Mon 23 Sep - Liverpool, England

Beatlemania and a ferry across the Mersey... And home cooked Italian for dinner...

After a lazy morning, we make ourselves breakfast in the dominantly IKEA furnished kitchen at The Old Dairy. We slept really well as the "rough" Liverpool neighborhood we stayed in was really quiet over night.

Our main goals for today were doing a "free" walking tour of Liverpool starting at 11am and, of course, a trip to Liverpool can just not be complete without "a ferry... across the Mersey" as per the old Gerry and the Pacemakers song from 1964.

As we prepared to leave The Old Dairy, we chat to the owners David and Michelle, who then walk into their reception garage where suddenly Michelle knocks on the window. David is holding up a sign against the window which says "4 -1"... in pink. We were stupid enough to tell him that we were Manchester United fans and he is now rubbing it in, after yesterday's pisspoor football performance against Manchester City. Hans was laughing his head off and we both thought it was very funny.

We left through the black steel doors below, and you can see our car there in the laneway, outside the entrance to The Old Dairy.

BTW, regarding the purple bins, we later learnt that the purple color is carefully chosen. There are two main football teams in Liverpool (which you, the reader, probably knew but if not...); Liverpool FC and Everton and support is almost evenly divided. The former has red shirts and the latter has blue shirts and if you mix those two colours together, you get...

We took the local bus from around for corner - we had a good selection to choose from and knew that Lime Street was our destination as the meeting place for our walking tour.

A quick trip into town and we hopped off the bus when we saw what looked like a big railway station and some grand old buildings. Yep, got it right, or Google Maps did as we checked our position against our destination.

We were meeting our walking tour outside St George's Hall, a Victorian era concert venue, now partly a Coroner's Court. As Di often quoted, Queen Victoria really loved her Albert - that's him on the horse out front... yet again.

Looking the other way was not so glamorous - an old shopping centre and Radio City tower (once a revolving restaurant - in the 70's of course).

We had no trouble finding our Sandeman walking tour guide, Neil, and headed off with him through firstly the older parts of town with grand public buildings, like the library, courts and art gallery. That quickly changed and we were soon in the entertainment quarter where we found "All the lonely people..." including this very ordinary sculpture to a very famous song character. Sculptured by no other than Tommy Steele, another forgotten song hero.

Yep, we had arrived at Mathew Street in the Cavern Quarter.

Mathew Street is the location of the Cavern Club - the first club home of the Beatles.

It is full of music memorabilia, of course mostly Beatles but still with lots of clubs and pubs.

The original Cavern Club entrance with Hans doing his best impersonation of John Lennon.

Neil, our guide, did remind us that the Beatles truly formed in Hamburg in Germany but the Cavern Club is where they started a huge following i.e. Beatlemania. Love... Love me do...

The original Cavern Club, lock stock and barrel, was shifted to a new location about 2 buildings away (as the original was demolished) and is still down down down in the very bowels of Liverpool.

Di has a Beatlmania moment...

Yep, every brick is original.

The Cavern looks fabulous and they still have live music every night. The list of past performers is amazing, the beer not so (Fosters? Really?)

The Beatles have now become big tourist business in Liverpool and are a huge revenue earner (enormous - we seem to recall a figure in the billions...but we are not convinced that we got that right).

Di and John relax opposite the Cavern Club. It was definitely better to remember him here, like this, than outside the Dakota Building in NYC that we did back in May.

The Liverpool Wall of Fame reminds us that the Beatles were just one group from Liverpool to make number 1 hit singles. Pretty impressive wouldn't you say?

And then an individual brick to remember all the names of performers at the Cavern Club, many we did not know.

Until we got to this section - heaps here... Hans felt like a fraud pointing to an Irish band, but he was a huge fan of a Thin Lizzy as a kid.

Liverpool is getting serious about tourism and they've done well with directions and signs to all the sights and to other useful locations.

We had been walking just over an hour when Neil suggested a refreshment break. We had just passed one of the entrances to the UK's largest outdoor shopping mall, called LiverpoolOne or Liverpool 1. No time to explore this fully (nor did we want to) but there was something that needed more attention...

EvertonTwo (2) is the official fan store for Everton FC and they specifically named their store so that their official postal address would be "Everton 2" above "Liverpool 1". Very funny.

Our refreshment was a quick lunch of tuna pasta salad we bought from home and some snacks - eaten in a square seen in the photo below - then back onto the tour.

Two comments about the building, the Law Courts, in this photo:

  • This was the location of a grand old castle that as never really needed and removed a long time ago. The 1980's replacement law courts took on the castle shape
  • Neil pointed out that that law courts in Liverpool and its surroundings were always really big buildings... And let that comment then hang...

Use your imagination.

At the other end of the street, of course known as Castle Street, is the quite discolored Town Hall. This is about 200+ years of smoke or soot grime and pollution build up. However, they have started sand blasting it back to its former glory from the other side. Neil, our guide, thinks the dirty black older version is more appropriate to Liverpool's 800 years of history.

Behind the town hall a few famous sights - this square was the old cotton exchange and underneath was the tobacco exchange and as a result quite a key location for wealth of the slave trade.

We never knew that Liverpool was considered the third point of the triangle for slave trade. The goods produced here went to Africa to buy slaves, the slaves were then sent to America (never here) and exchanged for cotton, tobacco, corn etc which was then brought back here, sold at massive profits and then the triangular trade started again.

Liverpool boomed during that period, but they have since formally apologized for their role in the triangle.

Another interesting story about this Martins Bank building... During the time of the WWII it was used as the British gold repository as the British government was nervous about storing it in London and the building had a huge state of the art underground vault. So they shipped nearly 300 tonnes of gold here only to realize that a tiny elevator could not carry the gold down. No problem as they got a chute and slid the old down... But does it come back up again? No forethought. They dynamited the vault to get the gold out and shipped it on to Canada for further temporary storage.

