AdventureNotes #24: Chester

Chester? Not Manchester? No, they are different cities. This time, AdventureNotes will be about Chester. Where is it? The city is actually located not too far from Manchester or Liverpool. It is rather small, but indeed such a beautiful one. As usual, this piece will be written based on my experience and further information from the official Chester tourism website, http://www.visitchester.com/.

I went to visit Chester at the end of March. My first destination was the Chester Zoo (https://theadventureofizzao.com/2016/04/15/adventurenotes-22-chester-zoo/), but having known that the city is also famous for its beauty, I allocated a little time to explore the city. However, indeed it is not enough. Chester is too interesting to be visited for only a few hours. I think a day should be okay, though. Here, I will describe my few hours in Chester.

So the first place I visited was the tourist information center. It is located at the center of the city, near the Grosvenor Shopping Center. As I arrived there quite late, 3.30 pm, there are not many places that are still open. Therefore, I decided to just see the city and walk along the Chester Wall.

In my opinion, Chester is a bit like York. The city center consists of small streets with old-style buildings. In Chester, the buildings are more into the Tudor style. You know, the white color on top with list of wood. It is very interesting to see those modern brands’ store in the old-style buildings. Very unique, indeed. There are many shops in Chester so that the city also proclaims itself as a paradise for retail therapy. If the shops in the city center are not enough for you, you can always go to Cheshire Oak Designer Outlet, a little but outside of the city for a cheap bargain of designer labels.

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The city is surrounded by a wall, which is known as the most complete city wall in Britain. At one part of the wall, there is a gate called the Eastgate, which is famous for its clock. It is quite beautiful and has become a city icon. From there, we can also go up to the city wall and start our exploration.

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After taking pictures near the clock, I went to the city wall and started walking around the city. First, we can see the Chester Cathedral. You can always visit the place for free, but from the outside, it is already majestic. The scenery is very beautiful from the city wall. I walked pass the Falconry and along a canal.  It was very calming. Alongside the wall, there are also some shops and tea houses. At that time, all of them were already closed, but during the day, it can be fun to have a cup of tea on the city wall.

At one point, I stopped for quite a long time to see how the canal system works. There was a boat wanting to pass by a water gate and the people on the boat had to come out, open the water gate and balancing the water level before the boat can pass by. It was such an interesting sight. I didn’t know that we should do that. What a good to know fact!

After we parted from the canal side, the wall turns to the horserace area. Chester is also famous for its race days. The area is just so big! There was nothing at that time, but the view was certainly mesmerizing. I feel that the whole city is just charming. At the end of the racecourse area, we can see the Chester Castle. The place is now used as the Cheshire Military Museum.

Passing the castle, I walked neat the university area on my left side. On the right is River Dee. Walking along the river side, we can see a meadow in front of a church on the other side of the river. With spring coming, the colorful flowers are just gorgeous. There are actually many things that we can do on the river side and on the river. There are people canoeing, you can take a boat trip, or just walk along the river, enjoying the scenery.

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Passing the river side, the wall then makes it turns towards our starting point. However, before we arrive at the Eastgate, we will pass a Roman Amphitheater and some kind of Roman Garden. Then, we would have completed our walking on the city wall experience. It took me around an hour or so to get around the city wall. It is not boring at all because the city is indeed so very beautiful.

I wish I have another opportunity to visit Chester. I’d love to come inside the museums, watch the Town crier (a traditional ceremony of some kind of proclamation), and explore the shops. It is such a recommended place to visit and now is on my second most beautiful city in the UK!

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AdventureNotes #22: Chester Zoo

Visiting a zoo has never been a choice for me while visiting a city. I don’t know why but I am just not interested in seeing animals and exploring more about them. In addition, zoos in Indonesia (the old ones, actually) are not attractive. However, this one stole my heart.

Chester Zoo is named as the best zoo in the UK. I think it is also ranked within the top 10 in the world. As I said, I’ve never been interested to visit zoos – anywhere in the world. However, when I browsed the internet about Chester, this attraction is mentioned on the top of the list. I visited the website and voila! I had to scratch myself out of my curiosity. The newest attraction in Chester Zoo is called ‘Islands in Chester Zoo’. What is it? It is some kind of an area that displays animals from the South East Asia for conservatory purpose. Uniquely, five out of six islands showcased in Chester Zoo are in reality located in Indonesia territory. There are Sulawesi, Sumba, Bali, Sumatra, Papua, and Sumatera. Wow, indeed. As an Indonesian, I haven’t even visited all of those islands. I was sooo tempted to go. Therefore, despite its high admission fee (I had to pay £20 for student ticket), I went there anyway.

