As we sat around the coffee table she exhaled into her hot chocolate and sighed
“Jeeeeez this place is so boring!” It was the first time we had all gotten together in a while and as murmurs of mutual agreement crept around the table the words were out before I could stop them.
“How can you say that when you don’t actually do anything locally?”
All eyes stopped on me, mouths open with hot chocolates suspended mid-air.
Had I done it again? That thing where I speak before I think and inadvertently offend someone?
But as the giggles and the “oh god you’re right‘s” crept up I knew me and my big mouth were safe.
The things is, sometimes you know a place so well that it’s easy to take it for granted.
When you are able to walk for hours and not stumble across anything new because you know every little nook and cranny it can steal some of the magic which accompanies a place because we all want to travel the unknown, right? Or at least that’s what we say that we want to do. But on the days leading up to your departure how guilty are you of googling your upcoming destination? *raises hand*
Because I know I am.
I love a good Google on any day of the week but on the days where I have an upcoming trip I love it that little bit more. The FOMO is real and there’s nothing more annoying than reading about a must see after you’re back from that place, which is where the lists and travel guides come in handy. But so often these guides are written by people who have spent a few hours/days in a place. and that’s what not what I want. I want the local’s guide. I want the people whose toothbrush has rested in the neighbourhood they call home for years to tell me what the best spots are, not the algorithm behind a search engine. Which is why I’m starting my first ever guest-posting series here on Toothbrush Travels! A series that provides genuine value and showcases places around the world through the eyes of people who actually live there. No “top tens” written by people who have spent a couple of hours in a place, but a local guide written by an actual local, and to kick things off I’ll be starting this series on a place I’ve called home for years, with this post; Chichester: Through The Eyes Of A Local.
Chichester is a small city, one where you can go out on a Saturday night and know exactly where to find everyone without any prior communication, but it’s also a city that has managed to merge it’s rich Roman heritage and countryside charm to create somewhere which has a little bit of everything.
If you had asked me five years ago to describe Chichester in one word I would have told you it was “suffocating” but in the years since I’ve been back from our expat escapade I’ve grown to appreciate it at face value and one of Chichester’s charms is how truly refreshing it is. Literally. Because Chichester’s location has some incredibly beautiful places to explore and these places can be divided into three sections; City, Country and Coast.
If you asked the locals of Chichester to tell you something about the city, most would sigh before telling you about how it “used to be this charming little market town but nowadays everywhere is taken up by chain restaurants” and that’s true (although you’re not about to find me complaining about having a Wagamamas nearby any time soon) but the city charm and preserved history are still ever present.
What To Do In Chichester:
Pack a picnic and head to Priory.
Priory park is a public park in the north-east section of Chichester full of open greenery, a public play park and a bowls lawn, but it wasn’t always that way. Quite different actually because it used to be home to a monastery and even held a “castle“. Personally I just like it because it’s peaceful and has a Pokemon Gym but turns out the slow life can actually be pretty handy because three, incredibly well preserved, Roman Houses were recently found beneath Priory park.
Take a stroll through the city.
Divided into four sections (North, South, East and West) Chichester’s streets can make for a lovely little stroll, especially if you’re blog-inclined because not only do we have brick walls a-plenty for those #OOTD shots, but Chichester’s walls are also just a tad sassier because they’re Roman Walls and have legit been there for over 1800 years. Or if cobbled streets and historical walls aren’t really your thing and you’re looking for something a bit more colourful, you can check out Chichester’s street art trail or Pallant House Gallery.
Explore the Cathedral and relax in Bishops Gardens.
Founded as a cathedral in 1075 and the only English medieval cathedral which is visible from the sea, Chichester Cathedral has been around a while. But whilst its walls can’t spill the secrets of the past it can take you on the journey of it as it has been incredibly well preserved. The Norman and Gothic style is woven throughout and within the cathedral’s tall walls are beautiful works of art in the form of tapestries, sculptures and stained glass windows.
Pop on your glad rags and head to The Festival Theatre.
Opened in 1962 Chichester Festival Theatre has been entertaining the masses for decades and you could find yourself amongst them. The modern and comfortable amphitheatre-style theatre may be small in comparison to others, but the staff are amongst the friendliest you’ll meet, there’s legroom a-plenty and there’s an abundance of plays, cabarets and comedy nights to choose from!
Where To Eat In Chichester:
I’m going to be honest here. The food scene inside Chichester’s walls leaves much to be desired. Increasing rent prices mean that a lot of the independent eateries have been pushed out and what’s left is a mismatch of branded pubs and chain restaurants. Sure we all love a Wagas, and Wahaca’s guac is pretty damn delish, but if you’re looking for independent fare you’ll be hard pressed, but there are a gems few dotted around the city and these are my favourite places to go for:
Breakfast: Arties Kitchen, South Street.
