We’re in Liverpool, home of the Beatles. Later today we have a tour of Beatles sights, but first, I’m seeing what else this city has going for it.
On my own, I visit Liverpool’s two cathedrals, first the Catholic and then the Anglican. The modern Catholic Cathedral looks like a circular spaceship, the altar in the center and chapels lining the outer edge. The Anglican is huge – the largest cathedral in Great Britain – and has a cafe inside. Both were begun around 1900 and both completed in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Each has a different vibe, but I can’t stay long because I don’t want to be late for the walking tour.
The walking tour is free, like the walking tour we took in Dublin. It’s a different company, but the same idea, offer free city tours to sell pub crawls and tours farther afield. However, this company has just started in Liverpool a week or so ago, so there are no other tours yet. In fact, the guide for this tour is the manager of the Liverpool and Dublin tour company, getting to know this area. I feel like I’ve come full circle, ending with a Dublin guy in Liverpool.
The tour is good, though, as we wind our way through the city. Like Dublin, it’s not a stunningly beautiful town, especially today in the blowing rain and 50degree weather. However, the stories are fantastic, like the descriptions of the memorial of the soccer stadium stampede and the “war buddy” memorial. The local paper suggested that in WWII volunteers from the same neighborhood sign up together and guys can fight side by side with their childhood mates. As you might imagine, that was all well and good until they started seeing their friends and neighbors die right in front of them. Today the military deliberately places people together from different parts of the country. It was interesting to chat with the guide and hear his plans to expand the business.
We also learned about the Liverpool Cultural Mascot, the Superlambanana. I don’t know what you call this phenomena – a city adopts an animal or some type of representational figure and places life-size sculptures of this figure, each painted or decorated differently depending on the artist or the location, all over the city. Norfolk has mermaids and I can’t remember the city that has cows. Anyway, Liverpool had a contest and ended up with Superlambanana – a tribute to the imports and exports that have crossed the harbor. Personally, I think it’s weird. A Japanese guy designed it, but the ones around town are decorated by local artists. Still weird.
I grab a bite to eat and head back to the hostel, where our Fab Four Beatles Tour guide will pick us up. We’re ready to go at 2:50pm, but at 3:10pm, no one has come. I ask the hostel staff to call (they made the reservation for me yesterday) and they said someone was on their way. I was really nervous, as we were leaving tomorrow and there was no time to reschedule or find another tour.
Finally, the big black cab of Fab Four rolls up, 20 minutes late. We meet Terry, who is actually the owner of the company, and who is a little peeved at the driver who did not show up. He’s going to make it right with us, though, and oh my goodness, did he ever! First we went to Ringo’s mom’s house (currently condemned), then the Empress Pub at the end of the street, which was on his first album cover. Then down Penny Lane, stopping to take photos (actually Terry commandeered my camera and took most of the photos on the tour) of the barbershop (a barber showing photograhs) and the shelter in the roundabout. During the drive, the appropriate songs are playing in the cab, which adds a lot to the experience.
We move on to the house where Paul McCartney grew up, then Strawberry Field (the s added just for the song – a former orphanage that John used to sneak into – his aunt told him they would hang him if he got caught… nothing to get hung about), then the childhood home of John Lennon. Terry fills us in on everything about their lives that has bled into their music. On to George’s house, and then to the church and meeting hall where John first met Paul. In the church’s graveyard is a headstone for Eleanor Rigby, although when John wrote that song it was years later and he claimed not to have remembered that name from there. He gave us a cd of the BBC interview where John talks about meeting Paul. Fabulous! But before we’re done, he throws in a visit to the hospital where John was born and showed us where they went to school. Wow. I thought I knew my Beatles trivia, but no.
After our return to the hostel, we go to the fancy pub at the Philharmonic next door for dinner. Anna and I get a look at the fancy men’s loo before we enjoy our last dinner out. After dinner, Morgan and I visit, but are mostly too late for an art gallery opening, then come back to the room to pack. We have to leave at 6am tomorrow morning.
However, the day is not done. During my city tour, I saw that there was a Beatles cover band playing at the Cavern Club, the pub where the Fab Four got their start. We leave a bit before 10pm to get down there. The place is packed when the band starts – the energy is high – they really sound like the Beatles! We start sitting, but not for long. After the first set, a bunch of the older folks leave and we get a better view. Admittedly, there are more older folks than younger, but everyone is getting into it. Jon is in filming heaven. After the second set, when even more people drift away and it is more apparent what he is doing, Jon becomes very, very popular. People are dancing right up to the camera and everyone is having a blast. We close the place down at midnight and don’t get back to the room until almost 1am. Yep, it was a Hard Day’s Night! (sorry, I had to say it!)