*I sat next to a sketchy guy!

TL;DR: I took a train to Chester, met a Roman legionary, walked the walls, and ate possibly the best sandwich in existence.

Today I left London. I meant to do one more improving thing before catching the train — namely go to the Museum of London: Docklands — but found that I’d rather lie in for a bit. Nothing wrong with that! I did end up getting restless and left a bit early, which meant I got to sit around a bit longer at Euston. A very not with a bang way of ending my London leg, but whatevs, I can handle it.

Everybody went to Chester with me. That’s the way it felt, at least. The train only had four carriages, and by golly we filled those seats. I’d ridden the commuter trains earlier in the week on my walk, and always had most of the carriage to myself (other than spitty teenage girls), so I made a false analogy. Oh well. At least the people I shared my foursome with were shining lights. The woman across from me complained about how crowded it was for the first 20 minutes, ignoring the fact that the second seat was taken by her bag. She told me she worried that the conductor would make her buy another ticket for the bag. Once he came and didn’t, she calmed down, left me alone, and read the paper the rest of the way. The guy beside me spent the entire two hours on the phone, partially complaining about how he had gone way over on his minutes on his phone, and had a £138 surcharge for talking for 1000 minutes on a 600 minute plan, and how he couldn’t afford that, and also described in explicit detail the amount of drugs he was bringing up to some concert he was going to on the weekend. I guess that’s what yolo means?


When you reuse an old building, sometimes there’s a beam in your hallway

When I told someone (I forget who) that I meant to go to Chester on my intercongnum (<— like an interregnum, but for cons), I was warned off of it. I don’t understand why, though. I had a great time. When I left the railway station, one of a group of young toughs walking the other way said, “Gawd, I bloody hate tourists!” Maybe that’s what whoever was talking about, but that was the extent of it. I’m comfortable in the north. I’ve been “up here” as much as down south. The people talk like my mum (more or less), and it’s right temperature for August: 9c is the forecast for the 21st. In the morning, of course. It’ll get up to 15 by the afternoon. Consequently, my hotel, The Mill Hotel and Spa, had no air conditioning. I actually had to put the heat on overnight.

I liked this hotel. Originally a corn mill, it’s now a neat boutique place with a pool and sauna and all that spa stuff (I could’ve even had a mani-pedi!), and its towels are oh so fluffy, and it cost much less than the hotel in London. Ah the North. It took me a while to get to it because unlike London, I’d never been to Chester, and I had been relying on memory to find the place. I flailed around a bit, but it’s not a big town by any stretch, and I had a landmark: the hotel, being a mill, was on the canal. If I found the canal, I could go up and down it until I found the hotel. I found the canal, and I went up, and found the hotel. A five minute walk turned into a fifteen, but I made it, and nobody set me on fire.


Is that a sword in your hand, or are you just gladius to see me?

I had intended on going to the cathedral right after checking in, but I found myself hungry and tired and when I noticed that the hotel had a Roman high-tea canal cruise featuring a real live legionary of the 20th Legion, I knew was I was going to do today. We had to muster for the cruise at 3:45, so I had an hour to go lie down (all this vacationing is exhausting, don’t you know. I mean look at that we’re on double digits on the MEA*). After 45 minutes I remembered that the reason I had picked this place originally, other than its ease of access from both town and the railway station, was its real ale bar. Down I went, refreshed and ready to take on the world, or at least the Golden Pippin I drank while waiting for the Legionary to show up. Show up he did, and he played the part of the grouchy, yet kindly, yet curmudgeonly ol’ veteran serving the SPQR. On the cruise he told us bits and pieces of the roman history of the town (if you didn’t know, Chester was originally Deva, the largest Roman garrison town in Britannia. And it’s the locale of the climax of the first novel I ever actually finished (Deva, that is)) and he had some bits of archaeological finds that we could hold up and pretend we were Phil Harding with. This included a nail, a few brooches (used to close one’s cloak on a cold summer’s evening (brr)), and a Diocletian follis, which sounds fancy, if you don’t know what those words mean, but in reality it’s a bronze coin the size of a quarter. The cruise was fun, the high tea delish, and our legionary finished us off with an Albert and the Legionary poem, in the style of Stanley Holloway. I know who Stanley Holloway is. See? The North.


Parliamentarians breached the wall during the Civil War.

After that was done, I took it on myself to walk the walls. Chester’s walls date from the time of Deva, and two runs of them are intact (though fortified). In the 17th century, a bright spark decided that the wall would make a grand promenading spot, so the city lay the top with flagstone and made the iffy bits easier to navigate, and that’s how it’s been ever since. The entire circuit covers about 3.2 km, following the canal, the River Dee (hence Deva), and going over no less than seven gates. There’s even a bookshop up on the wall!

All that walking got me thirsty, and I ended up at this place called The Pied Bull. Man. Oh Man. This place was amazing. It was a brewpub, and it had a B&B, and it was built in 1430, and man, I wish I had stayed there. I don;t know how I missed it. Too bad. I had a good chat with the barkeep, and he let me sample all of the beer brewed on premises, and it was all good. I had a couple of pints as well, and felt my knees going a bit wobbly, so I ordered some food to give me the energy (and beer sopping up power) to get home, and the sandwich I ended up picking was playing the hallelujah chorus in my mouth. I started taking smaller and smaller bites, just to prolong the joy. But, as ST:TNG taught us, all good things…


I recall every toilet being like this when I was a kid. At least in Bury/Manchester area.

Then home and bed!

PS: The sandwich, if you’re wondering, was a brie and bacon on ciabatta. I’ve had this sandwich before. It wasn’t this good. It’s good enough that I had to force myself not to immediately get another one when I was done.