Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas in Chester

Chester is the largest city in the Cheshire area of England, lying close to the border with Wales and located on the banks of the River Dee.   It is one of the best preserved walled cities in the United Kingdom and has a beautiful old world feel to it.   

Chester is also well known for its wonderful Christmas festivities and market, which runs from mid November until the 20th Dec around the Town Hall Square.   There are rows of beautiful little chalets, offering food, drinks, and gifts and, if last year is anything to go by, the chance to have a go at holding birds of prey.    I didn’t, in case you’re wondering, but there was no shortage of visitors who did.  

chester owl
Do you want to hold me?  No? What's wrong with you? 
In 2015, the market returns with even more sparkling lights, activities and shopping than I can realistically cope with in just one day.   Luckily, the market runs 7 days a week, with late night shopping on a Thursday.  It is also located close to the main shopping mall, Grosvenor, so there are lots of gift options for all those awkward to buy for people in your life.   

The Saturnalia & Winter Watch Parade is being held on the 17th December, starting at 7pm outside the Town Hall in the city centre, and consisting of a torch light parade, led by Romans (who are possibly not *actually* Roman) marching up the street to honour the traditional celebrations for the feast of Saturn.    I have no idea what that is, but it sounds like it might be quite the spectacle.   Also: togas.     

Combined with the Saturnalia parade, there is also the Winter Watch event, which brings together the local communities to continue the long held tradition where city leaders used to hand over their keys to the city watch and rejoice in the Winter Solstice.  

Chester Cathedral
A seriously beautiful Cathedral with equally awesome coffee...
Close to the main action is Chester Cathedral, which is absolutely stunning.   It is free to enter and, around the Christmas season, has its own programme of events to tie in with the rest of the city.    They have an annual Christmas Tree Festival, where you can walk freely around the cloisters and look at all the wonderfully decorated trees.   The trees themselves  represent different community groups and organisations, as well as local schools, etc.    It is clear just how much work goes into pulling them together and they really are fantastic.   The Festival runs from Nov 28th through to Jan 3rd.   

The Cathedral also has a fantastic tea room, with massively high ceilings (obviously…) and warm, friendly staff.    If you’re keen for a little break from the crowds outside at the markets, this is the perfect spot for a coffee and cake to recharge your batteries.  

The Cathedral also has a Music Society Choir and Carol Choir Concerts running on 16th and 17th and 12th and 19th, respectively.  

I can sniff out an Edinburgh Woollen Mill anywhere, me.  

If you have children or, if you’re like me and just love animals, you can pay a visit to Chester Zoo and join in the fun there.  Or, you can indulge in Even More Shopping at Cheshire Oaks which, incidentally, boasts the biggest Christmas tree on earth.   Also, you can actually go inside the tree (I’m not making this up).   You can also stand on the outside and count the baubles.    There are more than 100,000 of them, so best get there early.  

Suzanne x 

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