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.
Rochester, in Kent, seemed like a good place to start.
Getting to Rochester
Getting to Rochester from London is really easy. You have the pick of going via London Bridge, Victoria and St Pancras. If you go via St Pancras, you can get the HS1 link and it’ll only take around 35 minutes. If you get a slow link, it can take over an hour.
Just don’t do what I did, which is get the slow train by accident and arrive an hour later than planned 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 of 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.
Eat & Drink
Stop for a coffee at the Deaf Cat. For a start, I love that it’s named the Deaf Cat because Dickens’ used to have a deaf cat sat on his desk for inspiration.
Can I have a cat for inspiration? Please?
But seriously. It’s clear they love their coffee and they’re in a handy location on the high street. It’s a fun independent business.
For food, grab crepes at Crepe and Co near Rochester Castle. The building is really sweet and they have a wicked range of savoury and sweet pancakes as well as waffles. There seems to be the option to have Oreos with everything and that is the kind of eatery I can support.
Would I go again?
I quite enjoyed visiting Rochester. It’s opened my eyes to the possibility of not living in London for the rest of my life. I can see why Londoners are flocking to move there. Probably helps that you can buy a bloody massive seven bedroomed townhouse for £1m. Not that I have that amount of money, but it would barely get me a flat in London.
I also didn’t manage to go and see the castle when I was there either. It was closed! But it looked so imposing when we came in on the train and looked quite interesting too. I think it’d be quite an interesting addition to a day trip in Rochester.
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?