Well, believe it or not it’s time to start planning your hat-related travels for 2019!
Hat hunting for us here at the National Hat Museum is a sport of pleasure. Not every hat we are looking for is a rare, antique find. We spend a lot of time looking for hats of all eras, including recent hats that will be historical representations in the not-so-distant future.
By this time of the year we have a general idea of where we are going on our next overseas hat quest. Planning begins hot and heavy at this time, and I would recommend that if you are a serious hat collector that you do the same. It also allows you to get out and experience the rest of the world.
One of our favorite places to go is England. As everyone is aware, hats are BIG business in England. We obviously have seen the royal weddings with all of the fancy hats. Well, this is the norm for a lot of weddings in England. But it does not stop there; the horse races that take place all across Great Britain have a ladies’ day, and women wear hats to each day of the race.
So…where do all of these hats go after the events? Most are worn only one time! Many of the hats are donated to the many charity shops that support various causes in Britain. This results in the best hat-hunting grounds in Europe for European-style hats. Now, where does one go to find these fabulous toppers?
Thrift stores, or “charity shops” as they call them in England, are a religion. Every cause seems to have a charity shop. So, obviously, London is a great place to go, as they also have fantastic vintage clothing shops, as well as incredible museums, architecture, tea rooms and more. But the city is huge! Details on London excursions will come in the future. I want to focus on a lesser known area for thrifting that may not be so overwhelming on your first trip out - Chester.
Ah, yes! Beautiful Chester, England, is known for its red stone architecture and the black and white buildings. A little bit of everything that one enjoys about England is wrapped up in one little town, but more importantly, it has the highest concentration of charity shops I have ever seen. There is so much history in Chester that I could go of for pages, but the highlights are the ancient streets surrounded by the ancient walls. Chester has the most complete city walls in Britain and is a lovely walk on its own. There are the banks of the River Dee, which make for a beautiful stroll in the evening. Shop-till-you-drop in the most compact shopping center in Britain, thanks to the world-famous Rows, the two-tiered medieval galleries of shops. In the first century AD it was called Fortress Diva after the River Dee. And, who doesn’t want to go to the Diva charity shops!
And let’s not forget the busking. For those of you who do not know what that is, busking refers to people who play live music on the streets. They do have to be licensed, and I can tell you, the music is wonderful in Chester. These people are professionals and some of it is so beautiful that it could move you to tears.
But it’s all about the charity shops. There is just one after another- Oxfam, Hope House Chester, British Hear Foundation, Age UK, Save the Children, Scope, RSPCA, Cancer research UK, the list just goes on and on! It is well worth a trip to Chester; you can spend days shopping the thrift stores. And if you run out of shopping, it is a short trip by train to other interesting towns. With so much to do I recommend that you stay at least 5 days and take side trips to such places as York.
So, where is the best place to stay? The oldest coaching inn in Chester - The Pied Bull. If you are going in September, be sure to ask when the kids are going back to College, as there are three nights of continuous screaming in the streets of Chester.