Sunday, 10 March 2013

Blue Planet Aquarium and Norton Priory

Hello, Blog Fans.  We had another nice day out (despite the weather).  We visited the Blue Planet Aquarium and Norton Priory in the general Chester / Liverpool area.   Before getting into that, a few notes of interest first.

I had a first on Friday night.  After 2 years here, I attended my first "leaving do" (going away dinner) with traditional drinks and "a curry".  The guest of honor was a colleague from my team at work who is moving back to Germany to work at our site there.  Fourteen of us met up after work on Friday and had a few beers before heading to a curry house in the city centre.  Now, this was my first visit to an establishment of this caliber (and it wasn't on the high end, to but it nicely).  But, there was plenty of room on a Friday night and a bunch of engineers didn't grumble about the price so it all worked out.  Good times -- glad I went and best of luck Andreas.

Interesting to note from that night, we had:

a German (engaged to a Portuguese women)
a German born/raised in Brazil
a Mexican
an Italian
an Irishman (married to a Thai)
two Spaniards
an American (me)
and a bunch of Brits

Quite the United Nations -- and that's normal, too.

Today, Sunday, is Mother's Day here in the UK.   Technically, it's Mothering Sunday (wiki), which is the 4th Sunday in Lent (and why it is so stinking early).  We've decided to go local while we are here and celebrate on this day (FYI, Father's Day is the same in both places).  If Kuk were on the ball (and not so busy) she's angle for a second celebration in May as well.

Given that we would be day-tripping on Sunday, I made her a nice meal (fondue, actually) on Saturday.  I was going to make her one of her favorite desserts (apple crepes) but we were too full.

She had asked to "see some flowers" but it's really too early for that.  In fact, we had a few snow flakes and the temps hovered a few degrees above freezing so we improvised. (You can tell it's not exactly warm in the picture up top).  She said she had a good time at least.

So, our first stop was the Blue Planet Aquarium (B above) just outside of Chester.  It's divided highway and motorways most of the way so we made it there in less than 90 minutes.  After that we went to Norton Priory (C), but more on that later.

The aquarium is nice, though pricey.  They had a fresh water section and a large saltwater tank.  The best part was the tunnel they had connected to the tank which gave some interesting views.

really large fish (technical, huh?)

piranha are scary boogers, but . . .

they never look that way in real life

 giant octopus (asleep as usual)

most of my pictures were "rubbish" because of the lighting and speed of the fish -- this shark was as good as it got.  This was the coolest part of the aquarium though.

Videos are actually better than photos.  Nicole took and edited these:


sting ray

guitar fish staying still for me

 ditto for the sting ray

here's a photo of the tunnel -- they have something like this closer to home at the Newport Aquarium as well

upside down jelly fish (no really, that's what it is called)

this is a well camouflaged stone fish -- the most venomous fish in the world , believe it or not

Alex as a snack

they did a nice little show with a couple of divers in the tank -- when they started feeding the rays, etc. it got pretty hectic

and finally some cute otters outside

So, not a bad little visit, but it was pricey (about £50 for the family).  I guess it's good to throw the kids a bone every now and then.

Next up was the Norton Priory (wiki). From the wiki link:

The priory was established as an Augustinian foundation in the 12th century, and was raised to the status of an abbey in 1391. The abbey was closed in 1536, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. Nine years later the surviving structures, together with the manor of Norton, were purchased by Sir Richard Brooke, who built a Tudor house on the site, incorporating part of the abbey. This was replaced in the 18th century by a Georgian house. The Brooke family left the house in 1921, and it was partially demolished in 1928. In 1966 the site was given in trust for the use of the general public.

Excavation of the site began in 1971, and became the largest to be carried out by modern methods on any European monastic site. It revealed the foundations and lower parts of the walls of the monastery buildings and the abbey church.

The star of the show was this medieval sculpture of St. Christopher.  It's over 600 years old and in remarkably good shape (somehow surviving the dissolution).  It stands nearly 12' tall (it's supported as it was not intended to be free standing).  Notice the folds in the clothes and the fact that the clothing on the left is still touching the leg (i.e. continuous).   Fascinating sight.

The legend:

. . . an enormous man called Reprobus who traveled in search of the greatest master in the world.  He firstly searched for the King, then the Devil and finally Christ, whom he served by carrying travelers over a dangerous river.

One stormy night a small child asked for help crossing the river.  The weight of the child became almost unbearable, but Reprobus struggled on and when he reached the other side the child explained that He was Christ, and the enormous weight had been that of the whole world and its creator.  Christ baptized Reprobus "Christopher", who later became a saint after he was martyred for his Christian faith.

a close up of the fish around his feet

painting of St. Christopher (they think the statue was originally in these colors)

we enjoyed petting this whippet who was whining at being left outside the cafe

Next up was a tour of the walled garden.  This is normally closed this time of year (for obvious reasons) but they had a special tour going today for Mother's Day.  Two other ladies joined the four of us.  I liked the doorway leading in.

pretty much off season -- we still enjoyed the quick stroll around and it whet our appetite for a future (summer) visit

 snowdrops -- one of the few things flowering

lots of fruit trees (trust me) -- they have all sorts of jams, etc. for sale.  We bought some "quince" which is supposed to be all the rage

 a few sculptures too

and another

surprisingly, they had some chickens too.  I guess it started with an abandoned cockerel and they added some hens to keep him happy.  (His name is Derek, btw.)

back inside to the museum and this impressive tile work from the priory

 closer view

they had some old coffin lids too

back outside the priory and the surviving undercroft -- there were quite a few "rooms" like this one

Here's a nice view of the foundation/ruins.
We enjoyed the priory and could very well come back again in warmer weather.  All and all a nice day out.  Once home, it was time to round out the day with a little cooking.

Tonight was another new dish from Jamie Oliver:  grilled steak, saffron rice and ratatouille.  Very nice.

 and an apple crepe for dessert -- as promised!  Happy UK Mother's Day, Kuk.

token shot with me to prove I still exist

Have a good week everyone.

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