After being in the States the majority of the summer, the Sarge wanted to take a weekend vacation somewhere in England. Being 32+ weeks pregnant, I wasn’t quite as mobile as usual so we decided to make the three hour drive north to Chester and spend a couple days walking around the city. Chester sits right on the border to Wales and was originally formed as a Roman fort in the year 79. Seriously, I can barely wrap my brain around that.
While most of the buildings look medieval in appearance, they are actually Victorian restorations. The black and white buildings make up The Row – shops, homes and offices at both street level and up and down various staircases. It was so pretty and very English.
There is also a wall that surrounds the entire city and with the exception of a small, 100 meter section, it is entirely intact. I had wanted to walk part of it but my hips and back just weren’t having it. That whole altered center of gravity thing when you’re pregnant is no joke. You can see part of the wall extending over The Row here topped by an ornate clock. The amount of detail everywhere was just gorgeous.
We really had no plan for this trip except to see some pretty buildings, maybe pick up a few Christmas ornaments, and eat yummy food. So we wandered down the road towards St. John the Baptist church. It was originally founded in 689 (again, mind blown at the history in this country) and you could walk through the ruins of the northwest tower on the west side of the building. This part of the church was built in sandstone and had the prettiest terra cotta color. We also lucked out with gorgeous weather so there was beautiful light and a faint breeze. I could have stayed here all day but Lena made friends with some squirrels and we were then on a mission to give them some treats. And by treats, I mean berries that Jason plucked from a random tree. Hopefully they weren’t poisonous.
While my two animal lovers were busy chasing chipmunks, I walked around to the front of the church in search of a bathroom to relieve my perpetually-punched bladder. I snapped a few photos of the church interior – beautiful scaffolding on the ceiling and an impressive stained glass window. I’m sure you could spend hours here learning about the history of everything but I had an active toddler waiting for me outside.
The church sits just above the River Dee so we followed a walking trail down towards the Queens Park Bridge. As we looked around, Jason commented that yet again, we were the youngest visitors by about 30 years. We are apparently ready to join the AARP crowd as most of our vacations attract a much more mature age group than our own.
We always like to have one special meal when we take a trip somewhere and this time, we decided on Upstairs at the Grill. I’m not sure why, but it took us an hour to find the place despite it being right on the street. I think we were just so hungry and tired that our brains weren’t functioning. Luckily, the staff took pity on us and we were still able to get a table in spite of being embarrassingly late for our reservation. I didn’t take any pictures but trust me that the food tasted just as delicious as it looked. The restaurant specializes in steaks and cocktails and now my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I am not a drinker, pregnant or not, so I figured I’d just enjoy a glass of water but the waitress showed me their list of fruit cocktails and I was hooked. Cranberry and grapefruit is a spectacular combination, in case you were wondering. They even treated us to some freshly made rolls with bone marrow infused butter served in a hollowed out bone.
We started with pea and ham soup which came out steaming hot and was the color of kermit the frog. Jason and I both ordered the Chateaubriand which is apparently from the head of the fillet and came carved by the chef with a side of Bearnaise sauce, and a grilled mushroom and tomato per tradition. Not knowing what Lena would actually eat, we also ordered garlic sweet potatoes and a tomato and onion side salad. After declaring everything to be “gross,” she finally agreed to take a bite of chicken (her term for any type of meat) and then proceeded to devour everything in front of her. I’m not sure if I should be happy that she has such a refined pallet or if we’re creating a culinary monster!
Jason ordered chocolate ice cream for dessert along with an espresso despite having no idea what he was asking for. He heard the man next to us order one and decided it sounded delicious so he went for it. When his tiny shot of black liquid came to the table, the look on his face was priceless. The man despises the taste of coffee and here, he had ordered it in it’s most potent form. He attempted to choke it down in between intensely whispering to me how it tasted like a dirty diaper. He had me laughing so hard that I was crying and when he announced we needed to leave right then and there because he needed to make a phone call (aka go to the bathroom), I was done. He will barely pee in public let alone any other business but I suspect that shot of espresso got the best of him. We’re so classy.
The next day, we made a quick visit to the Chester Cathedral which was just as beautiful on the inside as the outside. I was in photography heaven with all the stained glass windows and mosaics but Jason and Lena were anxious to get to the zoo, so it was a quick trip. There was a beautiful enclosed garden and someone offered to take a family photo of us. We almost never have pictures with all three of us in them and I love this photo despite Lena yawning in my ear. Jason let her throw a coin into the fountain (no idea if she was supposed to or not) then it was on to the gift shop for a quick browse of their wares. We picked up a couple Christmas ornaments – I have a new obsession with collecting an ornament from each place we visit – and then it was off to the Chester Zoo!