The lovely city of St Albans is worth a visit - over 1.5 million tourists think so each year, and we're expecting over 2 million in 2018.
When you live and work in a city, you just get on with what you have to do, trips to the post office, shopping at the supermarkets, popping into town for last minute birthday presents, or drinks and dinner at one of the many restaurants (we'll list a few later on).
It's only when you have someone visit from overseas that you see it differently. A friend of mine from Australia came over with her Mum, and we decided to have a little wander round St Albans, then head off to Cambridge, but it turns out, there's much to do in St Albans, so we never made it to Cambridge - well there's always next time.
After picking them up from the station, we had a coffee in the little tea room (which is now being turned into the St Albans Museum), before braving the 93 very narrow and steep steps to the top of the Clock Tower - and very narrow they are.
The views across St Albans are worth the effort though, you can literally see for miles.
We made the mistake of stopping on the way back down just by the bell - now that bell can seriously make some noise. And if my friends were still a little bleary from jet lag, they certainly weren't after that!
After the hike up the tower, we took the leisurely tour around St Albans Abbey - the tour lasts about an hour, and it was fascinating hearing the history of the place, starting from about the late 700s, and being rebuilt and added to over the centuries.
A light lunch followed after our educational tour, and then we wandered back down past the Abbey, and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (the oldest pub in Britain according to some) - they do a lovely Sunday lunch, and the garden is fab in the summer.
We wandered around the lake, and up on to the green fields - where you can see walls and foundations built by the Romans, and a beautiful mosaic with a hypocaust (method of heating) in a Roman home. The Romans used candles to light their homes - made out of papyrus paper rolled in either beeswax or tallow as the wax element, although candles were produced across the world with different materials before Roman times.
We then walked across to the Roman museum - Verulamium where you can find out so much about the Roman way of life. including the fact that Verulamium (as St Albans was known in Roman times) was the 3rd largest city in Roman Britain.
And then finally across the road to the Roman Theatre (it's not an amphitheatre) and is one of a kind in the UK, built in about 140AD.
To say they were impressed with the history of St Albans is an understatement, and so was I. I'd seen elements of the Roman remains, and walked past the Abbey many times, but to go and see all these sights properly was amazing.
Now I can see why it appeals to tourists from all over the world. And if you are visiting from October to March and you have time, take a Ghost and Ghouls walking tour - it's interesting hearing about (and seeing) all the sites of our ghostly neighbours (you need to book in advance). And if you're in St Albans towards the end of June, there is an annual procession dedicated to St Alban, who died on 22nd June, over 1700 years ago.
Back to the present day - the city itself is beautiful, the buildings are ancient and pretty, with cobble stones in parts. There are lots of lovely independent shops and many of the high street favourites if you fancy some retail therapy, as well as the popular market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
After all the shopping and tourist attractions...where to eat, drink and be merry in St Albans - the quickest and easiest way to digest is via a list, so here it is...
- Lussmanns (yummy fresh fish and meat dishes with a fab set menu)
- Bua Thai (one of many Thais in St Albans, always great and it's BYO)
- L'Italiana (freshly made pasta dishes in a fun and friendly restaurant)
- Bar Meze (perfect for sharing and a night out with friends)
- Dylans (The Kings Arms) - fab food, in a beautiful old building, great wine list too
- Veer Dhara - (something a bit different to your traditional Indian)
There's lots of other restaurants in St Albans - Cote, Zizzis, Pizza Express, Loch Fyne, Carluccio's, Wagamama, Nandos to name a few. And the famous Waffle House - if you love a waffle, this is the place for you, with every topping you can think of.
And for drinks...
- The Beech House (great for meeting friends and bigger parties)
- The Cock (cosy pub for a good old glass of wine and gossip)
- The Boot (good for traditional ales)
- Sucker Punch (cocktails and drinks with friends)
- Dylans (The Kings Arms (good for drinks too)
Again, there are loads of other pubs and bars, but the above are worth seeking out. So there you have it - a trip around St Albans from the Romans to the present day.
St Albans is where Taylor Benfield began, and here's hoping we last as long as some of those Roman remains.