In recent months, I've started to want to get out of London each weekend. I don't know whether this is because I just find the whole London lifestyle exhausting, or because I've just realised that there is more to life outside of the big smoke. Obviously I'd love it if I had the money to travel a little further, go somewhere and book a hotel and feel like I'd explored more of England - I can't remember the last time I went further north than Manchester for example - but the budget doesn't always stretch that far. And so, sometimes, options a little closer to home have to be explored. A couple of weekends ago I headed out to Rochester, which is a perfect little day trip as it's only 35 minutes away on High Speed 1. Just don't do what I did, which is get the slow train by accident and arrive an hour later feeling like a bit of a prat...
I'll be honest and hold my hands up to not knowing that Rochester had such a connection with Dickens. It's where he started and ended his life, and there are buildings he wrote about in his books which still stand on the high street today - you can find Miss Haversham's home and various other buildings from Great Expectations, which sent a few shivers down my spine and lots of memories of GCSE English. There were also a lot of buildings from The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but I have to admit that that's not a Dickens book I've ever clapped eyes on.
It's clear that "kentrification" is alive and well in Rochester, you can see that while it was probably once a little bit poor, it's now starting to get elements of money flooding into it. There are loads of independent shops to potter about it, I spent quite a bit of time in City Books, which sold a lot more than books, and managed to pick up some old bottles from the 1860s for a couple of quid, which I'm looking forward to using as vases once (if) I get them looking sparkly again. There was also Baggins Book Bazaar, which had thousands more books to rummage around, and lots of old sweet shops, which was perfect for me as I'd been after parma violets for ages and London just wasn't stumping up the goods.
I quite enjoyed visiting Rochester, it's opened my eyes to the possibility of not living in London for the rest of my life, and I can see why Londoners are flocking to move there, not least the fact that you can buy a bloody massive seven bedroomed townhouse for £1m. Not that I have that amount of money, but it would barley get me a flat in London. If you're a bit sick of London and need to get out for a day then I fully recommend jumping on the fast train and coming down to Rochester for a quick day trip. Now, where next?