Locals Guide to Chester, England

To see previous City Spotlights here

The city of Chester in the north west of England is one of the most fascinating and charming cities in the UK – that’s exactly why I’ve made my home here for the past two years! As a Canadian living abroad I am perpetually amazed and in awe of the ancient history that can be seen around every corner in places like Chester, and I love learning more and more about the past everywhere I go. It might be a trek up if you’re staying in London, but the 2 hour train ride is more than worth it once you arrive in this little living museum.

What makes Chester magical?

Chester was settled by the Romans and was established as a Roman fort, or castrum, in the year 79. Since this time a city has sat along the banks of the River Dee in Cheshire, growing in size and influence all the while.

This long history means that Chester is packed full of fascinating history, from the Roman City Walls and amphitheatre, to Victorian Grosvenor Park, right up to the shops and restaurants of modern times. Just a simple stroll up the main street gives you glimpses into the city’s history, with leaning Tudor buildings mingling with elegant Georgian facades.

If I only had one day in Chester, England what would you recommend?

If you only have 1 day in Chester the first thing you have to do is take a walking tour of the Roman City Walls that still guard the city centre. These city walls are the most complete in Britain and a walk around the whole of the monument will take you no longer than an hour, including stops to read the historical interpretation provided along the way. Along the way you’ll glimpse the beautiful River Dee, go under the historic Eastgate Clock (the second most photographed clock in Britain), and pass by the magnificent Chester Cathedral. There really is no better way to see the city.

After your walk along the walls head down to ground level to explore the shops and attractions that make up the city centre. At the Chester Visitors Centre you can sign up for a guided city walk which will give you insights into the city that you never would have discovered on your own. My favourite little tid-bit? It is believed that Catherine of Aragon, first with of the infamous Henry VIII spent a night in a room that is now part of a sofa shop!

 

What are your 3 favorite free things to do there?

Everyone likes to save a little while travelling, and it’s much easier to do that in the North of England than it is in London. It’s easy to find free, or inexpensive, things to do in Chester and not feel like you’re missing out.

  1. Visit the Grosvenor Museum – Many museums in the UK are free to enter and Chester’s little museum is one of them. Here you can watch a movie about the history of Chester, learn about its Roman heritage, and take a tour through a recreated Victorian household.
  2. Take in the Races – The Chester Racecourse, also known as the Roodee, is set right in the centre of the city and dates back to the 16th century. Throughout the summer there are numerous horse races held here, all of which you can watch for free from the street side.
  3. Take a Walk Along the Canal – Along with the River Dee, Chester also has a beautiful canal that winds its way through the city. On a sunny day there are few things nicer than walking along the water in the countryside, and maybe popping in to one of the local pubs for a pint in the sun!

 

A trip to Chester is great whether you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway or a family summer holiday. The city centre is compact and virtually car free so it’s easy to get around, and with North Wales, Liverpool, and Manchester just a short drive or train ride away there are endless things to do and see. Make sure that the next time you visit the UK you venture out of the capital and come and visit the little places like Chester that make the UK great.
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If they jumped off a cliff would you?

Sorry mom, but that question started backfiring a long time ago when I cliff jumped for the first time in 2009 and haven’t stopped since!

I have an irrational fear of jumping from small heights so cliff jumping challenges me which I love! BUT since I took a fall down a marble staircase the day before fracturing my toe and receiving a gnarly bruise I opted to just take photos.

One of my favorite bruises of ALL time!

Most of the coastline on the Island of Korcula is not not sandy, it is very rugged and rocky so the thought of climbing back up the rocks barefoot with a bad foot didn’t sound remotely fun to me… such a baby right! (I kinda regret not just sacking up and doing it!)

Where have you been cliff jumping? Do you stand in terror or jump straight off without a second thought?

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Budapest through a Child’s Eyes

In the end Budapest would provide me with my most difficult traveling experience to date but not without showing me the wonders of travel through a child’s eyes.

Meet Jack.

While I was trying to figure out how the metro system in Budapest works I heard English and naturally gravitated to it and met Chris, Paul and little Jack.  They were on holiday from Brittan and kindly let me join them while we all tried to navigate through Hungary’s capital city.

Paul, Chris and Jack

Since I don’t have any kids I’ve never had the opportunity to travel abroad with a wee one and Jack’s charming personality was invigorating, I was thrilled to see this bustling city through his eyes and remained enchanted with his laughter throughout the entire day.

Here are a few photos from my day in Budapest through the ever adventurous Jack 

Overlooking Budapest & the Danube river from the Citadel

Then it was time to give Jack a chance to document his view. I told him to take pictures that I could share with my readers and he was thrilled to have a crack at it!

I bet this is a very common view for kids, always with cameras in their faces with adults trying to capture the wonder and excitement of a child.

Jack’s view of Budapest divided by the Danube River

Jack wanted to share the beautiful sky and all its clouds

 

Jack informed me that we were traveling on a “silly bus” because it is green, “What a silly bus” he kept saying.

Such a silly bus!

We even got our own silly green headphones to listen to the audio tour

Spending the day with Jack and his family really opened my eyes to how different a city is compared to an adults interests and attention span. It was fun to travel a bit differently and I am really grateful they were willing to share their travels with me. PS Paul and Chris if you are reading this please e-mail me because I lost your information :(

What’s your opinion traveling with children vs. adults?

 

 

10 Reasons why you will Fall in Love with Greece!

Greece is gorgeous!

With a diverse range of Greek destinations on the palate, all tastes will be catered for – from serious clubbers to history buffs. You will rarely find a Greek panorama you won’t love. But, that being said, there are some which are particularly dazzling.

Parthenon Acropolis:

Out of the countless breath-taking historical sites in Greece is considered to be the most important surviving embodiment of Classical Greece. It is the excellent and harmonious ancient Greek temple, built to honor Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. It is undisputedly most closely associated with the city of Athens, a true symbol of ancient Greek culture and its universal values.

Santorini:

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and romantic islands in the world, Santorini is perfect with its sensational sunsets, traditional whitewashed houses and the breathtaking sights of the ocean. The iconic little town Oia is definitely a must-visit. Every postcard shop in Greece will have photographs of Santorini and once you visit you’ll be left in no doubt.

 Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion

The Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion

Take your own postcard-perfect snaps of Temple of Poseidon on a scenic afternoon trip from Athens complete with stunning sunset views and world-class Greek ruins. The temple with its magnificent view of the Aegean Sea is perfect place for cleansing of the mind and spirit along with being thrilling to the soul and heart. Don’t miss it! If you’ve rented a car, it’s an easy and beautiful drive on good roads.

Delphi Theatre, Phocis, Greece

Delphi, a UNESCO world heritage site, is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece in the valley of Phocis. The Delphi theatre was constructed on a hill facing the beautiful valley in the 4th century. The absolute beauty and enormity of the landscape easily makes it worth the effort to reach there.

Crete

Crete is the largest island in Greece. Here, tourists can admire the remains of brilliant civilizations, explore divine beaches, impressive mountains, numerous coves and bays, steep gorges, and indulge in the island’s rich epicurean pleasures.Creteis undoubtedly a tiny universe bursting with beautiful treasures that one will probably need a lifetime to discover! Crete simply has it all!

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Mykonos Island

Among the series of islands in the Aegean Sea lies the tiny jewel of Mykonos Island– the hip and happening cosmopolitan party town. From private four-hand massage by the ocean, dinner by torchlight on the beach, to a magical underwater exploration dive, this extraordinary retreat will make dreams you never knew existed come true. Though it tends to remain crowded in peak season with like-minded party-goers, there is an amazing aura.

Knossos, the Minoan Palace

Knossosis the largest archaeological site in the city of Crete. It is grander, more complex and flamboyant than any other place. The palace radiates joyous exuberance through the elaborate architectural planes and volumes and brings you the majesty of Minoan life at the palace a little closer. It is said to be the inspiration for the story of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.

Meteora, Thessaly, Greece

Meteora, Thessaly, Greece

A place of great beauty Meteora is mentally, physically and spiritually refreshing. It has some of the most enchanting views of lush green hills and valleys. Meteora is surrounded by magnificent rock formations of which have the distinction of having Byzantine monasteries built on top of them during the 14th and 15th centuries and monks were hoisted up the cliffs in baskets.

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia Island

Myrtos is just a beautiful beach with no resort attached; it is situated off the main village road at the end of a track. The sheer contrast of the vivid turquoise waters and the sparkling pebbly white beach leaves you dazzled especially when viewed from the very steep mountains and cliffs. This beach offers a relaxing time in an unruffled lone setting, all you have to do is unwind.

Naxos Island

Naxosis an authentic affirmation of all that completesGreece– pure, natural beauty with equal treasures of civilization. Relatively undiscovered by the tourists the greenest island in the Cyclades with dominating mountains, lush valleys and perfect beautiful beaches. The traditional white painted villages and wine making factories are also another draw.

 

Highlights of Zadar, Croatia

To see previous City Spotlights here

It is hard not to draw similarities between Zadar and Dubrovnik, with its ubiquitous red roofs and tall stone gate.  Unique to Zadar, though, is the striking juxtaposition of medieval churches, roman ruins, and utilitarian buildings erected in the Communist Era.

One of our major reasons for stopping by Zadar was to experience the famous Sea Organ.  We enjoyed a panoramic view of the water as we walked the long sea-side path toward the instrument, not sure what to expect.  As we neared the place, we began to hear the music.  It was unlike anything I’d heard before… sort of ethereal… it reminded me of whale calls in a way.  As the tide lapped and danced over the underwater pipes, a calming and constant music filled the air and made you want to pause to listen.  Lucky for us, the stars aligned that day; with no particular planning on our part, our visit to the organ coincided with a gorgeous sunset over the water.  So we sat for some time on the wide steps along with other onlookers to enjoy both at the same time.  A truly fantastic experience.

After the sun set, we shifted our attention to the Sun Salutation, another must-see spot a short distance from the organ.  Still listening to the backdrop of that organic music, we were greeted by a very different variety of light show.  Walking over the display feels a bit like being part of a giant circuit board and a bit like a techno dance club.  It’s actually a giant solar panel and in addition to powering its own funky display, it provides electricity for all the nighttime lighting along the seafront.

Both the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation were designed by Nikola Bašić and are worth a trip to Zadar!  But that’s not all the town has to offer.  Next up was the Museum of Ancient Glass.  The vast array of glass specimines from ancient times is really worth a visit.  They have everything from the tiniest delicate vial, used for storing a few drops of precious perfume for special occasions to large glass vessels used for burying the remains of loved ones.  The varied hues of ancient glass are also explained in detail: which readily available substances as well as more rare minerals could be added to change its final color.

The top floor of the museum was a surprise for us: it’s home to a very current glass blowing shop.  From behind a large glass window, you can peer in and watch artisans twirling globs of glowing fiery-orange molten glass at the end of long hollow tubes.  It’s fascinating to watch the processes for making different shapes from the molten blob.  Some are blown breath by breath into great rounded orbs and then fashioned carefully into vases with a graceful tapering neck.  The neck is scored with a sharp metal instrument and then broken to free it from the stick and filed smooth.  Others are twisted into snake-like candle sticks and still others are lowered into a boxy mold and mouth-blown just enough to press the sides up against the box from the inside for square-shaped vessels.  Some pieces were plunged, steaming into water baths to cool quickly and others were partially reheated in the furnace to make them malleable for further design work.  This was actually my favorite part of the museum: it satisfied a curiosity I’ve always had for how ancient peoples without modern machinery went about this art form.

St. Donatus Church is interesting in that it’s actually built on the remains of an old Roman building and you can see the ancient columns poking out around the foundations of the new structure.  I’m not sure if it’s a permanent display inside the church, but when we were there, it was basically a cacophonous noise box.  Myriad noise-making devices in the guise of modern art were sounding simultaneously for a sure-fire headache.  If you hear the tell-tale gonging, I’d recommend visiting the outside of the building only and saving yourself the ticket price!

Have you been? What were your favorite things to do in Zadar, Croatia?