Our friends hadn't been to Chester for many years so we started out by walking along the walls. I love Chester's walls. I love the way that they were first built by the Romans, repaired and extended in the medieaval period, damaged and rebuilt in the Civil War and are still a part of the city today. They're a tourist attraction, a short cut, a safe way to cross busy roads - two miles of living history. Brilliant!
I'm always telling my girls to remember to look up because sometimes the best part of a building is up above ground level. When we're on the walls, we're at eye-level with some of the most interesting parts - but you have to remember to look down as well! If you look closely at the trees in this picture, one of them is actually a precarious stack of cups and saucers!
Chester's buildings are an interesting mix of historical and modern (although some of the modern is horrible 1970s concrete). These builders were preparing to re-roof this house, and you can still see the original wooden slats underneath the tiles.
It did seem a shame that they were just throwing the old tiles down into a skip, but perhaps they were beyond salvaging.
A bit further on, we spotted these chimney pot covers - aren't they great?
And then we got a good view into the city with modern buildings and old buildings facing each other across the road. In the distance is the clock tower of the town hall. There are only three faces to the clock; the fourth, which faces west into Wales, is blank as local legend has it that the English wouldn't give the Welsh the time of day! (We have to remember that this building dates from the late 1800s - the Welsh are more welcome in Chester these days!)
It would have been easy to miss this beautiful bank of forget-me-nots and daffodils if we hadn't been looking down.
Small daughter insisted on looking up to see the inscription on this tower which says that "King Charles stood on this tower Sept 24, 1646, and saw his army defeated at Rowton Moor". It seems incredible to think that you'd be able to see that far when you look around at the buildings in the city now!
If you look closely at this picture, you can see a blue tit sitting amongst the branches. He was almost close enough to touch, not in the least bit bothered by the people walking past.
This dovecote is actually in a car park, so the birds are obviously used to existing alongside people.
It's not surprising that there's wildlife in the city centre; there are lots of green spaces like this one not far from the cathedral.
I like the way that the cathedral itself is surrounded by other buildings, a part of the city's daily life and not stuck out on a limb somewhere.
The cathedral is a beautiful building made of warm, red sandstone. It's free to get in, although they do ask for a donation towards the building's upkeep, and it's well worth a visit.
This notice outside the cathedral's separate bell tower made us laugh - we wondered if any husbands had not been collected!
As we approached the clock tower, one of Chester's most famous sights, there were grumblings from children about needing lunch.
Usually the views of this clock tower are taken from the other end of the street, but I liked looking through the railings onto the people below. The children pointed out all the places we could get something to eat, but we chose to go to a small deli/cafe that we've been to before called Tudor House on Lower Bridge Street. It's a bespoke sandwich shop which also offers other meals on a larger-than-you'd-expect menu. We've always found it to be good value for money with great food and service.
As we headed off to the cafe, we came down off the walls by the Roman amphitheatre. Only half of it is visible, the other half is still buried beneath the tall building on the right. We came to a Roman festival here one year which was fantastic - Roman re-enactment societies marched through the city centre; there were legionaries, centurions, officers on horses and Celtic tribes - you could imagine how the local people would have felt seeing the Roman army sweep into their vicinity. There were gladiator fights in the amphitheatre itself, displays of Roman army training skills and Grosvenor Park which is behind the amphitheatre became a vicus or civilian encampment where you could buy replica equipment, talk to people who were involved in the re-enactment societies, listen to storytellers and generally get the feel of what it would be like to live outside a Roman fort. The same year, the amphitheatre was home to a film festival which included a showing of Gladiator. Even more brilliant!
Just past the amphitheatre to the right is the Roman gardens with the remains of a hypocaust heating system, and we also stood to watch a children on a school trip who were being instructed by a centurion how to form a testudo or tortoise formation with shields. School trips in Chester always seem to be good fun, especially the ones booked with one of the museums - it's quite usual to see a line of children marching along behind a centurion banging their shields and shouting responses to his orders!
Chester is always such a lovely day out and we are always sorry to leave, but by the time we'd had lunch, visited a few shops and shown our friends the Chester Rows, a unique second-level row of shops above street level dating from the Middle Ages, it was time to go home - but we will be back!