Would our three nights in Liverpool be long enough? At first glance there seemed to be so much to look at but luckily all quite central. We had two nights booked in a Travelodge but because both Pink and the Spice Girls were in town the price for the third night was around £150 so we booked ourselves into a double room in a hostel, Hatters, via Booking.com. A few days before we arrived they cancelled our booking.
Allegedly due to refurbing some rooms but more likely was that they realised what they could get for the room as demand was so high. A nifty bit of research by Jonno got us booked into an Airbnb. More on that to come! Before I launch into a rundown of what we saw I must pass on something that I never knew about the name Scousers. Of course I knew that the name referred to a Liverpudlian but I didn’t know that Scouse was a stew that was, and maybe is, very popular here. Hence the name Scousers.
We had worked out a rough route from a trusty tourist map and we headed off bright and early the next morning. More than by luck than judgement we walked past Hatters, our cancelled accommodation for night 3 and low and behold no signs of refurbishment. Interesting that! There are two large cathedrals in Liverpool. The Roman Catholic one, the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral but officially the more wordy name Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is very modern and the design was chosen in a competition. It really stands out amongst the more traditional buildings but I’m sure it divides feelings.
Later in our stay we visited the Museum of Liverpool and there was a massive model of the planned Catholic Cathedral that had originally been commissioned in 1929. It would have been a monumental building with a dome that would make it 18 metres higher than St Peter’s in Rome. Parishioners were asked to donate any old gold and jewellery to fund the cost of the building but the war effort held up plans to build. Following the death of the architect in 1944 and the Archbishop, whose vision it was in 1953, the plans for such a gargantuan building were scrapped. Only the crypt was ever built which now stands under the Cathedral.
We carried onto see the more traditional Anglican Cathedral. Usually referred to as just Liverpool Cathedral but formally Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool. Traditional except for the rather shocking statue of Jesus over the main doorway. It is named “The Welcoming Christ“. I was not a fan of the interpretation but maybe it is a more of a likeness than we will ever know. The inside of the Cathedral was a huge space and it was great to see guides taking parties of school children round and making it fun. Tracy Emin has a few pieces of art in the Cathedral. One of them was a temporary feature installed for the year when Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture but it is now a permanent fixture.
China Town and the Baltic Triangle
China Town was a few streets away so we wandered through that area. As with most ports, there was a large influx of immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s and this location was not too far from both the docks and the warehouses. Some of the warehouses a few streets away in the Baltic Triangle have been converted into apartments and it has worked really well. After a tip-off from our son and daughter-in-law, Sam and Tabitha, who visited the city a year or so ago we made sure we called into the Baltic Bakehouse.
The Bakehouse had a very industrial feel with metal and wooden shelving displaying the fresh baked bread, sacks of flour on the floor ready for the next batches and a huge blackboard of delicious fresh items that could be ordered. Damn this new healthy lifestyle!! That didn’t do speciality coffees but a cafetiere of good French coffee was ordered. It came complete with a timer so that it percolates to the exact moment before plunging.
Wapping Quay and Albert Dock
We wound our way towards the River Mersey and the dock area. We came across Wapping Quay first which is a large dock. We the walked along the river edge to the Royal Albert Dock. Both of these areas had obviously had a lot of investment. The Albert Dock (the Royal was added in 2018) was considered revolutionary when it opened in 1846 because ships could offload direct into and out of adjacent warehouses. It is now edged with gift shops, coffee shops and restaurants. It makes for a nice area to sit out. The converted pump house is now a restaurant and there was an old double decker bus that had been converted into a diner. It had a great atmosphere and was a good place to find a bench and eat our snacks (healthy ones of course!)
One side of the square of shipping buildings surrounding Albert Dock housed museums. They had a combined entrance but one side was the International Slavery Museum and the other was the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Liverpool does not shy away from the fact that the port is part of what is referred to as the triangular trade. Brandy and guns were sailed to West Africa and exchanged for slaves who were then taken across the Atlantic to sell or exchange in the West Indies and North America for rum and sugar which was then brought back to Liverpool. This type of trade no doubt went on in other ports but not on the scale of Liverpool. Some of the exhibits make for hard reading. It ended with a multi-cultural display on how far Liverpool felt it had come since those days.
The Merseyside Maritime Museum was equally interesting. One floor is dedicated to the story of the Lusitania and part of another floor to the Titanic. The Lusitania was heading for Liverpool in 1915 when it was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat. Almost 1200 lives were lost. Significantly 128 Americans perished and it is now accepted that these losses were what tipped the balance for the US to join the war effort.