Why does this sound familiar to recent middle eastern war efforts were exit strategies seem to be painfully lacking?

We continued towards the river and passed many old interesting buildings on the way. The benefit of Liverpool being in the doldrums in 70's and 80's is that did not have money to "redevelop" and therefore "accidentally" kept a lot of heritage building. To current day benefit.

We headed to the dock areas, Neil is leading but Di is up front as usual...

These 3 old "graces" are largely now posh offices or apartments but were once the Royal Liver Building (left), the HQ of Cunard Lines and the Port Authority (right).

The buildings all looked great. On top of the Royal Liver Building are statues of 2 "Lyre birds", which as far as we could tell are not real and were an artistic mix, done hundreds of years ago, of an eagle and a cormorant.

Some work has gone into making Liverpool more an art and culture place, and also for tourism and to this end the local government launched a tender to get some art in the city. The winner, a Japanese artist, produced about 200 of these...Superlambananas... It is a what???

They seem to be a super cross between a lamb and a banana and are all painted in different motifs and dotted around the city. Di was fond of this guy...

A pop culture version showing. Liverpool bands... perfectly blended into the maritime history of the Mersey River in the background, NOT! But still fun.

The city of Liverpool saved and reinvigorated the old Albert Docks area about 25 years ago, and it still looks like a work in progress but seems to be well worth the effort.

The Tate Modern gallery was the first to move in and was then followed by the Museum of Liverpool and lots of nice looking restaurants, hotels and apartments, then followed by the super shopping centre LiverpoolOne linking it by pedestrian mall to the commercial part of town. Very good planning.

One character we did not know but who was commemorated here was Billy Fury. Apparently he was Liverpool's answer to Elvis. Hmmm... Never heard of him.

A self portrait with the Albert Docks and the Tate Modern to the right with the orange columns.
This was also where the walking tour ended and we said goodbye to Neil / Peter, "Neil if we liked the tour / Peter if we didn't".

We continued our wandering around the docks for a while. Hans liked the very still water of the docks and the reflections in photos - see an example below.

Very scenic...

But someone should be shot for this Mount Rushmore impression of The Beatles. Only John Lennon to the far left looked anything like the real John Lennon. BTW, we saw this inside an art gallery that had gone bust. No wonder why...

We realized that if we wanted to catch the next "ferry across the Mersey..." that we could make the 2pm cruise and bought tickets (at £8 each) for the trip.

Hans is here waiting to ride the "world famous ferry" and to hear the song which we heard that they play through the loudspeakers on the ferry (although he was already been humming the song...)

Here comes the ferry...

Loading up...

"Experience a place you'll love" may have been overselling it a bit but we were glad we did it.

The ferry ride was a very relaxed cross between a cruise, with running commentary from our mate Gerry Marsden (of Gerry and the Pacemakers fame) and a regular passenger service.

Heaps of room and quite comfy catering for a mixed crowd and all weather.

It was pretty empty on this Monday afternoon as we had this strange grey still foggy sky. It was supposed to be 21 degrees and sunny according to the Weather Channel but that never happened.

The Mersey River, looking back to the Liverpool skyline. This is as attractive as it gets.

The ferry route follows miles of docklands to almost the Mersey mouth then turns and runs down the Birkenhead side.

Birkenhead and New Brighton areas were always intended as upmarket residential or resort living. Looked nice enough.

We stopped at a couple of wharves and liked the manual gangplank system which can be seen lowered behind Di.

To return it to position, the ferry worker literally pulls it part way and the stands on the end of a railing to tilt it upright. Very practical and we are sure it's been working fine for a long time. However, Australia's Occupational Health and Safety regulations would never allow for it there...

We turned around and looked back towards Albert Docks and Liverpool's own version of the Eye.

A self portrait as we return to the Liverpool side of the Mersey. The whole cruise lasted just under an hour and it was enough for us.

The "modern" ferry wharf in the foreground - when built it was described as the ugliest building in Liverpool.

It was quite cold on the ferry so we meandered through LiverpoolOne looking for a coffee. We eventually picked a Starbucks - not our first choice but ok - and a brewed coffee did the trick. We sat and relaxed for a while and then easily found our way back to the bus station for a return to The Old Dairy.

On the way a few quick detours, a handful more provisions for dinner and breakfasts (£4 bargain) and a look in at the 99p store that could give PoundLand a run for its money as Traveller's friend but we restrained ourselves.

Top deck front row on bus 79 to Picton Road and beyond - back to where we started and it's peak hour so buses were everywhere.

A couple of Liverpool streetscape shots from the top level of the double decker bus.

And John Lennon's ghost seems to be everywhere in this town...

We should mention here that Liverpool seems to be a huge university and education town, somewhat unexpected or perhaps ignorant of us. Around this area just east of downtown there are a multitude of universities and colleges and even a university hospital. There you go...

Back at The Old Dairy, we had a break before Di cooked up an Italian pasta feast in the punters kitchen.

We had heard from David, the Inn's owner, that he expected a bunch of Irish contractors on Monday and those guys were already sitting in the adjacent dining room when we arrived, drinking Carlsberg beer and talking among themselves in a language that was not Irish (nor English...)

It turned out the 3 guys were Romanian plasterers, living in Dublin when away from home and working on a University of Liverpool construction site. Well, in short, we ate, drank and chatted to the guys for perhaps two hours. One of the Romanians, clearly the leader of the bunch, spoke good English and was clearly quite well educated and read. His 2IC, which was his nephew, spoke OK English and the third was the "young lad", there always seems to be one in these kind of crowds, did not say a word and eventually left us.

A most pleasant evening and we retired full with food and wine, so now it's good night from us.


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