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December 15, 2015

Get into the festive spirit at Liverpool Christmas Market

Phoenix Christmas snowman

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … With only a few days to go, there are festive decorations in every city, town and village throughout the country. Christmas cards keep landing on the mat; last night I spent a few happy hours writing cards to old friends and sticking stamps on envelopes. (Yes, I know e-cards are more environmentally friendly but I like the personal touch of a ‘real’ card, though I do send some e-cards to friends far away or if they send them to me.) A recent visit to Liverpool Christmas Market got us properly into the festive spirit.

Festive knitted figures - image zoedawes

John and I had gone to see our son, who started at Liverpool John Moores University in September. He seemed to be throwing himself into student life with serious dedication, managing to fit in lectures around hangovers and the gym, We had lunch at Almost Famous American-style burger joint, which serves great burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and other cholesterol-raising delights in quirky surroundings.

Almost Famous buger bar mural Liverpool - photo zoedawes

Almost Famous mural

It’s over-priced IMO, charging extra for fries, serve what look like fairly insipid cocktails and they make a feature of cheap cutlery and kitchen roll. It was packed and Alex loved it, which is all that mattered.

Liverpool One Christmas - image John Bradley

Liverpool One Christmas – image John Bradley

Then it was shopping time. I’d visions of us wandering round Liverpool One, the flagship Shopping Mall, gazing in envy at the designer clothes and trying on potential Christmas Day frocks. But that was not to be; we spent most of the time in and out of charity shops and ‘Vintage’ outlets where Alex rifled through racks of clothes looking for bargain brand-names. He’s become very consumerist in a studenty kind of way!

Liverpool Christmas Market - image

Liverpool Christmas Market – image

Liverpool Christmas Market

Eventually John and I left him and had a look round Liverpool Christmas Market. It’s mainly along  Lord Street, Church Street, Paradise Street with some stalls centred around Williamson Square. There were the usual stalls selling Christmas decorations including quaint knitted figures, crystal baubles and every imaginable wooden item on which personal messages or names could be inscribed.

Christmas decorations - zoedawes

Christmas decorations

It was a very blustery, wet afternoon (precursor to devastating Storm Desmond as it turned out) and there weren’t too many people braving the weather. Those that were, made the most of the gluhwein, bratworst, gingerbread and other tasty treats on sale. Must admit, I am not a big fan of German sausage but they seemed very popular.

Bratwurst stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Bratwurst stall Liverpool

One of the more unusual things this Christmas is the Liverpool Snowflake Trail, where, according to Visit Liverpool, Jack Frost is transforming Liverpool city centre into a wintry wonderland of festive fun for young and old. Explore the city along his Snowflake Trail, and see Liverpool transformed by sparkling winterscapes, with familiar streets becoming swirling snowstorms of sound and light. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the giant painted snowflakes scattered around and about! 

Liverpool Snowflake Trail

Snowflake Trail

There’s a map of the Trail and you can’t miss these colourful snowflakes, especially the enormous one in Williamson Square.

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map


Festive Beer Hut Liverpool

Liverpool Beer Hut


Another quirky sight is the large cone decorated with pink and purple hearts. It’s actually a Beer Hut; inside there is a bar and all around are cosy little nooks which seat about six people. Not sure about the colour scheme but it’s definitely eye-catching! Not far away, there’s also an open-air Ice Rink which attracts wannabe Torvill and Deans through til January.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Liverpool without music and there were street performers on every corner. One guy, who looked remarkably like John Lennon, was playing a guitar and singing Beatles hits, but the one getting the most attention was a guy who turned himself into a ‘Human Transformer’ and danced around to hiphop. From almost every shop came the sound of Christmas songs and the whole atmosphere was festive and fun, in spite of the weather.

Liverpool Christmas Market - Rudolph's Rest - photo zoedawes

Rudolph’s Rest

I bought a couple of festive novelties, John debated having some Mulled Wine but gave it a miss as we had to meet Alex and get home. (If you’re going to make it yourself, then I can highly recommend Blue Moose Kitchen Mulled Wine Sachets. Add one to some decent wine – it knocks spots off the bottled versions!)

Mulled wine stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Mulled wine stall

It was lovely to spend some time wandering round Liverpool Christmas Market; hope you get to visit one over the festive season. If you like Christmas Markets then you’ll also enjoy The festive sparkle of Manchester Christmas Market 🙂

November 1, 2015

Shopping with a dash of history in charming Chester

Chester shops

On a shop-til-you-drop day out in Chester with a friend we combined an exploration of the streets, lanes and byways with an in-depth trawl through its department stores, boutiques and quirky independent shops.

Chester Roman soldier

This Roman soldier seemed oblivious to the light rain dripping down his steel helmet as he chatted to two people holding aloft signs encouraging passers-by to try the ‘All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet’ at the nearby restaurant on one of the main shopping streets in the walled city of Chester.  It summed up the universal appeal of one of England’s most attractive towns – ancient history, intriguing architecture, excellent shops and a multitude of great venues to eat and drink.

According to the handy ‘Walkabout Easy Map and Guide to Chester’ we picked up in the Tourist Information Centre next to the splendid Victorian Town Hall, “Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans marched onto a sandstone ridge, built Deva (or Dewa),  largest fortress in Britain prepared to do battle with the wild, fierce Britons of Wales and the North.  Two millenniums later, the drama and passions of Chester’s history have left their mark in some of the most spectacular buildings in Britain.”

