A Visit to Rochester Cathedral to see Luke Jerram's Gaia

I adore summer in Kent. The sun comes out, blooms are everywhere and we know its time to explore. On a gorgeous Friday in May, I took my mum to nearby Rochester to see Luke Jerram’s Gaia at Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester is a beautiful town about twenty minutes away from where I live, notable for being Charles Dickens’s favourite town. You can see why – Rochester has a quaint, picturesque quality and I love visiting there.

No mother-daughter day is complete without a bit of lunch and we chose Fish 55 on Rochester High Street. My mum had a salmon pate to start while I chose the mackerel pate. It was divine.

I then chose the lobster gnocchi, bisque and chicory main and my mum had a scallop with garlic sauce main, both off the specials board. You’ll notice my mum strategically chooses items I’m allergic to (salmon and garlic), I guess she doesn’t like to share!

The manager and staff at Fish 55 were wonderful and very helpful in sitting my mum in an accessible spot where we could keep an eye on her mobility scooter outside.

After our meal, we wandered over to Rochester Cathedral where the staff were again wonderful and directed us to the accessible entrance at the side, allowing my mum to take her mobility scooter into the main exhibition area. It's not easy travelling around with mobility issues but some places make it so much easier.

Luke Jerram’s Gaia is spectacular. This was a bitter-sweet visit because visiting Luke Jerram’s Moon in Rochester Cathedral was the last thing we did before lockdown was imposed in March 2020. I was grateful and pensive all at once while I stared at the beautiful Earth and thought about how lucky I am.

Like Moon, Gaia rotates slowly, giving you a chance to see Africa, Australasia and South America. I wish we could have seen Europe and North America but my mum enjoyed seeing her beloved Africa.

After a very long visit with Gaia, we wandered outside into the gardens and then into the crypt to enjoy a cup of coffee. Kent traffic on a Friday afternoon is not to be laughed at so we needed all the energy we could muster before the drive home.

The crypt and café are completely accessible via a wheelchair lift.

I didn't quite manage to take as many photos of Rochester Castle and Cathedral as I normally do but I hope to visit again in July when my in-laws are over.

Accessibility Guide to Rochester

Navigating around with a mobility scooter can be a daunting task and I’m going to start talking more and more about this on future posts in the hope that it will help other readers. Accessibility bloggers have been invaluable to me in recent years and have helped ensure that I can take my mum on weekends away and day trips.

For our trip to Rochester, we landed up parking in the train station parking – which is on RingGo – because the central car parks were full. I was a bit nervous as it was on the other side of a very busy road from the town but there were clear crossing points that helped us on our way.

The only caution I’d give with Rochester is that there are a lot of cobbles so you’d need to judge whether you can navigate those with your wheelchair or mobility scooter.

We use a portable mobility scooter for our trips which folds away into my boot. Again, you need to be cautious with smaller, portable scooters as they have limited battery life and must be charged before each trip and at the end of the day on overnight trips. We learned this when my mum’s scooter couldn’t make it up the hill at Montmartre on our second day in Paris!

An Art Deco Walking Tour of Whitechapel

Way back in 2015, when I was still working in London, the company I was working for moved their offices from the Strand (near Charing Cross) to east London. I was excited to explore a new area but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many Art Deco buildings there were in the area. I immediately mentioned this to Yannick and was delighted when he announced an Art Deco Tour of Whitechapel last year.

Yannick’s tour was incredibly well-researched and we learned all about the characters and changing times of the Whitechapel area, including the rag trade, famous photography studios, Jewish refugees and sweatshops. I definitely don’t want to spoil the tour but I’ll share ten of the Art Deco buildings that we saw on the tour.

One America Square

One America Square was the first 'Art Deco' building that I spotted in the area. I’ve used quote marks there because the building is somewhat of a pretender, as suggested by its ostentatious grandeur and was only completed in 1990. There used to a fabulous bar at the bottom of my photo, which proved very popular for after-work drinks and farewell parties. I suspect it was a victim of the pandemic.

Ibex House

I'm going to try not to proclaim favourites on this post because out of the ten buildings I’ve featured, approximately half of them are favourites of mine. Nevertheless, Ibex House is my third favourite of the buildings featured in this post. It is pictured both here and at the very top of the post. Located at 42-47 Minories, I used to walk past this beautiful building every day on the way to work.

Number One Prescot Street

This imposing building was once known as The Tea House and is now divided into several posh apartments.

Sugar House, 99 Lehman Street

Sugar House fell into disrepair for over 20 years but was restored and divided into more expensive apartments.

Pentex Head Office, 94-100 Christian Street

The Pentex building remains Pentex’s head office.

Myrdle Court, Myrdle Street

Myrdle Court is part of the Myrdle Street conservation area which hopefully means the building will get an injection of cash to update the facades and windows.

Cheviot House

Cheviot House is my second favourite of the buildings featured in this post and is located on Philpot Street.

Cheviot House was built in 1937 for textile merchants Kornberg & Segal and was the subject of a massive fight against demolition. The building was saved from the ill intentions of Tower Hamlets borough and is now (you guessed it) divided into posh apartments.

Comfort House

Comfort House, Gwynne House and New Road Hotel (below) were designed by Hume Victor Kerr.

Gwynne House

I loved this building so much and took an insane amount of photos of it. Gwynne House is located on Turner Street and there is a lift in that central tower. This building brought back so many memories of living in apartments in Johannesburg, which also has a high number of Art Deco properties.

New Road Hotel

As suggested by its name, New Road Hotel is now a hotel after a multi-million pound investment but it was formerly a garment factory until its closure in 2000. It was originally designed by Hume Victor Kerr.

That brings us to the end of the Art Deco walking tour of Whitechapel. Yannick doesn't have any tours planned at the moment but visit London Art Deco Tours and sign up to be notified when the next tours are scheduled. You can also visit my previous posts on Yannick's Art Deco Tours of Bloomsbury and The Strand or check out the interactive map below to plan your own walk.