Friday was the day when we had planned to visit Chester without any other obligations and we were not to be disappointed. We had another marvellous breakfast at our leisure and then set off for Chester, making for the ‘Park and Ride’ system on the outskirts of Chester. This really could not have been more straightforward – we entered £4 into a machine to give us two inward and two outbound journeys and set off within about two minutes after boarding the bus. The journey into Chester is really quite interesting and we looked at the new building that had evidently been taking place since we last made this journey over some two years ago. But we trod a familiar route, visiting a cafe that we know well which is just inside the Roman walls where we had a coffee and some toasted fruitcake. Then we walked on down to town and made for an Italian restaurant – Sergios – which we know is immediately adjacent to the cathedral. We then did a tour of some of the ancient streets, doing some shopping for a few items as we progressed. But by this time, the sun was getting pretty high and so we were relieved to seek some solice in the cathedral. We particularly like Chester cathedral because unlike many Anglican cathedrals, it is not adorned with too much 18th and 19th century militaria – the military plaques that are displayed are relatively unostentatious and often quite interesting. We eventually found our way to a little chapel that seemed to be dedicated to the Ukraine. There was certainly a classical Byzantine Madonna on display, plus a statue and a crucifix that could have been of Ukrainian origin but there was a map of the Ukraine – evidently not of recent origin – where of course one could recognise many of the place names on it. We lit some candles in remembrance of some of our dear departed relatives. As we were leaving, it was quite touching to see that there were a plethora of Ukrainian ribbons tied onto the railings complete with a collection of little tapestries, many of them with appropiate homilies written and embroidered onto them. One typical example was ‘Albert Einstein was a refugee‘ which gives you a flavour of the type of homilies that were displayed.
Just after 1.00pm we strolled into our by now favourite Italian restaurant and immediately rewarded ourselves by sinking some cool Peroni (Italian) beer. We wanted to eat something that we wouldn’t necessarily have at home and having eaten some very filling pasta and risotto yesterday (which we enjoyed but didn’t quite finish) we decided to vary our choices. We started off with two different starters – a Funghi (mushrooms) for Meg and a stuffed Zucchini for myself. This we intended to share after we had eaten about half each which we often do. Then the menu had on offer a speciality Zuppa di Pesce which is Italian Fish and Seafood Stew and we asked that we be served with just one portion of this but to be shared between the two of us. This the restaurant did and we both had a wonderful gastronomic experience without feeling over full or bloated at the end of it all. But we had an expected bonus as it transpired that at least three of the staff happened to be Spanish rather than Italian. So we chatted with one waiter who was from Malaga (in Andalucia) and another who hailed from Asturias in the north. Taking one thing with another, the food we were having, the conversations we were having and the whole ambience of the restaurant made us feel as though we were in Spain without being in Spain.
After lunch we made our way through sunny streets to the bus station where we caught the coach taking us to the Park and Ride. When we got back to the hotel, we are were feeling rather hot and thirsty so, rather unusually for us, decided to have a drink of lager in the hotel bar in order to cool off more than anything else. As we were leaving, we entered into a conversation with one of the hotel’s managerial staff asking her, as we often do these days, where she hailed from. She was Romanian and we chatted about when we had heard Romanian spoken on the TV, we were surprised that we could understand a fair proportion of it. The manageress explained how Romanian was one of the most latinate of languages being one of the first territories in the Roman conquests – it’s all in the name, after all. She herself had worked for three years in Rome and told us her Italian was better than her Romanian. She had also worked in the Italian restaurant in which we had just dined. So this was quite a fascinating little conversation. Whilst in our hotel bedroom and before we start to think about packing, we discovered No. 10 had informed the Northern group of Tory MPs who were having a major ‘red wall’ regional conference that Boris Johnson was on a train to see them whereas in practice he was on a plane visiting Kyiv in the Ukraine. Some commentators have wryly pointed out that Boris Johnson would have a much friendlier welcome in the Ukraine than he would in the North of England – is this a sign that he knows that the Wakefield by-election next Thursday is irrevocably lost?