The train ride to Liverpool
was uneventfully pleasant. Except for an hour or two on the first day in Edinburgh, it had been raining cows and chickens the whole time, and looking out of the window, seeing a bit of blue in the sky behind the clouds made M and I instantly grab our cameras and snapped at the fleeting scene outside. Forgive the dorky behavior, but we weren't sure if we'd ever get a glimpse of the sun while in the UK. That brief moment on the train really made our day, giving us hope of warmer and brighter days to come, fingers crossed. We were still nowhere near Liverpool and the eratic weather conditions could work against our hopes at any time.
We arrived at Liverpool's Lime Street station in a few hours' time. Instead of finding the exit along with everybody else, M and I waited for everyone to leave and stayed behind at the platform to take photos. Here we go again, me and train stations. We were all alone for a good ten minutes when we were stopped by the guard, called our attention to stop taking photographs. He said something about the flash distracting the train drivers. Err, I wasn't using any flash and there were no trains arriving or departing. Ok, ok, rules are rules and I left before I could get my ass deported.
We made our way outside and hailed a cab to take us to the Ibis Hotel, right across Albert Dock. It was quite a convenient location since most of the things on our agenda had Albert Dock as the jump-off point.
After unwinding for a few minutes at the hotel, we crossed the street and explored the place. Opened in 1846, was the first fireproof dock warehouse system in the world, made of cast iron, brick and stone - the only one of its kind at the time with the largest group of Grade 1 buildings in the UK. It closed to shipping in only in 1972 and has since transformed into one of the main attractions of Liverpool housing the Tate gallery, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, a host of hoity-toity pubs and restaurants and finally, the Beatles Story Exhibition & souvenir shop.
The Beatles Story Exhibition is also the place of purchase for tickets to the Magical Mystery Tour which we were to go on the next day. I had done my pre-trip research on the net and only discovered this tour then. The website
featured a vintage yellow bus, a replica of the one used in the film, that would take us to all the Beatles' landmarks in the city.
The Beatles Story
I found other similar tours online, but it was the bus that hooked me in, I just HAD
to ride that bus!!! So there I was, waiting in line when I overhear the cashier give directions to the customer before me, saying to look out for the black bus. "BLACK
bus???" (I had to interrupt.) I couldn't believe it, how many chances does one get to come join this unique and highly specialized tour and when you finally have the opportunity, your luck runs out and you end up with a typical blah black bus?? I was so saddened by her explanation -- that although they have a fleet of 3, those buses are really old and couldn't guarantee their daily service. Oh well, the guy was going one a different schedule from ours, so hopefully, we'll get the psychedelic bus.
Tickets - check, Beatles merchandise shopping - check. We had just a little over an hour to do the Beatles Story Exhibition and for fear of not having enough time in the next few days here, we decided to just go for it. An audio-guided tour narrated by John's sister, the tour takes you through the Beatles' humble beginnings until their last days. To the Pinoy readers out there, yes, the tour does include the disastrous bit about the band getting beaten up at the airport in 1966 thanks to the Marcoses. A more detailed account can be found here
. We finished the tour at closing time, which was around 6pm. It had been quite a long day and we were getting hungry.
The Pier Head
We decided on the Olive Press for dinner, a quaint little restaurant found on Castle Street near the Town Hall. We made our way but still maximizing our time by taking in the sights around us.
Liverpool's days as a fishing village are long gone after King John granted its status as a city in 1207. Another UNESCO World Heritage City, Liverpool celebrated her 800th birthday last year and now holds the title of being the European Capital of Culture for 2008. And deservingly so! Standing outside Albert Dock, you'll find the Arena and Convention Center (which was still under construction at the time) on the left and on the right is the magnificent Pier Head & Three Graces - the Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building - all forming part of the gorgeous Liverpudian skyline.
St. Nicholas Church war memorial
Down the road is the St. Nicholas Church, or the Sailors Church (St. Nicholas being the patron saint of sailors). Originally built in the 13th century, it had been detroyed and rebuilt throughout time (English civil war, WW1&2, spire-tumbling accident) so no remains of the original church are in existence. Another 15 minute walk to the city center could easily take an hour with the buildings' architecture, all competing for your attention from every direction. It seemed like a sleepy town at first, but once you're at the heart of it, everything just springs to life.