Chester, the Pretty City

Chester is probably one of the prettiest cities in England. Considering that it’s up north, it might be surprising – most of the “pretty cities” are down south in the swanky part of England. 

Similar to the weather yesterday, I got really lucky – blue skies and sun! River Dee looked absolutely magnificent in the glittering sunlight. 

I’m lucky that Chester isn’t that big of a city, since I was walking at a snail’s pace, limping on occasion. I’ve obtained so many blisters from my ill-fitting hiking boots and walking for hours on end every day, that waking up every morning and putting weight on my feet becomes a chore. The pain is worth it, because all these places are so beautiful. 

Chester is filled with Roman history (the restoration of a Roman amphitheatre, cross, forts). Like Southampton and York, you can walk the city walls bordering the whole city centre – a wonderful way to see everything from an aerial view. They were fixing part of the walls, so there was lots of scaffolding and gated bits around certain bits, but still accessible. 

On the city walls, you walk by several sites of importance. Chester Racecourse, aka Roodee, is the oldest racecourse still used in England. It reminded me of the Melbourne Cup (such, such a good day!). Chester Castle is right next to Crown Court and the University of Chester, and The Rows are beautiful Victorian shopping areas stacked on two floors throughout various streets. 

 I was given a quick tour of Parish Church of St. John the Baptist by a wonderful Welsh gentleman who was eager to explain the history of Chester’s oldest church to me. I quite liked the way the pillars were slightly leaning, perhaps due to the weight of the pillars and other floors above. Saxon and Roman stones were throughout the church,dating back to the 16 and 1800s. I asked how the church preserves such artifacts, and he just jestered, “We just leave them here!”

I also visited the Chester Cathedral Falconry, which runs off a small admission fee and allows you to see a handful of falcons, birds, vultures, and my favourite – a beautiful Barn Owl (common to Britain – like Errol!). There was a 45-min. flying demonstration with the vulture and a falcon, which was fascinating to witness. Falconry isn’t really big in the states – or if it is, I don’t associate Americans with it. It’s very English, and that’s why I wanted to learn more about it. 

All of the birds were tethered – a bit sad, but they were released throughout the day to fly and stretch their wings. I think they were tethered for their safety and to ensure that they were taken care of on a daily basis by the workers. 

The winds were extremely strong today, so it was a bit hard to see them flight seamlessly. The first bird we watched was a black vulture – a goofy looking turkey-like bird that seemed to limp around. He was rather large, so we were told that he was smart and saved his energy. Thus, he didn’t fly up to the guy that often except for when he snatched food (rats, frog legs, animal guts, ew) from him. The falcon spent about 10 min straight in the air, chasing away pigeons, seagulls, and wild pegrinnes (spelled wrong I think). It was hilarious seeing flocks of birds scatter from trees as this little guy came and chased them all away from his territory. 

Chester was a lovely little city that is definitely worth visiting for those who like anything Victorian, Roman, and beautiful. Wales tomorrow!

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