Well, I knew I shouldn’t have written that about the weather – we woke today to a very grey, wet, miserable day. I guess it had to happen eventually. However undaunted we set off and had an excellent day.
We started at the York Museum (as opposed to the York Castle Museum, which we went to on Tuesday). This one is more about the history of the York area – and there is plenty of that, dating back to Roman times. It was arranged chronologically, so you journeyed from Roman times through the Vikings & the Norman period, with lots of amazing items found in the local area. There was a special exhibition on Constantine, who has close association with York, as it was here he was appointed emperor. Photos were not allowed inside, but here’s a shot of the ruined walls of St Mary’s Abbey in the museum gardens, first built in 1088 – all that remains of one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England.
Alas it was time to leave York, and we headed for the highway. By now it was pouring rain, and the fog had set in, so you really couldn’t see the countryside at all. We drove straight to Chester, near the Welsh border. What a wonderful town to visit. Its streets are lined with many black and white half-timber buildings, hundreds of years old.
But the most striking feature is that there are two levels of footpath – one next to the road in the usual place, and a second one above the ground floor shops. Apparently these date from the 14th century originally (though some of them were built in the old style in Victorian times), where the ground level was a storeroom, and the upper level, were the shops. Nowadays there are shops on both levels. You climb up stairs found at irregular intervals and walk along the “rows” (as they are called) just like a regular pavement.
We stopped for a late lunch in a café that was in a heritage-listed building which was built in 1325! We ordered the “Full Afternoon Tea”, a very indulgent but very English meal served on a silver 3-tiered stand, with a tier of finger sandwiches, a tier of fruit scones and a tier of cake. We also had tea “in a silver service made by the cutler to the Queen”. We did share one between us, but it was very yummy and just seemed the right thing to do in such a place.
We strolled along the rows, admiring the old buildings, and were headed for the car when we came across a French Market. We had seen advertising for it, but weren’t sure what makes a market French – turns out it was a genuine French market i.e. run by people from France (some of them barely spoke English), selling French stuff – mostly food – just as you would find in France. It was great, there were tables of spices, dried fruits, cheeses, olives, sausages, breads, fabrics, leather, soaps… Most unexpected in a medieval English town! We had a lovely wander then bought ourselves a delicious picnic for dinner & headed for Wales.
By the way, it did continue to rain all day but while we were wandering around Chester it stopped completely, and then started again once we got back in the car!
We got very worried looking for the B&B – we drove for miles along tiny winding streets (literally one car wide – no idea what you do if you met someone coming the other way) and I was beginning to think I had made a terrible mistake. When we finally arrived, it was a caravan park, and I wondered if we could book something else. However, past the caravan park is a lovely old, stone, ivy-covered guesthouse with wonderful ambience, decorated in Victorian colours & style, with antique furniture – absolutely gorgeous.