Sunday, September 8, 2013

Roman walls in the UK

For 6 weeks, Jason has been living in Chester, England,  He met me in London and my first UK blog post detailed that weekend.  Monday was a holiday in the UK, so we caught the train to Chester from there.  Jason would work Tuesday-Thursday and I would explore his 'home away from home' during the day.  At night, we'd meet up with his work friends who were all in the same boat and have dinner.  Chester is about 4 hours north and west of London and about 3 miles from the border of Wales.  Chester is known for a few things.  It has a wall around the city as it was occupied by the Romans at one time. You can walk on this wall all the way around.  Second, it has the oldest horse race track in the country.  And lastly and most recently, it is known for shopping.I was amazed at how touristy it was and how crowded it became on a weekday (that was technically no longer summer as they had just had their 'end of summer' holiday the monday before..think Labor day in the US).  The architecture is Tudor style buildings and it is basically one big outdoor mall.
The first day, I got the lay of the land, meandered around a bit and realized I had to be strategic to fill 3 days there..since shopping was not on the list of things to do. The 2nd day I did the cathedral and a antique bus tour.  And the last day, I walked the entire wall.  Every day consisted of a beer outside for lunch. The weather was awesome..72ish F and sunny every day. I started with the racetrack. No races were going on, but it was close to Jason's hotel. So I wandered around it for a while. I can only imagine how crowded it gets.  It is huge..this is just half of it.

 The city has a beautiful cathedral right in the middle of the city.  I have seen some pretty spectacular cathedrals including those in Rome, Sienna and Florence..but this one.  Was pretty awesome
I had lunch in the garden one was very peaceful a good way to remove myself from the crowds.This is just one was massive.
I wish I could have captured the scale inside..
This is the organ..look closely at the bottom and you see folding chairs for some reference

I will be honest and say that I left the city and retreated to the room to work on photos (why the London blog was put up so was ready to roll when I got home) and chat with people on Skype by 1-2PM as the crowds were immense.  The stores opened at 10AM and closed at 5PM.  So at 9:30AM the streets looked like this:

This was a photo I took around 12PM on a Wednesday.  They tended to double or triple by 3.  So this wasn't even a great representation.

  I decided to be the tourist and hop on this old bus witha guided tour. The top was open and it was a beautiful day.  The tour guide (old guy walking on the side) was hysterical and I learned a lot about the city.
 I got better photos walking around the wall the next these are not what I took from the bus.  But I will be able to tell you more of what the photos are OF because of the tour!
The wall is the US we really don't know what old is.  It is neat to go places like this and Rome to gain perspective on just how young our nation is.  The wall circles the whole city and in some places it looks like a wall, others the city has 'moved up' to the point hte wall is simply a stone sidewalk. From the outside of the wall..if you look closely you can see little heads on the other side.
This is from ON the wall. the guard posts towers are still standing on some corners.  And the green you see beyond..that is Wales. I was on the far side at this point.
While on the wall, i passed the Chester Castle.  You can't go in, but some of it was still standing. Every city/town/family/post office box had a castle.  But there will be more castles in the next post!

The wall also gave you great views of the River Dee.  We stayed on/near 3 rivers on this trip.

But on the tour, I learned one 'fun fact'.  Some old dude (OK..I didn't take notes) decided it would be a good idea to add a "weir" to power his corn mills.  What is a weir..apparently this...kind of like a small dam.

Anyway, before this..the River Dee was a main channel and Chester was a main port.  The river naturally moved in and out and the flow kept the bottom clean and boats could maneuver. Adding this weir led to a stoppage in the flow of the water and the bottom filled with silt..stopping boat traffic.  The boats needed somewhere to go and Chester had no been effectively cut off for corn.  So they moved up a bit and decided that little sleepy town would be the next port..and Liverpool was born.  So according to our guide..if dude hadn't done this..Chester would be a bigger city and the Beatles would never have become famous. Who knew? ;-)
So I continued my trek on the wall (the whole thing took me about an hour) to the remaining Roman ruins. They are on the outside of the wall b/c the Romans were 'barbarians' and they wanted them outside.  There was a coliseum ruin and the Roman Garden.  I hopped off the wall (which consisted of taking a million stairs at this point) to investigate the garden. It was nice.  The wall is on the right.

 And back on the wall, you can see a bridge/columns and the roman garden on the other side of the street. That is a car on the bottom, so you can get a scale.

 I finally made it to the 'landmark' of the city and the 2nd most photographed clock tower in England (the first has already been captured on this blog!).  From the wall, you walk under it.  Another fun fact, a long time ago Wales decided they wanted Chester for themselves. So they attacked and tried to take them over.  Chester ended up winning and maintaining it's status in England..but they had lost so many citizens in the war that they never forgave Wales.  So all the towers in the city, lack a clock face on whatever side faces Wales.  Because they didn't want to give Wales the time of day.  This one had four sides b/c it was deep in the city. But most only had 3 sides and the ones really close to Wales, might only have one.
 From the street. This is the main 'drag' of shopping and again you can see the crowds.  This was the 'end' of my day and I needed a beer badly.  I don't do crowds. This was probably around 11AM on a Thursday.
 Every evening, Jason and I went out with his work friends from the US and visited one of Jason's favorite restaurants. He'd been there 5 weeks by now and he was in a standard hotel room, so restaurants are the only option.  We also celebrated his birthday while in Chester.  On Thursday, we all went to his favorite location outside of the city.  It was about 10 miles on some really small roads, but we loaded up the Bank vehicle and took everyone.  And man was it worth it!!!
 This is the group.  All are from Richmond except the one guy beside Jason, who is from Chicago.  I think he's made some great friends while there. I quite enjoyed their company!

 We enjoyed cocktails on the deck until it got a bit too chilly. The evenings would drop pretty low.  But it was beautiful
  The sun set and gave us a great birthday present for Jason.  He says his Mom paints him sunsets and she outdid herself for his birthday.
 The next morning, we rented a car and headed 6 hours north to Inverness, Scotland.  My FAVORITE part of the trip.  But that..will be the next installment.


Sandy and Allie said...

beautiful. So enjoy your pictures and commentary. Now i can see why Chester is on the list of places to visit before you die.

What Remains Now said...

Beautiful photos and such an interesting post. Can't wait to hear more about your travels.

Sue said...

So glad you have enjoyed Chester and the surroundings. Looking forward to your photos of Scotland, as I use to live there as a little girl.

Hazel said...

You did a good job telling us about it and the photos are great too!

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

You sure soaked up a lot of local history! My favourite fact was about the clocks only having 3 faces, lol! That's a classic :) Wonderful photos, almost as good as being there.