Day 2. Exploring Chester

We drew back the curtains to another bright and sunny spring morning and after enjoying a delicious breakfast in the Leonardo Hotel’s restaurant we were soon ready for a day of sightseeing.

Restaurant of Hotel Leonardo, Chester
The hotel restaurant

We’d arranged to take a city walking tour with Chester Tours (£10), which run at 10.30 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. each day from outside the Tourist Information Centre on Northgate Street.  Pre-booking isn’t necessary but I recommend arriving a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.

Chester Town Hall and starting point for walking tours
Chester Town Hall and the starting point for walking tours

After being welcomed by our guide Steve he pointed out Chester Town Hall located next door to the tourist office.  The magnificent Gothic style town hall was completed in 1869 and opened later that year by the Prince of Wales who was later to become Edward VII.  The building is currently closed to visitors but contains some stunning wood panelling in both the Council Chamber and the Assembly Room.

Stroking the baby elephant outside Chester Town Hall
Stroking the baby elephant outside Chester Town Hall

Directly opposite the town hall stands a bronze sculpture of a baby Indian elephant.  This was a gift from Chester Zoo to celebrate the birth of a baby elephant born in 2010 named Janya, meaning ‘Life’ in Hindi.  Steve explained that it was said to be good luck to stroke both its ears at the same time so of course I couldn’t move on without doing this.

Georgian homes in Abbey Square, Chester
The Georgian homes in Abbey Square

Tours usually then go through the Abbey Gateway but as this was being renovated we took a slightly different route into Abbey Square to view its Georgian splendour featuring the old Abbey bakehouses and brewery in the mid-18th century.  The lawned area contains a column in the centre from the old exchange which has stood there since 1756.

Chester Spring Bloom Art Trail, Chester Cathedral
Chester Spring Bloom Art Trail, Chester Cathedral

Our walk continued to one side of the cathedral where we spotted one of the installations along the Chester Spring Bloom art trail.  This initiative has been adding a splash of colour to the city for the last few weeks with 7 artists featuring their interpretations of Cheshire nature.  The walking route then took us along a section of the ancient city walls.  Although we had strolled up there ourselves the previous day, there was much that we weren’t aware of.

'Nine Houses', Park Street Chester
‘Nine Houses’, Park Street Chester

One of the interesting sights pointed out was the ‘Nine Houses’ on Park Street.  These were constructed around 1650 as part of Chester’s restoration following damage wrought by the Civil War.  The row was in danger of collapse but six houses were restored in the late 1960’s making them the only surviving 16th century alms-houses in the city which are still in use today.

The Wishing Steps, Chester City Walls
The Wishing Steps, Chester City Walls

We then moved on to the Wishing Steps, which were erected in 1787 to join two levels of the walls together.  There are six short flights of steps consisting of three steps each.  Legend has it that if you stand at the foot of the steps, take a deep breath then run to the top, down again and back to the top without breathing then your wish will come true.  None of our group opted to try this out as stroking an elephant’s ears seemed so much easier.

Eastgate Clock, Chester
The magnificent Eastgate Clock

A little further and accessed by a short flight of steps we had reached the magnificent Eastgate Clock that we’d admired the day before.  It was a pleasure to view it again as it’s so beautiful to look down on bustling Eastgate below with its stunning Tudor architecture.

Eastgate, Chester
Eastgate, Chester

Just outside the south east corner of the Roman fortress we were taken to the Roman Amphitheatre.  This was only re-discovered in 1929 when one of the pit walls was discovered during construction work.  Between 2000-2006 excavation of the amphitheatre took place but only about 2/5ths of the oval is visible, the remainder lying unexcavated behind the brick wall of the exposed part.

Chester Amphitheatre
The Chester Amphitheatre

The Chester amphitheatre was built in the late first century AD at a time when many such buildings were being constructed throughout the Roman Empire.  This was the largest in Britain seating up to 8,000 and used for both entertainment and military training.

The Marlborough Arms, Chester
The mis-spelt Marlborough Arms pub

Next, Steve pointed out the Marlborough Arms pub on St. John Street.  What’s significant about this particular pub is the incorrect spelling of Marlborough due to a signwriter’s error.  The landlord obviously thought it was funny as he decided to keep it as it was.  One can only assume that the sign writer had been to the pub himself before he started work that day.

The Cross, Chester
Our guide in the yellow jacket showing us The Cross in the city

These are just a few highlights of the tour which followed a route beside the river, castle and along the famous Rows formed of shops on two levels..  I can heartily recommend taking one of these tours as they not only provide an overview of the city for first time visitors but also take in hidden gems that those unfamiliar with the city are unlikely to come across.

Chester Market
Chester Market

Our morning exertion had left us feeling peckish so we popped into the Chester Indoor Market to seek out the Pastry Pedaleur stall as we’d heard that foodies come from far and wide to experience Stephanie’s French pastries and desserts.  She does all her baking in small batches on the stall itself, using seasonal ingredients to ensure everything is freshly baked.

Stephanie, Pastry Pedaleur, Chester Indoor Market
Stephanie from Pastry Pedaleur

We were really spoilt for choice but being lovers of sweet treats couldn’t resist sampling several of her delectable pastries starting with Chaussons aux Pommes (apple turnovers) which were light and crispy with a sweet apple filling.  We then moved onto Kouign Amann a crisp, buttery Breton delicacy which was also divine.

Gourmet pastries at Pastry Pedaleur, Chester Indoor Market
The selection of pastries and desserts we sampled at Pastry Pedaleur

Following this we tucked into her Morello cherry and cherry blossom pain-au-chocolat served with a cherry liquor and garnished with a freshly picked cherry blossom flower which looked almost too beautiful to eat!  Finally, to complete our afternoon tea, we shared an Alphonso mango and vanilla scented custard dessert of which we savoured every spoonful.  Stephanie really is a star pastry chef so do come and seek her out when visiting the city.

The Groves, Chester
The Groves riverside promenade

After all those sweet treats a brisk walk was called for so we made our way back to the river for a stroll along the elegant riverside promenade known as The Groves.  It was a chilly early April day but there were plenty of people about enjoying the fresh air.

Chester River Boat Trips
Taking the Chester River Boat Trip

A pleasure boat trip was just about to depart so we hopped on board and from our seats on the upper sun deck enjoyed a 30 minute river cruise giving us a perspective of the city from the River Dee.  These boat trips cost £8 with a £1 discount if  pre-booked on-line with Chester Boats.

Passing Chester Rowing Club on the boat trip
Passing Chester Rowing Club on the boat trip

The relaxing short cruise came with a live commentary indicating interesting local landmarks along the way.  During the summer months a longer two hour cruise is also on offer so do check their website for details and times.

Chester Boat Trip
Chester Boat Trip

Back on dry land we spent the next hour window shopping on both the upper and lower tiers of The Rows which then led us through to the Grosvenor Shopping Centre with its elegant entrance hall filled with galleries and designer stores.

Grosvenor Shopping Centre, Chester
Elegant shopping in Chester City Centre

After our dose of retail therapy we popped into the Grosvenor Museum located just around the corner from our hotel on Grosvenor Street (Entrance free).  The museum documents the history of Chester with exhibitions of art works, silver and natural history.  One gallery is devoted to an internationally important collection of Roman tombstones which were interesting to view, especially their intricate carvings.

Grosvenor Museum, Chester
The Grosvenor Museum

It was then back to the hotel for a short rest before pre-dinner drinks at The Brewery Tap on Lower Bridge Street.  The pub is very atmospheric as it is set in a great hall of medieval origin.  My husband was keen to sample the brewery’s own Spitting Feathers beers whilst I opted for one of their in-house gins.

Chester Brewery Tap
Chester Brewery Tap

We then wandered back around the corner to Artezzan, a Mediterranean restaurant opposite our hotel on Pepper Street.  The moment we walked through the door we almost felt as if we had been transported to Southern Europe with its turquoise blue decor and relaxed, holiday vibe.  We were seated at a window table with comfortable blue padded banquette seating and scatter cushions.

Artezzan Restaurant, Chester
Artezzan Restaurant

I just loved the buzz of the restaurant keeping everyone happy from families enjoying pizzas to girls nights out and romantic dinners for two.  Service was friendly with our waiter talking through the extensive menu with us.  For starters we settled on Moules Mariniere and Gambas Pil Pil, a sizzling skillet of king prawns, chilli and shallots – both absolutely delicious.

Artezzan Restaurant, Chester
Artezzan Restaurant, Chester

Our mains of Moroccan spiced shank of lamb and pan seared breast of duck with toasted figs, olives and dauphinois potatoes were up with the best too.  Portions were generously sized and good value for money.

