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  • Writer's pictureClaire Champion

Our Trip To Chichester

The day of our Chichester trip had come around quickly and turned the January gloom into something brighter. James and I were looking forward to going, and also to seeing one of my favourite poets, Pam Ayres.

We had planned to get to Chichester by about 12.30pm (that’s what the South Western Railway journey planner had told us anyway!). Unfortunately, due to cancellations and some wrongly printed information on the planner we didn’t get in until about an hour later. I won’t dwell on it here as that’s another blog in itself (public transport alert anyone?). We were at least pleased we packed some snacks and plenty of water to have on the protracted journey.

When we arrived at Chichester train station, we were pleased to finally land as it were, and made our way briskly to our booked hotel, The Vestry. Its central location and reasonable room rate (£75 B&B) had made it a must for our itinerary. Another plus was that we were easily able to check in and get access to our room before the allotted 2pm slot. That took the edge of the extremely long journey to get there! The staff were polite and friendly, and suggested we could order lunch to be served in the bar. Once we’d settled in our smart and spacious room, we went downstairs to order. We bought a couple of gins and asked for burgers for lunch.

A short time later we were enjoying our glasses of gin and toasting our arrival, when our lovely bar lady came over and told us that unfortunately they weren’t able to provide the burgers as there was no service from the café down the road on Sundays. She apologised and gave us the cash back for the two meals (easier than having to refund the money back to our debit card). Oh well, as much as we were hungry and disappointed, we did at least get a recommendation for Zizzi restaurant over the road. It was a rapid change of plan and so we got our coats and dashed over there.

Once inside and safe from a soaking in the pouring rain, we got ourselves probably the last remaining table in the restaurant. We ordered cocktails – I went for a raspberry Mojito and James chose a vodka-based Passion Fruitini. Very welcome and dare I say, much-needed. After we found out that there was no sea bass on the menu, I opted for Chicken Milanese and James ordered the Pork Belly. It was a delicious meal served in a buzzy atmosphere and we were left feeling very satisfied.

We knew we didn’t have a lot of time between having the meal and seeing the star of the day, Pam Ayres. So we decided to return to the hotel for a quick turnaround and freshen up. Once that was done, we headed to the venue which was the Festival Theatre in Oaklands Park. On foot it took us about 20 minutes to get there and although we were blocked from going the more direct route (due to a strategically placed Covid test centre), we found it relatively easy to find.

We were a bit late in getting into the show (sorry Pam!) so a kind usher took us to our seats. A little bit of cringing and a little bit of creeping past several people to get to our seats, then we were immersed in a warm glow of audience enjoyment. Pam had us in the palm of her hand early on, as we laughed at her anecdotes and tales of meetings with royalty and dignitaries. I think she has such an incisive and gentle wit, which completely disarms you. The poems she recited were mainly her trademark comedic fare, but she did recite verses from her more poignant and sombre works. The evening was a celebration of all her glorious poems to date, however the main book that she highlighted was her newly released collection ‘Who Are You Calling Vermin?’. Being a proud owner of this book, I can attest to its brilliance and its clever central message of animal rights and conservation.

We left the venue on a cloud of delight, knowing that we had just watched a true creative craftsperson, giving her all. When we returned to our hotel room we listened to the radio and reflected on our day. Then it was time for bed to rest in readiness for the journey back on the Monday.

In the morning we went down to breakfast in the hotel bar. There were lots of tempting options on offer, but I had already decided the night before that I would order the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. James went for the ‘Eggs Royale’, which when it came out looked as tasty as my own breakfast. All washed down with a filter coffee, it was the perfect start to the new week.

Before heading back to Basingstoke, we decided to have a walk around the cathedral as we had seen signs showing it was nearby. As we walked in the chilly air, I saw the turning that would lead us to the cathedral grounds. We approached the building but could see that there was scaffolding and building materials surrounding it. Instead of being able to gain access we were limited to walking along the corridors of the ornate cloisters. We noted the stained-glass windows and plaques, alongside signage about the work being carried out. There was a notice that told us the refectory was also being refurbished and would be open in March 2023. Perhaps a chance for a revisit at a future date? We put it on the long list of our places to return to.

The train journey home was, let’s say, simpler than on the previous day. Unfortunately, due to severe weather conditions though there looked to be complications in and around the area. We didn’t let it phase us, and got back home before lunch. It had been a wonderful extended weekend and we had enjoyed making some lovely new memories.

Drinks at The Vestry, Chichester
James at Zizzi, Chichester
Window, Chichester Cathedral

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