This week we are heading out a little further afield to my hometown of Chester. It is one of those places you thought you had outgrown by the time you turned 13, but it isn't until you reach adulthood and lose the attitude when you realise what a charming place it really is.
You can get to Chester by car (obviously), or by train from Piccadilly or Oxford Road. The train you want is usually ten minutes to the hour with Arriva Trains Wales. Avoid the Northern Rail as it takes an absolute age- seriously it would be quicker to walk.
It is a bit of a way out of town, but you can jump on a bus in the city centre to the zoo and be there in 15 minutes or so- or perhaps make this your first stop if you are driving. Chester Zoo is pretty famous and is often on the television on shows like BBC’s The Secret Life of the Zoo. I know Zoo’s aren’t for everyone, and most of the time I feel the same, but Chester Zoo is different. It is a conservation centre so its main aim is the breeding and protection of animal species that are under threat. If you go you will see that the animals there have so much space in their enclosures and all the care and attention they need. Also, they have baby penguins and put it this way, I would go anywhere if they had little flapping floofs running around- even a Siberian Gulag or Guantanamo Bay.
Chester Zoo, Moston Rd, Upton-by-Chester, Upton, Chester CH2 1EU
Get there nice and early (doors open at 10 am) and do a quick whip-round and then jump back on the bus and head back into town.
There is nothing greater than seeing a Roman Centurion wandering around a Tesco Metro on his lunch break with a plastic spear in one hand and a Hoisin Duck Wrap in the other. If you are native to Chester you will be used to seeing sights such as this, but if you are just visiting for a day, make sure you book a Roman tour to A) see all the ancient sites like the baths, the Amphitheatre and of course, the walls and B) for the comedy gold that is following a fully grown man in a tunic around for two hours while he screams various Latin phrases.
Book a tour here.
Shop in the Rows
After all the Roman business, Chester is perhaps most famous for her Iconic two-tiered shops in a mock-Tudor style. These are called ‘The Rows’ and by day they make a pleasant place to stroll through on a rainy day while you do a spot of window shopping. By night they make the perfect secluded make-out spot for when you are on your way home from a sticky night out at one of two of Chester’s disgusting clubs – it was like that when I was a teenager anyway. Nevertheless, the shops in Chester are proper nice and pretty high-end so are worth poking your nose into.
After all that excitement, it is time for a drink I think. Head on over to The Architect- a gorgeous pub which overlooks the Racecourse. Just so you are prepared – it is proper posh – think wood panelling, old books and photographs of wrinkly men doing a range of country pursuits. But it isn’t pretentious, although I may have just made it sound as such. It is super nice with cracking grub and a great selection of beers on draft as well as wines and all the spirits you could ever think of. Sure, it isn’t somewhere you want to spend an extended period of time, but a pint or two on the terrace certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
The Architect, 54 Nicholas St, Chester CH1 2NX
Get a Boat on the Dee
The River Dee runs through the city, and when the weather is half decent, (which does happen from time to time) it is a nice idea to jump on a boat. Everything is available from DIY row-boats to pedalos, to bigger river-cruisers with slightly tacky music and an on-board bar. All you have to do is respect the rules of the river; keep to your side, don’t be horrible to the ducks, no splashing and don’t have a big wee in it.
Hop off your boat of choice and head to Hickory’s and beg for a table. Everyone buzzes off Hickory’s Smokehouse in Chester and when you go you will see why. American food is the name of the game; think giant fuck-off burgers, ribs, fried chicken, 16-hour slow cooked brisket and obviously, steaks. Wash this all down with a milkshake – or my personal favourite – a root beer float which they will put a shot of vodka in if you ask them nicely.
Hickory’s Smokehouse, Souter’s Ln, Chester CH1 1SD
The Marlborough Arms
Heading away from the river and back towards town make sure you make a stop off at the Marlborough Arms – which you will have to keep your eye out for as it is so small it is easy to miss. I like this pub for a few reasons. Firstly, they sell cigs. Secondly, the drinks are so cheap they are almost free. Thirdly, I have a lot of nostalgia for this place – we used to go here all the time when we were younger because it is over the road from the (horrendously bad) nightclub Cruise. I actually spend my New Year a few years back at the Marlborough Arms and I had the best time- and the music is always just what you need.
The Marlborough Arms, 3 St. John Street, Chester CH1 1DA
Luckily for you guys, Chester is pretty small, so I will be expecting you to be walking everywhere. So get a wiggle on and walk down Eastgate Street, under the clock and towards the Cathedral…
Once you get to this little live music venue you will never want to leave. Rufus Court is the cutest place in Chester and in the summertime, it will be rammed with people drinking pints in the sunshine and listening to live music with the smell of BBQ in the air. Alexanders is awesome as well and has really stood the test of time. They have all sorts of genres of music from Jazz, to Psych, to Indie and even the odd comedy show. It is somewhere in between an Institution and a hidden gem- if that makes any sense at all, and you will always find the loveliest set of people in there for you to drunkenly chat-shit to.
Alexander’s Rufus Court, Chester CH1 2JW
I spent so much of my time when I was a teenager at Telford’s Warehouse. It is always the place you end up – you just have to be extra careful, you or someone else, doesn’t fall into the canal when you’re pissed. I heard that once you fall into a canal you can never get out again – or maybe that’s just an urban myth like the dog in the suitcase or never being 6ft away from a rat. Either way, I really don’t know why they haven’t installed a wall or a blockade of burly bouncers to stop this from happening – but perhaps teetering on the edge of danger is part of the charm.
Telford’s Warehouse, Tower Wharf, Raymond St, Chester CH1 4EZ