A few years ago I read a book about the voyage and it gripped me. A lot more interesting than the Titanic in so many ways but it is Titanic that fascinates everyone. Although the Titanic ran over time on her sea trials and never docked in Liverpool she was registered there and some of her crew were from the area so a display of her fateful journey is a popular exhibit. We also visited the Museum of Liverpool which is dedicated much more to the history of the city itself and had a John and Yoko exhibition on the top floor (small charge for this section). You need a few hours for each museum and entry is free. Donations are welcomed but there is certainly no pressure to give recommended amounts etc.
I can’t get away with this post for much longer without mentioning the Fab Four. It is a big draw for tourists and rightfully so there are various tours you can join to see their childhood houses, bars they practiced in, where they bought their socks, etc. The better tours have to be booked in advance and we did our usual weighing up whether or not to go on one or pay the £17.00 per person to enter The Beatles Story museum. For true fans it would be worth it but for us who are probably in the category of “liking their music” it was not going to be appreciated. Our two exceptions were to take a few pictures of the statues on the waterfront which were very informal and extremely good likenesses followed by a trip to Matthew Street and the Cavern Club where it all began.
Avid fans will tell you that it is not the same Cavern Club. To make way for part of an underground rail network that never happened, in 1973 the original venue was closed and the underground vaults filled in. Eight years later these were opened up. The original site of the club was too badly damaged to excavate and use but just a few doors along the area was cleared and the new/old Cavern Club was born in 1984.
From the list by the door we could see that bands played all day. Some were tribute bands which I suppose most of the punters want to hear but other up and coming bands play there too. If you enter in the afternoon before a certain time there is no charge. Luckily for us we were before that certain time so headed down about 8 flights of stairs to the dimly lit club. The walls were covered in Beatles, Cilla and other music memorabilia and the music was rocking. It was so warm down there and only two small air conditioning units – goodness knows what it was like 50 or 60 years ago. For us amateurs it looked just like the pictures we had seen of the original club and it certainly had an atmosphere all of its own. We are so pleased that we actually got to feel a sense of Beatle history, perhaps more keenly that going to The Beatles Story exhibition.
The Three Graces
Give something a name and it draws people in. The name The Three Graces originated at the beginning of the 20th century and it refers to three buildings along the waterfront in Liverpool. The Liver Building (once home to the Royal Liver Assurance Group) but now half empty and with a mix of different companies in the other half. There are two copper birds on top of the building, know as the Liver Birds. One faces the river and one faces the city. A couple of anecdotes about these. It is said that if they ever leave their perch the city will fall. The other anecdote I read in the Maritime Museum. It said that one Liver Bird looks out to the river to see homecoming sailors while the other one looks out of the city to see which pubs are open!
Next to the Liver Building we have the ex-offices of the Cunard Line which now house a lot of local government departments.
The final “Grace” is the Port of Liverpool Building which has just undergone a major refurb. Together they make up The Three Graces an iconic image of Liverpool but not quite as famous as The Beatles!
Ropewalks and the Jacaranda
The Ropewalks is a bar and clubbing area of the city. We breezed through early evening before it really got going but we had a specific destination in mind. We were heading for the second location that Sam and Tabitha had briefed us on. It is called the Jacaranda and it is a bar/music shop. You would probably walk straight by if you didn’t know about it.
The ground floor is a standard bar but on the first floor is a bar and record shop. Each table has a turntable in the middle and for a deposit of £10 you can vinyls from the shop, unless they are marked up as not to be played. It is a great idea and Jonno was in his element putting on LPs and tracks that he hadn’t heard for ages. As for me, well there was too much choice and I was just happy to listen to whatever was playing. Great find S&T, thanks for the heads-up.
An Airbnb in Imperial Buildings
Our last night stay in Liverpool was, as mentioned earlier, an Airbnb right in the centre of town on Dale Street. Just a small room in an apartment with a lovely lady called Pauline. Just a place to rest our heads we thought. But no, Pauline turned out to be a real character. She seemed to know absolutely everyone in Liverpool and had stories galore about so many famous people that she knew. As a teenager and twenty-something she hung out with Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Teardrop Explodes, Flock of Seagulls, OMD, and so many others. Fascinating stuff and Jonno was in his element talking music with her. I think he could have stayed up all night!
23/06 – 25/06/2019