Sunday, February 12, 2006

Liverpool & The Beatles Experience

The next weekend Steph, Ross, Amanda and I went on a full blown weekend trip to Liverpool (with a plan to go to the Lake District). However, I think the fates were stacked against us from the moment I rolled out of bed. I got up with plenty of time to spare (after coming home late the night before enjoying my time out on the town) showered, packed a spare pair of underwear and socks, my camera and nearly recovered iPod and charger and rushed out the door after trying to add just a few more songs on to the iPod before I left and getting out the door too late…

The train I was to catch left Euston at 0903. I would have made it… but the Hammersmith and City Line, the Circle Line, and the Metropolitain line were all closed that weeknd for engineering works… so I had to go two more stops on the Bakerloo like to Oxford Circus and then back up to Euston. It was crazy and took altogether to long. I arrived at the station at 0907. I went to get in line for a ticket feeling dejected and realised all to late that my Youth Rail Card (that gets me 33% off all rail travel in Britain) was back in my closet. I was just angry then. My anger faded faster than a Norwegian tan when I walked into the ticket area and there was Amanda, Ross and Steph. They’d also just arrived. We swapped stories while waiting, and then went to the extremely un-helpful ticket man. I was pretty frustrated to the point of just staying home, and finally said, “If it’s more than £50 to get a ticket without the card I’ll just stay home.” It was, and I almost did. I bought a ticket from the automated machines for the next train telling it that I had my card and figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

The ride was 3 hours, and the guy who checked tickets did ask for my card, but let me off the hook because I was cordial and polite unlike the other guy who didn’t even have the right ticket (and had already chugged two Guinness’s by 11am). He said he should be charging me, but to pay for the difference in the return ticket. I promised him I would. We arrived in Liverpool; I bought an advance One-way ticket for the next evening for £12.50 (and therefore saved money overall and stayed under £50). Unfortunately we enquired about the trains to the Lake District [National Park] but due to engineering works there were no trains that would work. We began our downward spiral there…

We started looking for the Tourist Information centre, which was quite an adventure, we really ended up walking right by it, but we were so hungry we were all distracted by the pub across the street! We ended up down by the docks, not exactly the best part of town… the Mersey was really smelly and one of the many cement ‘docks,’ a box area where the boats could park right next to the buildings, was empty and that smelled putrid. We finally headed back into town with a thoroughly disappointed view of the city.

Finally, we found the Info centre, and got a hold on some rooms for £25 and walked to the Hotel/B&B, dropped our packs in our really nice rooms and felt instantly better. After that the trip was on the up and up. Once we’d come to terms with the lack of the Lake District we decided to enjoy Liverpool as best as we could…

We started by just wandering the city to look for food. We found a place called the Irish-American Pub, looked in to the dirty windows, laughed and moved on, found another place called JR’s which boasted American food, complete with a star spangled menu… We ended up at O’Neills (a chain pub). We ate among the crowd of rugby watchers, getting into the game a little, but not enough to freak out like the captive audience.

We decided after we’d filled up to go shopping (of course). I feel like a true Brit these days, one of Steph’s co-workers flew to Philidelphia (that’s right Pennsylvania) for the day to go shopping… it’s so… British to go somewhere to go shopping, they even have adverts for it.. We wandered the streets of Liverpool shopping in the coming darkness talking about what we wanted to do, Steph bought fresh doughnuts, and we all enjoyed them. We went to a number of different shops and eventually decided to find a movie to entertain us so we didn’t get tired and go to bed early like losers. There was a Odeon back by the rail station and Fun with Dick and Jane was playing at 550. It was cheap, and we thought it might be funny, so we got tickets, I bought some excellent gummies and we sat in the theatre joking about the Fun With Dick insinuatingly printed on the bright orange ticket. We laughed like we were teens again.

The movie was really good, and after we left laughing still (and occasionally making Snakes on a Plane comments) we headed for a bar we’d seen earlier. We got distracted by a large fountain in the main square, took a bunch of pictures, and finally headed for a Wetherspoon’s. We enjoyed a few beers, some nachos, and I even got a triple layer fudge cake with melted white and dark chocolate in between the layers a la mode. It was excellent. We sat and talked until around 1030 or 11 and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. I stayed up for a while watching The Pianist and Interview with a Vampire through the static on the TV and eventually went to sleep.

In the morning I woke up at 915 after planning on 845 and headed down to breakfast. It was not the best B of the B&B’s I’ve been to, but it wasn’t the worst either. After B we packed up our stuff, left our bags in the bar area with permission and left to walk the streets again. We were a little overly excited for our day and laughed at a bike sign for a guy named Stan…
Our first stop was back on the side of town we’d been on the day before in our first hour in Liverpool the smell was still there by the non-dock, and the Mersey, but our spirits were higher so we laughed rather than grumbled. We headed for the Albert Dock, one of the oldest in the dock system, and went right to The Beatles Experience. It was fabulously only £5 and had an audio tour voiced by John Lennon’s daughter, Sir George Martin, Paul McCartney, Brian Epstien, and others that knew them personally. The museum/story was lacking in a large amount of memorabilia, but I did see replicas of the Quarrymen’s drums (Lennon’s first band when he was 15) and George’s first guitar (bought at a pawn shop that he broke on accident), and even a pair of John Lennon’s glasses. They had a full size representation of the Yellow Submarine in one room, a giant photo of strawberry fields, a part of the Magical Mystery Bus, a full size replica of the Cavern Club where they played 292 times and even the real-life sized Sergeant Pepper’s Album Cover. It was an amazing few hours and I learned a lot about them, some that I already knew and some that I didn’t.

After we left the Beatles Experience we were all in a silly mood so we took some pictures in front of the fa├žade and then headed down into the dock and split up. Steph and I went to the Maritime Museum and learned about Slavery in Europe and North America, and Shipping/Smuggling throughout the history of Liverpool; while Ross and Amanda went to the Tate Liverpool. In the end we all enjoyed our respective museums and ended up meeting a while later to head to lunch. Before lunch we walked over to Matthews Street (birthplace of the Beatles) and went into the actual Cavern Club (actually it was a reconstruction of 50% of the original). We hung out and marvelled at the space that was closed in the 70s but reopened later because the train that was going to go through changed its path. Afterward we headed to the B&B and picked up our bags before going back to Matthews Street and eating lunch at The Grapes. We walked into a back room and saw a picture of the Beatles eating at the same table where we were sitting… it was weird. They even kept the wallpaper… I was having a pint and fish and chips right where John Lennon used to do the same… crazy. After the lunch, we headed to the rail station, and headed back to London. The night ended late, but it was a trip that left a smile on my face.

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