ROMAN HOLIDAY; What did the Romans ever do for us? LIS LAMBERTSEN finds out.
We based ourselves just outside of Chester, at the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel and Spa, to give ourselves the ease of access to the city, which is less than a five-minute drive away but also a chance to be in the countryside.
Set slightly off the main road through Pulford, with a large car park for residents, the hotel has a magnificent, imposing facade.
Our room was vast and luxurious, comfortable sofas and chairs set around the flat screen TV at one end of the room complementing the desk and dressing area near the bed at the other end. However it was the bathroom that was truly breathtaking.
Containing both a walk-through rainfall shower and free-standing bath, the room was spacious and thoroughly modern - it even had its own flat screen TV.
Impressive grounds at the hotel contain a pretty pond and bridge (a sure winner for wedding photographs), paths weaving through gentle lawns and a tranquil Asian sensory garden. Waterfalls and the ponds of koi carp are restful and soothing. After a visit to the gym and the Romaninspired pool area, the garden was the perfect place to spend half an hour relaxing.
We dined at the Palm Court restaurant, a large stylish space with high ceilings and crystal chandeliers.
A modern menu containing British and European offerings - from perfectly cooked steaks, scallops and vegetarian curries to delicate, pretty desserts - was complemented by an extensive wine list.
A walking tour is a great way to see a city and if you're going to visit a Roman city who better than a Roman Centurion to be your guide.
Starting in the centre of Chester at the Tourist Information centre we were expertly shown around Deva by Thrax, a member of the II Cohort Thracum. The sheer scale and organisation of the Roman Army is intriguing and through his stories and bag of artefacts Thrax was able to bring the Roman world to life for us, with plenty of connections to modern life. Underfloor heating, plumbing and currency for starters.
His comical description of Roman toilet habits had the children in the group in hysterics.
Ending our tour at the amphitheatre we headed up onto the walls. Measuring nearly two miles in circumference, it's possible to walk almost completely around the city.
There are numerous places to descend back into the city to explore and from the high vantage point you get a great view of Chester.
Back to our Roman adventure, we visited the Dewa Roman Experience.
This is a great place to take the kids - very hands-on and interactive, we had fun trying on Roman armour, building bridges and uncovering mosaics. It does get very busy with school trips so it's worth checking when you visit if you want to walk around during a quiet time.
Chester's cathedral is a stunning Grade I-listed building made from red sandstone, restored mainly in the 19th century, though the site has been used for worship since Roman times. This is no ancient relic of a building, upon entering you are immediately struck by the hustle and bustle - from the school parties to the Lego model fundraiser project this is not a musty old church, it's a thriving community.
Continuing our Roman theme, a little more tenuously this time, we spent a couple of hours at the Falconry Experience at the Cathedral. The Romans were known to indulge in falconry and mosaics have been found showing Roman falconers. The Experience is informative and engaging and there are plenty of supervised opportunities to interact with a variety of falcons and other birds of prey. Watching my husband being chased by a cheeky vulture called Tinks was a highlight for me!
What did the Romans ever do for us? Well they made Chester a major force in Britain and their influence is clear in the layout of the city, its walls, its archaeology and its history.
It's a captivating place to spend a weekend and learn a bit about Roman Britain.
Oh, roads. The Romans also gave us roads.
NEED TO KNOW | LIS LAMBERTSEN stayed as a guest of Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa - 01244 570560 - grosvenorpulford hotel.co.uk An overnight stay costs from PS75 or from PS99 with breakfast. Special winter breaks are also available here grosvenorpulfordhotel.co.uk/ offer/winter-escape | Dewa Roman Experience: 01244 343407/ dewaroman experience.co.uk | Roman Tours: 01978 761264/ romantoursuk.com/contact-us | Chester Cathedral Falconry Experience: 01244 699053/ chestercathedral.com/falconrynature-gardens/experiences
A mosaic at Dewa Roman Experience
Roman Tours guide Thrax
Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa