortlessly serves Medieval-like realness!

Chester had a vibe that took me back to my days as a Walt Disney World Cast Member, I saw some striking similarities standing before me. If you have ever been to the UK Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase then I think you should take a second look at Chester's Abbey Square! The photo captured on the right took me right back to the Rose and Crown themed part of Disney's World Showcase! Aside from the magical exteriors I loved the personality and class that Chester's side streets served, there was a rich and tasteful chocolate box feeling for sure! Chester's Medieval charm goes further than being a replica of Disney's Epcot, simply painting the perfect picture of this city's past. That November afternoon in Chester wasn't too cold, I was on hot pursuit of all the delights that this city had to offer me. I wasn't in any rush, Chester isn't a large city so set your own pace. I won't forget you C!

Armed with a sense of adventure I got an idea of what Chester possessed. I generally have high standards when it comes to capturing a photo but I had to rely on my iPhone to produce the picture perfect. I'm pleased to say that the atmosphere of Chester's Abbey Square has hopefully being encapsulated within my photos for the streets were filled with eager shoppers and tourists who were going about their business in quite a hurried fashion! I won't be bitter about my hectic photographic task because Chester was proving a charming and chocolate box like city, if its even possible to brand a city with that term? Nevertheless, I wanted to see as much as possible within the short time I gave myself. Stopping for lunch didn't happen but Chester has an abundance of cutesy cafes that sit well within the city walls. American's would fall over yourselves to find a city like Chester. A border now separates England and Wales within the proximity of Chester, was Chester a part of Powys?

I make allowances for cathedral because each place I visit they all have different quirks and stories to tell. Chester Cathedral stood opposite the quaint chocolate box shops overlooking Abbey Square so I was in my element snapping away with my mobile camera. I'm not a religious soul but I love visiting places of worship because they also have many stories to tell about the place they have stood in since its construction, yes bricks and mortar really have personalities of their own! I did see street guides passing by the cathedral informing eager tourists about the delights of Chester's yesteryear's, but I'm an independent traveler so I made my own way around the cathedral grounds. You would of thought I might of been tired seeing such similar points of interest during this late stage of my North West English trip but I was merely getting started! Would you visit the city of Chester? Liverpool's got some competition!

I wanted to see as much of Chester in one afternoon for my train back to Birmingham would be departing from Liverpool's Lime Street Station in only a matter of hours. The early feelings of Christmas spirit could be felt on every street that I walked through during my afternoon in Chester, the shoppers were out in their hundreds to find the perfect gift so I could only imagine what the following weeks closer to Christmas will be like! I had already seen so much of Chester right from the very moment my Merseyrail train service terminated at Chester's train station I had a feeling that this city would show me something special. From the Clock Tower to the chocolate box Victorian architecture I was very impressed at what sort of city Chester was prevailing to be. Did you know that the Welsh facing side of the Clock Tower didn't display a time? Had I really began my morning in the bustling port city of Liverpool? Wales might only been a minute but I still stood in England!

My final port of call was a stroll along the banks of the River Dee. Up until this point I had only looked at a map of Chester to see its close proximity to the red Welsh border, I wanted to walk over the border but ended having the footpath disappear before me, so I decided to turn around to admire the views of the Welsh border closer to the city walls. Technically, I could of already been in Wales for the buses were all heading for Wrexham (Wrescam) and Chester were spelt (Caer). Even though I crossed the wrong side of the river I experienced two countries in one afternoon! The River Dee had a chilled effect as it made its way through the city of Chester, if only the sun had made an appearance that would have been a fine thing! I must back up my previous statement that the weather wasn't a negative reflection towards Chester, merely a declaration of England's sublime November weather.

Walking back into Chester's city centre was a period discovery for I had simply walked outside of the Roman city walls, no that's what I call a history lesson! I could never compare Chester to Liverpool for these cities have very different histories and city-spaces that make them both very individual places to visit. Chester will always have a place in my heart, I wholeheartedly loved what I saw and would urge anyone to choose Chester if they are looking for a Great British town that exudes nothing but the best Victorian, Medieval and Roman architecture, just keep this a secret please? Chester, your preview was just quite fantastic so I will do my best to sing your praise well that's if I could sing! Keep those city walls strong Chester, I'm glad I took a chance on you so I think others should do just that! With Wales only a heartbeat away its no secret that history has a lot to tell us. Let me tell you sister that rivers, cathedrals and clock towers are waiting for you in Chester!

Choose Chester. 

Joseph Harrison   

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