Worth the Journey
With the last remains of my wages and a voucher in hand for 25% off, I made the arduous journey to Chester, to go to Blue Planet Aquarium.
I got up at half past ten on a Saturday morning to pack my rucksack, double checked train times and left without telling anyone where I was going. I was worried that my parents would think I’m sort of pathetic for going to the aquarium on my own, and didn’t want to deal with the question of why none of my friends were coming with me (they were all too poor or busy.)
In my head, the few times I’d been to Blue Planet as a child, it didn’t take long to get there. This was not the case. It took two trains and an incredibly anxiety inducing bus ride – but I’ll go into that later.
The trains were fine. I can deal with trains and I’d spent the night before checking and double-checking the crossover times, so I knew the schedule like the back of my hand.
Chester on its own is very much deserving of another visit. It’s old and beautiful and I only spent about half an hour in it. I skirted around the back of the cathedral for a shortcut, making a note to actually come back and explore the place. But my destination was outside of Chester, and I had to get there first.
With Google Maps as my trusty guide, I left Chester train station knowing which bus I had to get, but unfortunately no idea where I was supposed to get the bus from. There were about twenty bus stops in sight, and yet Google was telling me I had to walk twenty minutes into town to get the bus from the bus station. Not happening. I walked to one of the bus stops and read the unfamiliar numbers, trying to see if one of the buses just said ‘Blue Planet’ on it. I figured it was a popular enough attraction that there’d be a shuttle bus or something. And there was, according to the Blue Planet website; I just had to find it.
After some anxious wandering back and forth I found the stop – directly across from the train station entrance. The bus journey was uneventful except for my silent wonder at how fancy the bus was. The seats were more like a coach than the run-down faded ones I’m used to. People in Chester are of a higher class, clearly.
The first thing I saw of the Blue Planet Aquarium was the side of the building, where a giant red octopus was painted on the side of the building. It had a sort of ominous Cthulhu vibe, but only because it was partially obscured by the tree line, showing weird tentacles pointing towards the entrance.
The Aquarium itself is massive – one of the biggest in the UK – and brags the longest aqua tunnel and biggest collection of sharks in Europe. You start through the tropical rivers in South Africa and follow the route through oceans, abysses, and the mangroves, then go outside to see the otters, who don’t really fit into the theme but they’re otters.
The aqua tunnel is basically a giant tank with one of those airport runways running through it, meaning you are surrounded by the water and six-foot sharks swimming above and around you, but the sharks all have friendly names, like Nigel, with little signs along the walls to help you identify the animals.
The joy of going to the aquarium alone was that I didn’t have to rush through it like a lot of the families were. For kids, I guess fish aren’t that cool, but I was completely absorbed. I read everything. I watched a poor tortoise manage to turn himself right way up (this took a long time) and I went through the whole aquarium twice. It was well worth the anxiety-inducing trip it took to get there.
They don’t sell lighters at the Blue Planet Aquarium (it’s hardly a family friendly souvenir) but they do sell tiny cute keychains. I debated for a long time which keyring to pick. My favourite animal I’d seen that day were the axolotls but I must have been the only one seeing them as there was no axolotl merchandise. My keyring now sits proudly on my keys. She’s called Wilma – like the oldest shark they have at Blue Planet.
Editor: Floss Hafter-Smith