Liverpool should really make more of the Beatles connection – they certainly seem to underplay this card.
That one niggle aside, Liverpool is a well worth a weekend of anyone’s time in which to dip an exploratory toe.
There’s so much to see and do, it can be quite bewildering at times so its usually best to start with a few pints in one of the many pubs and bars. A bar was duly found – the Pumphouse – just one of a number of bars strung out along the Albert Dock complex (it was once the pumping station for the Dock, and now serves a decent raspberry cider).
Then some drinking partners were also found – Annie and Dave, who were en route from holidaying in Scotland.
Liverpool’s waterfront is a designated World Heritage Site, stretching from Albert Dock, through the Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock.
Up at the Pier Head can be found the Three Graces and the Four Beatles. The Three Graces line the waterfront, and comprise of the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building.
We ended up there at the closing of the day, and the sinking sun was in particularly fine fettle, firing up the Graces in a rather fetching light. That really is just the setting sun blazing on the Port of Liverpool Building at the top of the page.
The Four Beatles were some musically inclined blokes, suitably captured in a waterside sculpture in the act of leaving Liverpool on their way to becoming mega-stars. Fortunately, there was no proviso to this legend stating that the city would cease to exist with their exit – unlike the one imposed on the Royal Liver Building whose two fabled Liver Birds (I think they are meant to be cormorants) must stay put or Liverpool will be no more.
In John Lennon’s hand are a couple of acorns, which John and Yoko used to send world leaders to symbolize world peace. These are no run-of-the-mill English acorns but were cast from acorns found outside the Dakota Building in New York (outside of which Lennon was shot).
Being in a suitable Beatles frame of mind, we took in some of their early drinking haunts – The Grapes and the White Star – before joining merry throngs of tourists crammed in the Cavern Club. These intimate, brick-vaulted cellars were sprayed with 1960s memorabilia, and featured plenty of live tribute acts.
Later on, we ensconced ourselves in a little marquee by the river where a lively duo, Electronica, was on top form. Some great 80s stuff – with plenty of beer, great company, alongside a mighty river – is a difficult combination to beat at the best of times.
The next day, the drinking was interrupted with fresh outbreaks of culture. The Museum of Liverpool is the UK’s first museum dedicated to the history of a people – and very fine it is too. You really need a couple of visits, as there is so much to take in, with plenty of floor space given over to the port and docks, the people and all the associated creative and industrial energy that drives Liverpool.
Feeling a bit churchy, there is the Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas to dip into – a little taster before savouring the twin peaks of the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Liverpool Cathedral. These two completely contrasting buildings sit comfortably on the gob-smacking spectrum of ‘sights to be seen while in Liverpool.’
Equally splendid were the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, a stately Victorian pub tiled within an inch of its life, and plush with leather sofas, stained glass, chandeliers and wood paneling – and quite possibly, the most ornate gents toilets on the planet.
Liverpool is a vibrant and distinctive city with friendly locals and great pubs. It being a Bank Holiday, there were festivals and bands all over the place.
I just about managed to squeeze in a short visit to the International Slavery Museum before closing time – the first time I’ve been thrown out of a museum!
Thank God for beer! Bobby and Marie – friends with Weymouth connections – joined us for another evening of unrestrained revelry with another dose of Electronica by the river before we headed back to the Cavern Club. En route was a quick drink downstairs at Eric’s bar, before the Cavern mayhem. Lots of bands appeared, doing 30-45 minute slots each, and every one slipping in a Beatles number or two. Best were the Tearaways with ex-Blondie drummer Clem Burke giving it some sticks at the back.
There were a couple of hours free in the morning to check out the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Liverpool Tate, so off I plodded with my cultural head on. The exhibition entitled ‘Invisible Rooms’ featured my favourite piece of Bacon’s – Three Studies at the Base of a Crucifixion. It’s just so pastoral.
Francis Bacon wasn’t a conventional artist (as if you couldn’t tell) but does a very nice line in warped, caged figures with thunderous oranges and reds hammered onto the canvas.
There was an accompanying display of Austrian artist, Maria Lassnig’s paintings in the gallery leading to the Bacon exhibition – lots of self-portraiture with porous and shifting boundaries (yes, I’m reading the gallery notes!)
Now for a few more piccies from ‘pool…
Of course, a few other things occurred before Liverpool but these were much in the way of drinking sessions loosely arranged around other activities.
A great little walk was had around Lapworth (as outlined below) but – so good was the sunny weather – we shamelessly eschewed Packwood House and Baddersley Clinton for pints and pub lunches by the canal. Another time perhaps…
It was a damper affair at Halesowen FC where the mighty Yelts were taken apart by Blyth Spartans 5-0. An entertaining afternoon with a sending off to boot.