We had intended to go to Chester. We had been a few times, but one of the biggest problems going to Chester by car is the parking - IT IS HORRENDOUS! There are two car parks I go to, but both were packed and the traffic made it impossible to find another car park. There's a park and ride scheme on the edge of town, but by this point I had lost the will to live to even bother trying that. If you are intending to go to Chester, I really do recommend you take the train instead. Although remember to take the express train rather than the one that stops at every stop. If I remember correctly it adds about half an hour onto the journey.
As I was more than a little hacked off trying to find a place to park, I thought we should go to the Hoole Road area instead and check out the little shopping area there. From my research I knew there was a charity shop in the vicinity.
So we headed back down the A56 to Hoole. We did attempt to park in the free car park there, but again it was choc-a-block. Thankfully there were some empty 30 minute parking bays on Hoole Road, giving us just enough time to do a quick wander.
Hoole has a nice little shopping area. It reminded me of Chorlton in terms of the types of shops there - cafes, delis, artisan bread shops, hair dressers and hot shave barbers, off beat restaurants, local butchers and fishmongers, launderette, a veg shop called 'Mr Fruity', gift shops, local designer clothes shops and fancy pub food. The layout of Hoole itself reminded me of the Brighton Lanes, but in a dinky and less touristy format.
We quickly popped in and out of a few shops as it was blowing a gale in the street. My other half wasn't impressed with the charity shop as it didn't do vinyl, but I thought it was okay for cute bric-a-brac.
The Sticky Walnut seemed to be a trendy restaurant that did some fancy sounding food. Whilst we were looking at the menu, the woman behind us said it was quite a nice restaurant to eat in.
We popped into a little gift shop that did cards and fun kids stuff. What was odd about the place was that it had a serious amount of cards - I mean the shelves were jam packed. I know I normally complain around Christmas time about how hard it is to get decent cards for birthdays as the shelves are dedicated to Christmas stock, but you seriously would not have that problem here.
Like any shopping area in the UK at the moment, the recession was biting in Hoole. There were a few empty shop fronts, but it did seem like a busy area. The local cafes were busy with locals ordering their lattes and paninis and the gastro pub was clearing up after its lunch time rush. Obviously the local car park being absolutely packed shows this little suburb is either popular or has a problem with on street parking.
Later my Dad mentioned Hoole is popular with tourists as there are loads of hotels in the area - you really can't miss the hotels and B&B's driving down Hoole Road. This goes some way to explain the fancy looking restaurants and gastro pubs in the area. Apparently Hoole is also popular with students too - for me that explained why there was still a launderette. I find it odd in this day and age to find launderettes, but I guess where there is a population of students there is still the need for them. I spent enough time in them as a student reading books whilst my clothes were laundered.
As we had limited parking time we headed back to the car. I definitely would come here again if we had a better parking space or if I was staying at one of the Hoole Road hotels. Hoole was a pleasant surprise given the fact this was a last minute visit as we were stuffed trying to park in Chester centre. One day I will get to do a Chester review, but this time we made do with this little arty suburb of Hoole.