Saturday, February 7, 2009

No Cats in Chesire...

Chester is one of the oldest cities in England, originally known as Castra Devana, an old Roman port. In fact, it was the busiest and most important port city in the northwest, until the River Dee silted up and Liverpool took over in importance. Chester is also in the county of Chesire, right at the top of Wales. I actually had no idea I was that close to Wales until I got there and noticed that most of the signs were in two languages, English and Gobbledegook. :o] Anyway, I had NO transportation problems this time. In fact, I have quite gotten the hang of the train thing! YAY!

This week, I traveled alone. Everyone was wanting to take a break from traveling, or wanted to save their money. I spent a grand total of 20 pounds this weekend (train ticket + lunch + entry into the cathedral), so I think I did quite well. I'm not going to waste a weekend here! As a result, I didn't feel bad for dragging everyone to places I wanted to go and I got to set my own pace. But I didn't have anyone to take my picture in front of things, but that is a small concern...

I left bright and early this morning, so I had plenty of time to explore Chester. It occurred to me that I hadn't taken a picture of the rail station in Preston. I go there a lot, so it deserves a picture!

Preston Rail Station.
I had to switch trains at Crewe, and I got a kick out of this picture. Not London, but still great!
Where's 9 3/4??
The first place I went when I got to Chester was the St. John the Baptist Cathedral. Not a huge church, but it has a lot of history. It was built in 1075 AD (I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that...its almost 1000 years old! Good grief!) by the Saxons. The original church is mostly in ruins, but a new parish was built sometime after that. Here are some pictures:
Part of the original Saxon church.
More ruins.
Dead people on the floor!


Just adjacent to St. John's is the Roman amphitheatre. I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed with this. I was expecting Roman Coliseum sized amphitheatre (okay, not that big, but at least recognizable!). It was kinda this shallow pit in the ground with some rocks around it. Oh well...
Crumbling rocks.
See why its kind of a letdown? I suppose you just have to use your imagination when it comes to the gladiator fights and such.
The main thing that Chester is known for is its spectacular Roman wall. It wraps all the way around the city, and if you're so inclined, you can walk all two and a half miles of it. I did walk about a mile (once again, I need to invest in a pedometer. Seriously.)! The started building the wall around 70 AD (again! That was just...40ish years after Jesus! WOW!) and it has remained in the same position ever since. There is a small park where a clay tobacco pipe factory used to be, and here are some pictures of the River Dee and the wall.
Park with old Roman columns.
More of the park.

The River Dee.
River Dee + Wall.
Bridge over the River Dee. I don't think its Roman, but I'm sure its pretty old. :o]

Another old bridge, found as I continued around the wall. At one time this was the world's largest single arch stone bridge. I've noticed that the various English towns I've visited are always trying to one-up each other: "home of the oldest Paul McCartney-used napkin known to be in existence" or "the original thatch roof" or "world's largest natural lake by the name of Windermere." You get the point.

I next traveled up Grosvenor Street, where I stopped in the (free!) Grosvenor Museum. I wasn't bowled over by any fascinating exhibits, but they did have some neat silver displays.
Kinda puts our silver tray collection to shame...
After a quick lunch at a tea room (let me just say that ifreakinglove tea rooms. I'm considering opening one some day. With lots of pie.), I headed back down to the river, where there was a big green spot on my handy-dandy map labeled "racecourse." Obviously, I had to investigate. And lo and behold! I found the most ancient racecourse still using its original course in all of England.
Turf! The racecourse is actually called Roodee-- Welsh, I think?

It is green ALL the time!

I hadn't seen a good cathedral in two weeks, so at this point, I wanted to see one! Lucky for me, Chester has a fantastic Anglican one. It was once a Benedictine abbey built on the remains of a Saxon church dedicated to St Werburgh, patron saint of Chester, it has been in use for over 1000 years (!!!). I got in and the lady at the reception asked where I was visiting from (I told her) and she gave me one of the free audio thingies that tells you about certain points in the cathedral. Then, "Oh, and you'll have to turn your volume up, they're having practice for a concert in there." Seriously? Seriously. I. Am. The. Luckiest. Traveler. Alive. From what I could tell, it was mostly a youth orchestra and they were AWESOME. I got video! My cinematography skills have improved somewhat!



Not the best quality, but I do what I can. And here is my photographic tour of the cathedral:


Old columns! I love old columns!

Great ceiling!

In the first video I posted, I turned my camera to the left and there were some murals depicting Old Testament scenes. Well, they were mosaics! The first one was of Abraham.
Very impressive pipes for the organ.

Original Roman arch on the left and the newer (still OLD) Saxon arch on the right.

The Lady Chapel, I think.

Gotta love those floors.

Shrine to St. Werburgh. She was an interesting lady.

After I'd gotten my fill of the cathedral (really, I could have spent all day in there!), I headed back to catch the train. I found this fantastic hat shop on the way:

You could get some serious Derby hats there.
Found in the Chester train station!

As usual, all of my pictures are up here.

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