I've started studying English at school at the age of 11, like almost everyone of my generation in Italy.
English immediately became my very fave subject, also because I was learning it with pleasure, without doing much effort.
I surely had a very good teacher, but I guess my most vivid memory about those lessons was the book she had chosen for us pupils. The book was called "Dear Penfriend" and was based on the formula of presenting English habits and places through letters of imaginary girls and boys: each chapter started with a short letter of presentation by someone, and then the place where this imaginary teenager was living was being presented, together with some costumes & traditions hints.
I truly loved that book. Besides the interesting contents, it was also very colorful and catching, and I used to read it over and over again - not only when I had to study stuff from it, but just because. I was keeping on daydreaming all the time about visiting those places one day...
I actually blame that book for two of the biggest passions in my life nowadays: penpalling & UK.
Chester was one of the places presented in that book.
I was finding it so charming from the pictures displayed on the pages, with its medioeval appeal and the trallis buildings. Maybe I should blame the book also for my soft spots about these two aspects!
My dream to visit it became true in the summer of 2009, when the Ginger Cat & me where staying in Liverpool and made a daytrip there.
It's so close by train, it's just half an hour.
And what you see as soon as you step out of the railway station immediately assures you of having chosen a cosy and lovely destination.
My heart was cheered up when seeing the streets and buildings I was still remembering so clearly from childhood and that awesome book.
Actually most of the buildings that have medioeval looks have just been raised during Victorian age, but what matters to me is that they are anyway so beautiful to see.
And Chester is anyway a very old city: its name actually comes from the Latin Castrum, as it used to be a Roman settlement.
Its city walls had actually been started by the Romans themselves, even if what you see nowadays is the restoring of something finished in the 1200s.
The total perimeter of the city is almost 3 kms long and you can go through it by feet.
It's a recommendable experience because it gives you another point of view of the city, and, even if with people it might not be nice to start to know someone by looking at them from above, with cities it can be nice, because it actually can make you get to know better with a quicker glance.
It's usually better to begin this kind of exploration at the Eastgate.
You just can't miss it, because it's made recognizable by the Eastgate Clock, which was made for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and which is so peculiar that I guess it's a kind of symbol of the city.
From the walls you can notice two things:
1) the city still keeps the structure of the Roman castrum;
2) most of the oldest buildings surrounding the streets have two levels. Like, there is one shop on the ground and then you climb a stair and find another one - which is pretty unusual for buildings that date back of some centuries. These structures are called the Rows and the reason why they have been built this way has actually got lost back in time.
But if, as it often happens, Chester's city walls are a kind of coffer which contains a precious treasure of architecture, also what's outside the walls is totally worth a visit.
The walls are surrounded by some pretty Georgian houses with pastel colours and pebbled streets; but what caught my attention the most has been the St. John the Baptist Church.
This church dates back to the 11th century and, may it be the old age, may it be just bad luck, has undergone two collapses that have left a part of it in ruins.
But this is actually the part that I've liked the most.
I've always had a kind of wicked charme for ruins, for Medioeval churches ones in particular.
I blame it on books once again: too many gothic novels read during my teenage, which perhaps have also given me a quite sick idea of romance and of love that, to be deep and true, must also be sick and impossible.
Let's leave ghosts and forbidden passions aside. This place has a spooky charme anyway, doesn't it??
Outside the walls you will also find the Wishing Steps.
These steps date back to 18th century and the legend says that, if you'll manage to climb them all while holding your breath, your biggest dream will become true.
Actually, five years have passed now, but both Ginger Cat & me are still waiting for our dreams to become real.
I guess there must be quite a long queue anyway, because after all climbing those steps while holding your breath isn't difficult at all.
And, if you are lucky enough to find a sunny and lovely day like we've been, then don't miss a stroll and some relax along the river Dee.
Here you can find the Roman Gardens, which are scattered with ruins and archaelogical findings; and The Groves, a beautiful green area that lines along the river where you can also hire a boat and listen to an orchestra playing.
And it feels so peaceful to stay here that it can be cute for two cats like us to witness the beginning of a new romance between these two lovely black Scottish doggies!