Diorama of the Roman Legionary fortress Deva Victrix in Grosvenor Museum, Chester. - image Łukasz Nurczyński

Diorama of the Roman Legionary fortress Deva Victrix – Grosvenor Museum – image Łukasz Nurczyński

We didn’t have time to visit the Roman ruins outside the city but the Dewa Roman Experience, on Pierpoint Lane took us back to that feisty era with the sights, sounds and smells of Roman Chester with a look round a Roman galley and the excavated remains of a fortress in the heart of the city.

Figures on the Rows Chester - zoedawes

Figures on the Rows Chester

One of the most appealing aspects of this town is The Rows, covered walkways above street level, dating back to the 13th century.  The names of these Rows often reflect the original trades of the rich merchants who built their townhouses here ie Ironmongers, Shoemakers or more prosaically Northgate Row.  Nowadays they are a treasure trove of shops, cafes and bars and great for escaping the occasional rain shower.

Eastgate Chester - zoedawes

Our leaflet informed us a Town Crier dressed in 18th century finery proclaims the news daily at 12 noon in the summer months.  We didn’t see him but we were entertained by the numerous street performers playing funky music, standing still as statues til a coin was dropped in front of them, doing magic tricks and singing songs, some even in tune.  We spent ages wandering in and out of the shops, especially relishing the scented charms of the perfume counters in Browns Of Chester Department Store. Nearby is ‘The Olde Boot’ a 17th century pub with original seating and good food.

Olde Boot Inn Chester - photo zoedawes

Olde Boot Inn Chester

After a rather exhausting trawl through the myriad shops in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre it was time for lunch.  We decided to go next door and treat ourselves to a light bite in 5-star luxury in La Brasserie at the illustrious Grosvenor Hotel.  I can highly recommend their smoked salmon sandwiches!

The rain cleared in the afternoon so to walk off our meal we had an airy stroll around the City Walls. “The best ornament of the city is, that the streets are very broad, the walls in good repair, and it is a very pleasant walk around the city upon the walls, and within the battlements, from whence you may see the county around.”  Daniel Defoe wrote this in 1724 and the walls are still much the same today.  After walking part of the way round we dove back into the city streets for another quick shop then it was time for one last sight to see: Chester Cathedral.  Built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon church, it became the city’s cathedral in 1541.  There’s a guided tour every afternoon but if you’re in a rush, do take time just to enjoy its splendid majesty for a little while.

Chester Cathedral Cheshire - photo zoedawes

On our way back to the car park, swinging our fancy shopping bags like Carrie and Samantha along a Manhatten sidewalk, we passed under the ornate Eastgate Clock, installed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee. Its delicate red, blue, gold and black filigree decoration seems to sum up Chester – a colourful journey through time and history.

Eastgate and clock Chester zoedawes

More about Cheshire: Knutsford and Elizabeth Gaskell.

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See the Eastgate Clock - Things to do in Chester Cheshire  zoedawes - image by  zoe dawes

January 9, 2014

Top vintage shops in Berlin

Vintage shops in Berlin

Hipsters are flocking to Berlin in droves these days so it’s no wonder second-hand and vintage shops seem to be popping up everywhere. From the worn furniture in the trendy Weserstrasse bars to the grungy outfits proudly paraded through the streets of Kreuzberg, the German capital has certainly embraced a lightly used aesthetic. The best way to fit in, while on holiday is to dress the part, so check out some of the top vintage shops in Berlin.


Rag & Bone Man

Located on a quiet street just off of the busy Karl-Marx-Strasse, Rag & Bone Man is a lovely example of the newest in Berlin hipster trends – the coffee shop cum second-hand store. Spend the afternoon carefully looking through their newest offerings while enjoying a delicious sweet treat and a nice coffee.


Garage - weighing machine

With a unique approach to pricing, Kreuzberg’s Garage is definitely well worth a visit. Rather than charging per garment, this cool shop has elected to allot a cost/kilo. While often a great deal of rummaging may be required, this spot is loaded with cool quirky finds.


Humana Berlin

A chain of second-hand shops spread sporadically throughout the city, Humana has bins all over the city collecting cast-offs. Expect to do some digging before stumbling upon any treasures but it’s usually worth the effort as items here tend to be a little cheaper than most of the other vintage shops in Berlin. The locations on Frankfurter Allee and Karl-Marx-Strasse are particularly worth visiting.

Made in Berlin

One of the most popular and well-established second-hand shops in Berlin, Mitte’s Made in Berlin boasts an impressive selection of vintage clothing from high-end designer brands to the quirky no-name knitted jumpers.


Sewing machine

A tiny independent boutique just below Weserstrasse in Neukoelln, Shio is owned by an amazing seamstress who collects beautiful items and carefully tailors them, giving them a somewhat modern edge. Expect to find some gorgeous clothing here and if anything you doesn’t fit you quite right, the owner promises to tailor it to you. What more could you possibly ask from a second-hand boutique?

Sing Blackbird

Located in the heart of the trendy Kreuzkoelln area, Sing Blackbird is another delightful coffee shop/vintage boutique. A bit on the pricier side, it’s always loaded with beautiful vintage designer clothing, jewellery and accessories. Not satisfied simply sticking to sales however, the lovely owners also organise a monthly flea market, film screenings as well as concerts.

Canadian Madeline Sinclair wrote this post for GoEuro and lives in Berlin.  When she isn’t busy writing she is scouring the city for the best deals on vintage clothes.