Delicious food served at Artezzan Restaurant, Chester
Mouth watering cuisine at Artezzan

After relaxing awhile over our bottle of Merlot we were tempted into ordering a dessert and plumped for the Lotus Biscoff and mascarpone calzone with salted caramel ice cream.  I’d never tasted anything like it but the flavours worked so well together and it was a clear winner – the perfect finale to our evening out.

 

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A Walk Around Chester

 

44 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring Chester

  1. Wow, you certainly saw all the gems of this beautiful city in just one day. I just can’t get over the buildings and their incredible architecture. I think I would walk around all day just gaping at the buildings. I will say that stroking the elephant ear does sound much easier for a wish than running up and down those stairs multiple times. I hope you have a great week! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always enjoyed the walking tours that we’ve been on. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city and learn some interesting fun facts. Sounds like you had an action-packed day. What better reward for all your walking around than by sampling pastries and desserts. It all looks and sounds delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cakes were delicious, Stephanie used to be the pastry chef at Chester’s 5 star Grosvenor Hotel before setting up on her own. I’m sure she will continue do well. The half timbered buildings in the city centre are so beautiful making Chester a lovely place for a short break. Thanks for commenting and have a great weekend.

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  3. So many more reasons to visit Chester, in case anyone was unconvinced from part 1. Which they shouldn’t have been 😉 The place seems positively packed with charming details, we simply must visit ourselves one day. Though I fear it won’t be on this UK trip. The misspelt pub name is brilliant, while all the food looks to die for. It’s firmly on the list Marion!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chester seems to have it all, ancient walls, half timbered houses, museums and good food. I found the name of the tour boat interesting. Was Mark Twain just whimsy or did he visit Chester in the day. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An excellent question Allan. Mark Twain was a pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. “Mark Twain” is actually a riverboat term measuring two fathoms (12 feet) in depth: mark (measure) twain (two).
      Chester is a delightful city and hopefully you might get a chance to explore it for yourselves sometime when you are back over in the U.K. Thanks for your welcome thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Apparently, he lived in Europe (England and Austria) for 4 years near the end of the 19th century shortly after he circumnavigated the world in 14 months, so it is possible he may have travelled to Chester. Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post and wonderful photos, Marion! I love nothing more than half-timbered houses that are well-preserved. Add to it attractive bridges, parks, local markets and riverside walks and it’s little wonder Chester ranks so highly among England’s most popular places to visit. Taking a walking tour is a fantastic opportunity to gain more knowledge of an area, but also the knowledge that could extend further into helping you plan your trip. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also love towns and cities with half timbered houses Aiva and added to that the two tier Tudor shopping arcades known as The Rows make Chester a unique place to visit. Walking tours also provide lots of interesting detail taking visitors to places off the beaten track that people new to the city would rarely come across. You are quite right also that these tours are an ideal stepping stone for planning out the rest of a short break, providing an overview of what’s on offer. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I do like walking tours through cities – the perfect way of exploring a new place! Lovely picture of you and the baby elephant – may the good luck be with you ☺️ … and yes, far easier than running steps up and down! I would love to taste some of Stephanie’s pastries – it looks delicious! Another great day in Chester it seems … and to end it with that amazing dinner, just seemed appropriate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree Corna that walking tours give you a real insight into a town or city and point out features that one would probably not come across if just wandering on your own. Stephanie’s pastries are to die for and if I lived nearer to Chester I would definitely be popping to her stall frequently for some sweet treats. Artesian restaurant was located just across the street from our hotel and a great find as it’s such a lovely independent restaurant with delicious food offerings. Thank you for your ever welcome thoughts, they are much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ThingsHelenLoves

    A busy day in a lovely place! How funny about the pub sign. Can only imagine the sinking feeling there must have been when the sign writer realised. It’s a good talking point though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a lovely day in the spring sunshine Helen and very amusing about the pub sign. It must be hard to pronounce now especially if you’d had a drink. Those pastries for our lunch were delicious too and I only wish Stephanie had a stall nearer home so I’m could buy them frequently. Thank you for commenting and enjoy this lovely weather whilst it lasts!

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  8. What a fruitful day in Chester! Walking tours are so convenient, as they take you on the highlights of the respective city. I would’ve love to have stroked that baby elephant’s ears, just for a tiny bit of luck! Very happy to see you got to taste some delicious French pastries (especially the chausson aux pommes) whilst in England, and that meal of lamb and Merlot sounds absolutely fabulous. I’m a huge lamb and Merlot fan, and I’m glad you had a wonderful time!

    Liked by 3 people

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