I was to catch the train at 9:37 which takes about 45 minutes to get from Manchester Piccadilly station to Liverpool Lime St. The bus into Manchester was late. And when I got off the bus, the heavens opened and I got wet. The ticket machines were out of order and there was a queue at the ticket windows. I got the ticket but the platform was way the back of beyond. I get to the platform to see a train, my watch indicating it was about 38 seconds before departure so I hopped on and found a seat, trying to rearrange my damp hair, purse, bag etc.
About 10 minutes after the train pulled away, the conductor came around and inspected my ticket. He frowned. I'm on the wrong train? Well.. he started, you *can* get to Liverpool from here but you'll have to change at Wigan! That's not all, apparently I also have to change train STATIONS! Later on I checked my notebook...I had written the train should be green and say something about a Central line. Which this one wasn't and didn't. I sat there stressed, wet, and chilled. If there's one thing I HATE is being late! Neither of us had a mobile phone and I had about 20 minutes to run across the road in Wigan to the other station. I tried calling but of course he had already left for Lime Street. The damp clothing wasn't the only thing causing steam to rise off my body!
This little detour made me 45 minutes late but Phil wouldn't leave the station without me. I was tired, grumpy, damp, stressed and hungry. The first thing I needed to do was get fed and watered so we landed in a café near the train station for a sandwich and cup of tea and decided what our plan of action would be.
Liverpool is a large port city that has been the gateway to thousands of emigrants over the years. The waterfront in Liverpool has been restored into a large tourist complex called Albert Dock. We headed there first but our attention was taken by a city tour that you can take in an old WWII amphibian vehicle that drives you around the city then splashes down in the waters around the docks.
We bought our tickets for the Liverpool Duck tour which didn't leave for about 30 minutes and had a browse through the souvenir shops in the Dock complex. Liverpool is the home of the Beatles so there's lots of souvenirs relating to the Fab Four. I like the Beatles but I'm more of a Rolling Stones girl I was more interested in seeing the city itself, the buildings, the atmosphere.
The Duck tour takes about 3/4 hour to drive around the city, with an audio broadcast of the history of the city and interesting points. The city center is fairly compact between the Docks and the Cathedral and the architecture of Liverpool is really beautiful. There was a lot of bomb damage here during WWII and in Manchester but it seems like a lot of the buildings still survived. Arriving back at the Dock for the water journey, the co-captain took the microphone for some live commentary. He was very good and had an ironic and droll sense of humour.
There are three huge buildings on the waterfront, the most famous being the Royal Liver Building, an insurance company. This was built around 1907. The corners are topped with 2 18 foot "Liver" birds based probably on cormorants. The other two buildings are the Cunard building and the Port of Liverpool and together they are known as the Three Graces. We went inland away from the waterfront past the Victoria memorial that is on the spot where Liverpool Castle used to stand.
I thought that I might as well have a look-see down Matthew street, where the Cavern Club was but first, I had to buy some film. On the way back towards Matthew Street I spied a small building on a small narrow street leading off the one we were on. It was painted yellow and had timbers on the outside and looked interesting enough to run across the street and investigate. We discovered an old inn, now a pub, with a 1726 date on the building and it was called Ye Hole in Ye Wall. The street is called Hackin's Hey and is one of the oldest streets in Liverpool. No question about it, I HAD to have a drink in a pub with a name like that so in we went. Low ceilings, lots of wood and comfortable chairs. It looked old and felt old aside from a television behind the bar and a radio on. This seemed like the genuine article. The irony of it all was that the pub is built on the spot where an old Quaker meeting house once stood!
Off we go again to admire the buildings, always looking up to see the detailing on them which sometimes isn't evident unless you look above you at the windows and eaves. We go down Matthew St., a narrow cobbled pedestrian street strewn with Beatles' shops, statues and posters. The Cavern Club that stands today is not the original where they played. The opposite side is marked by a wall of fame consisting of bricks with names of hundreds of artists that played in the Club over its 40 year history.
There is a life sized statue of John Lennon leaning against a post.There's also a monument that depicts "Mother Liverpool" holding three cherubs while a fourth flies off to one side with the motto "John Lives" above it. I didn't bother shopping for Beatles souvenirs nor did I take a photo of the lonely looking sculpture of Eleanor Rigby on a bench around the corner.
There is another cluster of large stately buildings around a square reminiscent of Trafalgar Square, with a fountain and column in the center topped with a statue, this one representing the Duke of Wellington. There is the mid Victorian St. George's Hall which is definitely worth a look into and another pillared building, circa 1860, with a sweeping staircase houses the Liverpool Museum. There's the circular Picton library and reading room dating from 1879 and the Walker Art Gallery in a building constructed in 1887. It's cloudy so the granite buildings look particularly imposing. There really isn't' time to go look inside all the buildings nor spend time browsing the gallery this trip.
It's been a long time since lunch so Phil took me to a Chinese restaurant on Hanover Street, the Golden Phoenix where we took advantage of a 3 course fixed price "lunch" that they stopped serving at 5 p.m. We got there just under the wire.
After our meal we walked up to the huge Anglican Cathedral, the largest of it's kind in the world and 5th largest cathedral of any denomination. This cathedral was built inthe 20thC. and was finished about 30 years ago. Unfortunately it was after 6 when we got there and closed to the public. The stained glass, judging from the outside, looked like it would be very intricate.
We stopped to admire the new arch on the street that leads into Liverpool's small Chinatown district. Liverpool actually had a larger Chinatown for many years, with immigrants there working at the port but it's shrunk in size and there is now a larger Chinatown centered in Manchester. We walked along an elegant row of Georgian houses on Rodney Street on our way back to the train station. It's getting dark now and I hadn't been planning to stay on to sample any of the night life. I made sure Phil directed me to the right train this time and with hugs and kisses I took my leave.
On the journey back I made friends with a small blonde four year old girl who was traveling to Bradford with her father. Her name was Etty. Her father seemed to be more interested in sharing his tins of ale with someone he knew or maybe just met down the car further and Etty was left to her own devices. He would call up now and then to see if she was ok. She was curious about my journal, seeing me writing and came over and we chatted. I let her "write" in the back of it while we discussed our journeys. Her father was an avid Everton football team supporter and had her trained well. Once or twice he'd call down to her, "Etty! What's ManU (Manchester United)?" and she'd correctly reply as required "shite, Dad" ! We enjoyed each other's company until Manchester Picadilly where I got off the train and took a cab back to Alan's because I couldn't be sure I'd recognize where to get off the bus in the dark.