January has arrived and 2018 looks like it’s off to a good start as were off to Chester for a few days, we’d chosen the Chester Fairoaks site, less than an hour away for us, so it couldn’t work out better.
Pod was pulled out and loaded up, tyres were checked as a matter of a pre trip routine and then it was time to go.
Roads were pretty clear but the weather wasn’t brilliant, not cold but it was doing its best to rain and the wind seemed to be picking up. Site was easy to find too, just round the corner from Sealife and Cheshire Oakes Retail Park, plus there seemed to be 3 pubs within a decent walking distance.
Standard C&M site so easy enough to book in, we were given the obligatory site map and told to find a pitch that suits and report back with the pitch number.
The site wasn’t too busy, there were plenty to pick from so we opted for one just round the corner from the toilet block. Pitches were all large, well maintained and even.
After a short battle with the awning and the ever increasing wind we were soon set up and as a small reward we decided to avail ourselves of one of the pubs and walked to 100m to The Rake.
Might have been only 100m but with no path or street lighting a few passing cars took it upon themselves to get as close to us as they could. Know people have places to go and people to see but slowing down a little so people and other passing cars can do the same isn’t too much to ask surely. However, we made it in one piece, the pub looked good from the outside and the inside didn’t disappoint either.
Beers were ordered and we were told if we wanted food there would be a delay as there was a problem with one of the grills, fair enough we thought as we weren’t in a rush to eat. Food was decided upon and eventually we joined the queue to order. Nachos and onion rings to share to start we thought, followed by huge burgers and fries, proper stodge food.
Starters arrived and were delicious so we had high expectations for the burgers, sadly we were a little disappointed. Food looked fab but it wasn’t particularly hot and the burgers had been well and truly over cooked, must have been bad because MrB didn’t even finish it and he never leaves food.
Another pint was ordered and coats were donned, we were either sat in a draft or the heating wasn’t on not sure which, but we weren’t the only ones. Some didn’t take their coats off at all.
Normally we’re quite happy to relax, people watch and plan the following days events but The Rake just wasn’t doing it for us so we hot footed back to Pod and her very warm and cosy awning, wind had died down too, which was a blessing.
Shower block looked new, but we’d been reliably informed it had been there for the past two years. Clean, warm, large shower cubicles with lots of hooks and once they got going, hot showers with the added bonus of Radio 2 streaming through.
Slept soundly and we didn’t budge till 10am, always seem to sleep well in Pod, probably something to do with all the fresh air.
We ditched any idea of breakfast and decided to get something once we got into Chester, we were in danger of the day slipping away from us and we had a Cathedral to see, a wall to walk and a Museum to peruse.
Plenty of parking in and around the outskirts but it seems we decided to pick one of the most expensive ones we’ve ever been in, Pepper Street, possibly priced as such as it was within the city wall.
Details later on that but once we’d taken the ticket we discovered it was a very large carpark, only issue we found, apart from the price, it was multi-story, low ceiling and very narrow, short spaces. Plus for the majority of the floors it was the same way up as down, so it took some manoeuvring. As we were in a Dacia Duster we opted for the open top floor, empty and more room to play with.
Chester is renowned for its architecture and it didn’t disappoint, we were surrounded by the tall wooden framed buildings with its integrated 1st floor shopping area. As we walked along the cobble roads and paths it was beautiful to see, taking care to look where we were going as we spent far too much time looking up than down.
We had a quick walk round to get our baring’s and instead of hunting out and researching a little cosy café we ended up in McDonalds, have to say it’s not we’d normally do as we can have one of those any day of the week back home, but time was precious and we know what we’ll get.
Soon demolished we set off out the door, across the road and into the Cathedral. Once here, we discovered it was free to enter, but a donation was welcomed. We’ve been in a few now, but this blew us away, absolutely awesome.
The Christmas Tree festival was still on, all the trees were spectacular and every single one of them was decorated to a very individual and high standard. Have to say those done by the local schools were the best, their wishes and hopes expressed with such innocence, it was quite moving.
During this we found a door to the outside and this took us into a small garden, entirely surrounded by the walls of the Cathedral, considering where its placed in the city it still managed to be quite a peaceful place.
We moved towards the centre of the Cathedral and were met with its Lego equivalent, slowly but surely, through the purchase of a brick for a £1.00 it was coming to life. The detail was amazing, down to the water feature in the garden and stain glasses windows.
From here we moved to the centre and were astounded by the colours and the mouldings in the walls and ceilings. The colours were everywhere, the floors, ceilings and the mosaic wall were astounding, along with the huge circular cast iron radiators. Have to say it’s one of our favourite Cathedral.