The access to Chester Zoo is not difficult. From anywhere in the UK, we can just hop on a train to Chester. Arriving in Chester at around 9 am, I waited for a bus to Chester Zoo in front of the train station. The bus is scheduled to be one in every twelve minutes. I didn’t have to wait for long before the bus arrived. There are two bus stops near Chester Zoo. The first one is at the front of the parking lot and the second one is inside the parking lot, only a few meters away from the front gate of the zoo. I got off the bus at the front of the parking lot and had to walk around 10 minutes to get to the gate. As it was quite early, the door hadn’t been opened yet. However, the queue was already long. At 10 am, Chester Zoo is opened for public. If we have an online ticket, we can just go through the gate by showing the barcode sent to our email. As usual, buying tickets online is always better. The price is lower and you can also buy other attractions ticket, such as the monorail ticket, etc. However, you can always buy the ticket on the spot at the ticketing counter available there.

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As our first aim is to see the Islands, we traced the map and found the nearest route to the Islands area. On our way, we passed a monkey house where there are baboons and the black monkey (I don’t know what they’re called but they’re not chimpanzee). We also passed a bear, capybaras, zebras (there are lots of kinds of them! I just knew!), and some kind of deer. The Islands is located at the corner of the zoo. It is kind of excluded, but it is indeed for a reason.

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From far away, we can already see the top of Tongkonan, a traditional house from Sulawesi. It is colorful so you can’t miss that. Entering the Islands complex is like entering a new world. I don’t know if it’s the weather that day or the atmosphere, but the air is getting hotter, just like in a tropical island. I was amazed. There was this made up beach complete with ships and the white sands. As an Indonesian, we said that it’s typical Pantura (North Java Seaside Way). There was a small cabin with Jokowi picture on its wall that in Indonesia used to be called Pos Kamling (Area Security Post). There were also cooking utensils displayed on small bamboo stalls. Amazing! We got to talk with the zookeepers who recognize us as Indonesian. They asked us whether the place looks real. Indeed, it is. Super real! As we walked along the pathway, we could see Indonesian animals, such as Anoa, Babirusa, Banteng, Cassowary, etc. It is quite impressive how the zoo helps the animals adapt with the new environment along with its very different weather to the one those animals used to. As we walked along, we met some other zookeepers who told us that all of the decorations were made in Indonesia, from the ‘village-like’ toilets, small bamboo stalls, up to the wooden chairs and stone sculptures. Wow again for Chester Zoo. It takes the whole thing seriously. It gets more serious when we came into a tropical house where there are tropical plants and birds. I was so happy I could see a real tropical banana trees in here! I felt like I want to take the leaves to cook. Hahaha… typical Indonesian, right? The temperature inside the tropical house is quite hot, maybe around the same temperature as in Indonesia or other South East Asian countries. Before the end of our visit to the Islands, we went for a lazy boat ride. We could see the whole islands from a boat. It is for free, too. Just beware that the queue may be quite long, especially in holidays. As the boat ride ended, it was time for lunch. There is this Manado restaurant inside the Islands area with fusion Indonesian food. There is also this gift shop that sells batik and other Indonesian souvenirs. Seriously, UK just tastes like Indonesia.

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After a half day in the Islands, we had lunch and went out to the common zoo area. The place is pretty big, but don’t compare it to Taman Safari Indonesia. We took a monorail ride from one point to the other end of the zoo and explored the place. There are quite a lot of animals, such as lions, giraffes, komodo dragons, penguins, sloths, leopards, elephants, etc. It is quite tiring walking around the zoo. Yes, unlike Taman Safari where we could ride our vehicle to explore the area, here we have to walk, looking at animals inside ‘cages’.

Overall, I think Chester Zoo is worth the visit. That was the first time I went to a zoo and really read the information boards about the animals and explored the place quite thoroughly. A day in Chester Zoo is enough, but after that I still wanted to visit the city of Chester. And indeed, the city is also worth another article to write.