This weekend I took a little trip up to Rochester, a historic city in Kent. Visit Kent describe Rochester as the area where Dickens’ life started and ended. As soon as you arrive, you can’t fail to notice some of the places mentioned in his books lining the characterful streets, which are made up of quirky shops and ancient buildings.
You can take a tour of Rochester which covers a range of sights familiar to Dickens’ fans, including the Six Poor Travellers House, Restoration House and Dicken’s own home – Gad’s Hill Place. Many of the exhibits in the Guildhall Museum are dedicated to Dickens and Rochester also boasts Baggins Book Bazaar, one of the largest second hand bookshops in England.
At Christmas, Rochester really comes into its own and, on the first weekend of December each year, its streets are lined with stalls and carol singers to celebrate a Dickensian Christmas, culminating in a lamp-lit parade.
Although we decided not to brave the crowds for the Dickensian Christmas itself this year, we thought we’d visit the Christmas markets in the grounds of Rochester Castle instead, the following weekend. This festive market boasts a beautiful setting, where the stalls are sheltered in the shadow of one of England’s tallest castles, overlooking the stunning cathedral, the second oldest in the country no less.
It was an undeniably atmospheric setting, and the mulled cider – along with our obligatory Christmas jumpers – added to the warmth, despite the organisers arranging a ‘snow storm’ as you walked through the wrought iron gateway of the castle grounds.
The visit reminded me of two things, the first was why I was so inspired by the places Dickens called home in Kent – Rochester and Broadstairs – that I used them to create the fictional St Nicholas Bay. The second thing, though, was perhaps at the heart of what Christmas is all about. Whilst pretty settings and atmospheric Christmas markets are appealing, it’s the people you’re with who really count. I shared the day with my daughter and one of my best friends and we spent a lot more time talking and laughing than we did browsing the stalls, which is something money just can’t buy.
Happy Christmas and all best wishes to everyone who follows the Write Romantics’ blog.