Time came to leave and as we walked outside it seemed like we’d just missed a bit of a down pour, next stop was the wall, this was easy enough to follow to start with and took us along the river which now appeared to be in danger of flooding, but as we reached the racecourse we lost our way as there appeared to be a distinct lack of signs and during our detour we found ourselves at the Museum, just as well as it started to rain again.
This turned out to be another free entry which required a donation should you so wish, plus a £1.00 charge if you wanted to take pictures.
Small museum but lots to see from Romans to modern art, the floor as you enter and the winding staircase which takes you up to the other rooms is also rather spectacular, always pays to look everywhere, you never know what you might see.
On leaving we thanked the staff and they kindly pointed us in back to the wall and we continued on our circular adventure, it was now getting dark, so we got to see Chester and the Cathedral lit up, along with the Christmas decorations along the main walkways through the City.
Tummy’s were now rumbling and after scouring the centre we set our sights on an Italian restaurant for our evening meal but it was just that little bit too early so we settled for a sit down and a coffee in Café Niro.
Feeling relaxed we made the move to the restaurant, Urbano32. Once welcomed we sat in the window which looked out onto the road, from here we ordered two courses and these were polished off with a nice cold beer, the pizzas were perfect, thin and crisp, just as they should be. Prices were reasonable and staff very welcoming, the cucumber water went down quite well too, very refreshing and something we will consider for ourselves in the future.
We could have sat there all evening but we still had the 20 minute drive back to Pod, so the decision was made to walk back to the car and face the final parking bill. Now, we knew it was going to be expensive and at £16.50 for an NCP we thought it was a little steep. But as our days activities had worked out cheaper than we thought it seemed to us, to balance its self out.
Back at Pod we checked the weather for the following day as we were off to Chester Zoo, looked good, temperatures weren’t going to be much above zero over night but that wasn’t going to be a problem, quite exciting really and we’d of gone to the zoo no matter what as we’d bought pre dated tickets on line a few days before, they were for tomorrow.
Woke to a clear and very frosty morning and within an hour we were on the road. The caravan site was perfectly located, the roads were clear and no queues so this meant no more than a 15 minute drive.
Parking was easy, lots of spaces left, plus there was a huge overflow area should it be needed, guess in the summer none of this would be quite so easy.
Didn’t need to print the tickets off so showed the email and barcode as we walked through the entrance and it was as easy as that, we were in, but where to first.
Elephants of course, the first thing you see on your left as you walk in, pretty hard to miss and were top of the list for us. Adorable is an understatement, a joy to watch and could have stayed there all day but there was lots more yet to see. It wasn’t particularly warm, we didn’t expect to see many outside and there were lots of indoor enclosures so we didn’t think we’d be disappointed and we weren’t.
Map in hand we wandered from enclosure to enclosure, birds of prey, bears, bats, apes and reptiles to name a few, we only stopped for a bite to eat in the café and this seemed less well organised. We decided that the staff within the café were new and were tested out on humans, only once they passed this stage were they allowed anywhere near the animals, fair enough we thought.
Quite funny really, there was plenty of staff, but lots of running around like headless chickens, trying to serve food that wasn’t there or just wasn’t ready and for what we had, two cups of tea, hot dog and chips, plus veggie pie, chips and veg., a bit expensive at £22.00.
Back out we went, in search of tigers, rhinos and orang-utans, these were soon found. No matter what the species, there is nothing like babies, even a baby rhino, who managed to get himself well and truly entangled in branches and young orang-utans who seemed to be all arms and legs and found it much easier to do roly-polys all over the place than walk.
Time was running out, still lots we hadn’t seen and as the Zoo was closing at 4 we needed to get a wiggle on.
Giraffes, worker ants, sloths and many more were seen, plus so many more and we feel like we’re doing them a disservice by not mentioning them. We had, however been joined on our entire journey round the park by a very friendly, plump looking Robin. By 3.50pm there were still a few we hadn’t seen, including the lions, but time came to leave and if anything else this ensured a return visit.
Dinner was eaten back at Pod, all done by our wonderful one pot multi cooker. Temperatures were dropping again so from our very warm snug awning we made a mad dash to the shower block before bed.
Morning arrived to discover cars frozen over but under a beautiful blue sky, today we went home but we weren’t in any particular rush and the awning would be coming down dry, perfect.
On the road by 11 and home by 12, another bolt hole found for us and one we’ll try and get back to in the summer.