Lunch: Belle Isle, Chapel Street (Nr West Street)
Dinner: Thai House, St Pancras (Just off of East Street)
Sunday Roast: The Nags Head (Roast potatoes can be hit and miss but it’s usually delicious!)
Drinks: If you’re looking to meet an abundance of people then gravitating towards Trents, Chantry (Slug) or Vestry will ensure you do so, but if you prefer to have a side of conversation with your drink, then; Purchases, Number 1, Arties Kitchen and Rocking Horse are the go-tos.
Chichester Countryside is one of my favourite places to be. The back roads that wind alongside fields which resemble patchwork quilts and the quintessentially English pubs you find dotted alongside them. Sure the city has Roman heritage, is beautiful to look at and has useful things like shops, but outside of shopping and eating it doesn’t really have a great deal to actually do. The countryside however has lots… Especially if you like walking.
Step back in time at Weald and Download Museum.
Weald and Downland Museum is an open-air museum which houses a collection of over 40 quintessentially English houses, farm barns and public houses which span across centuries, with some of the buildings dating back as far as the 11th and 12th century.
Wander around Boxgrove.
Boxgrove is a small village in Chichester and is also the home of Boxgrove Ruins, the grade-1 listed ruins which were first founded in the 11th century as part of the abbey at Lessay but now make a pretty epic spot for photos. There’s not much to explore (as you can see in the above photo) as the ruins themselves are a touch small (I mean, they are ruins!) but just next door you have Boxgrove Church, a charming church surrounded by peace and quiet.
Take some time to smell delicious.
By frolicking through the fields at Lordington Lavender. Every July the owners open up the fields just before harvest so that people such as you and I can pop on a flowy dress and run through the fields and gaze at the bees doing their thang and if you’re looking to take photos of something a little different then Racton Ruins is just down the road!
Head over the hill to Goodwood.
Whether you want to attend Revival, the Horse Races or Breakfast club Goodwood has an event for pretty much everyone. With most of Goodwood’s events boastings cars and stars, it makes for one heck of a day out no matter which event you choose (but if you can only make one I highly recommend Revival!)
Grab some silence and some panoramic views.
At the top of Kingley Vale. Sure it’s a bit of a walk but the terrain is forgiving (if you follow the path you’re “supposed” to!) and the views when you reach the top are more than worth it. Go on a clear day with a backpack full of food, drinks, books and a blanket to truly make the most of the scenery!
Wander around West Dean Gardens.
The gardens of West Dean are just a small part of the 6,350 acres that make up the West Dean Estate, a place that has an extraordinarily long and varied history, starting as a forest and hunting park in 1066 with land which was owned by the Earls of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk for almost 500 years. But the gardens are beautifully kept and utterly gorgeous to wander around, and if you’re looking to combine that with a little heat then each year West Dean plays host to the Chilli festival; the UK’s biggest chilli festival which has an array of music, pop-up food stands and entertainment.
Get outside and see some art.
Art has always confused me. It can be breath taking and thought provoking and complicated and simple and for the most part the artist’s meanings are completely lost on me but that doesn’t make it any less fun to go out and see the incredible things somebody’s imagination has conjured up and Cass Sculpture Museum is a beautiful place to do it. Nestled amongst wildly grown yet orderly grounds it’s a pleasure to walk around and if you’re super quiet the deers which live in the fields next door come and pay a visit.
Where to eat:
The options to eat outside of Chichester’s walls are SO much better than inside the walls. We have some epic country pubs serving up the most hearty comfort food and it fills both me and my tastebuds with joy.
Breakfast: Ok this is terrible but I usually just grab breakfast at home or get a cheese, egg and bacon bagel from McDonald’s #SorryNotSorry.
Lunch: The Fox Goes Free, Charlton Road.
Dinner: Earl of March, Lavant Road.
Sunday Roast: Anglesey Arms, Halnaker.
Chichester’s coastal location is one of the things that keeps me here because there is just something about the sea which draws you in and forces you to relax. Summer months here are crazy traffic wise but my favourite way to see in the summer is with a bike ride along Salterns Way. If you don’t have a bike, rent one and laugh as you bypass all of the beach traffic in the most glorious way possible.
Wiggle your toes in the sand at West Wittering Beach
If warm soft sands are your thing then you’re going to love West Wittering beach. The sea is freezing but the beautiful coastline and sand dunes more than make up for it and with a blue flag award for cleanliness and safety it’s the perfect spot for a family day out.
Grab a fish and chips and head to Bosham Hoe.
Just by the co-op on Bosham roundabout is a little fish and chip shop called Butlers and their fish and chips are pretty darn tasty, especially if they’re enjoyed with a view and the view at Bosham Hoe? It’s impossibly serene with the only movement being the swish of a paintbrush, the passing of the clouds and the boats moving in and out.
Where To Eat:
Breakfast: Drift In, East Wittering.
Lunch: Butlers Fish and Chip Shop.
Dinner: Anchor Bleu, Bosham.
Sunday Roast: My mum’s house. Sorry – no invites!
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