Liverpool, the Best City Outside of London

This weekend, my lovely friend Saskia showed me around her hometown of Liverpool.  The home of the Scouser.  The birthplace of The Beatles. The city that has the biggest Chinese arch outside of China.

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The cultural hub that has more museums and galleries than anywhere else in the UK outside of London.  This town also has the most blue plaques on buildings and Grade II Listed buildings outside of London. Seriously, there are 2,500 listed buildings and 250 public monuments!

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Liverpool had the world’s first passenger railway line. It was built in 1830 and travelled from Liverpool to nearby Manchester. A local member of Parliament was killed soon after, in the first ever railway accident.

Speaking of railways… Saskia and I met at Euston Station at 12.38pm.  I had left home earlier than usual, taking into account possible tube closures, bus detours and train delays to make sure that I was there on time…. I arrived at 11.00am, giving me much opportunity to check out the station, visit all the shops and watch all the people…. ALL of them.  It also gave me time to go to Marks and Spencers to buy some “Gin in a Tin” for the journey.

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Saskia had done the right thing and reserved our seats as this train can get very busy, but without realising, she booked seats that faced backwards and had no window!  This was my view of the country side as we headed north.

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One of our reasons for heading to Liverpool as a) I had never been there before and b) a local band, The Zutons were playing at the student guild.

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The Zutons

I was super excited about this because…. Oh, I can’t lie.  I’d never heard of them.  Saskia suggested that I checked out some of their music on iTunes before the gig and as I read down the playlist of songs I noticed  the title “Valerie” and when I listened, it was indeed the same tune made famous by the late Amy Winehouse.  I immediately text Saskia and asked if she knew that they did a cover of “Valerie”…. horrified, she replied, “Yeah, they wrote it!”

So after a delicious Japanese dinner with a lovely group of Saskia’s childhood friends we all made our way to the gig.  We stood shoulder to shoulder with other Zuton fans staring into the back of the head of the person in front of us.

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It got so hot and loud that this old sheila had to take a breather for the second half of the show in the comfy chairs where there was a nice cool breeze blowing threw.  I could still heat the music that I didn’t recognise, so at least there was that.

DAY 2:

The Grand Tour of Liverpool with Tour Guide – Saskia.

Naturally, on the only day we had to do our grand tour, it was raining Liverpudlian cats and dogs…. but we cracked out the brollies and soldiered on.

First stop was the St George Building which we couldn’t go into because there was a beer festival being held there, but we did stop outside next to this statue of Queen Vicky.  Check out the look on the horse’s face!  I wonder what was happening when they were posing for this?

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Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery is the National Gallery of the North and apparently houses one of the best collections of European art outside London.

This chap in the painting looked like he’d had quite a fright which makes me wonder if somebody was perhaps doing what Saskia is doing when he posed?

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One of my favourite buildings was the Picton Reading Room at the Central Library.

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It was absolutely glorious on the inside and reminded me of something out of Harry Potter with its ornate spiral staircases and elaborate lighting.

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They have built a new library right next door, but this building, being heritage listed had to be left alone.  Thank goodness for Heritage listing!

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We walked around the room taking in some of the old classics along the way.  (I don’t mean Saskia is an old classic!)

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Next it was down to the docks which plays a pretty important role in Liverpool’s history.

This is the Liver Building (pronounced liver as in fiver, not liver as in Liverpool… I don’t know why, that question was not answered on the tour.  Anyway, the building is a-topped with 2 liver birds.  One faces out onto the Mersey River keeping all those who sail safe from harm and there is one at the other end facing the land, protecting all the families of those sailors who sailed out from the Mersey.

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Legend has it that were these two birds to fly away, the city would cease to exist.  Another local legend says one of the liver birds is male, looking inland to see if the pubs are open, whilst the other is female, looking out to sea to see if there are any handsome sailors coming up the river.

The birds are apparently as tall as two double decker buses on top of each other…. also the clocks are bigger than those on London’s Big Ben – phew, Liverpool can finally claim something over London!

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There are three very important buildings at Pier Head and they are referred to as The Three Graces.

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You’ve got the Liver Building, which you now know all about.  The Cunard Building which was the former headquarters of the Cunard Shipping company – they were the ones who ordered the building of the Titanic from White Star and the Port of Liverpool Building which is the former home of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board – not as famous or interesting, but they come as a trio, so…..

 In 2004 the whole waterfront became a World Unesco Site.  The World Heritage Site stretches along the waterfront from Albert Dock, through The Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock.  This area was bombed heavily in the war and they lost the railway line that used to run the entirety of the dock.

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This is what it would have looked like back in the day.

Now this is almost too obvious to even mention… but heck, it needs to be said! Liverpool holds the Guinness Book of Records title for being the Capital of Pop. More artists with a Liverpool origin have had a number one hit than from any other location – even London.

Being the home of the Beatles, it was hard not to have an ‘Accidental Beatles Tour’

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I’m so much shorter in Liverpool!

 

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What do you think Paul? ….. Paul?

Even locals like to get in on the act!  Saskia is quite short in Liverpool as well.  Either that or The Beatles were really huge!

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Just as is started pelting down, we took cover in the Liverpool Museum where we learned all manner of things.  Now, I’m not entirely sure what this Liverpudlian dock worker’s statement means… perhaps the parrot was to make sure the little Mrs didn’t have any special visitors whilst he was away?  I don’t know.  Any guesses?

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We learned that Liverpool is a film industry hotspot.

Films that have been shot there include The Hunt For Red October,  Shirley Valentine and some others that I had never heard of. The city was used as a location for more than 140 films last year and has doubled for Moscow, Dublin, Paris and even Venice – they must have CGI’d the canals in.

Remember Shirley Valentine?  She was the original Eat, Pray, Love girl.

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Not everybody was as taken with this wondrous place as we were though….. or maybe she couldn’t handle all the chaos and madness.

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Liverpool was voted the European Capital of Culture in 2008. The European Capital of Culture is a city chosen by the European Union and for one year they organise a series of cultural events. Liverpool beat five other hopefuls – Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Oxford – to win the coveted prize. You beauty!

Earlier, in 1998 a Japanese artist, Taro Chiezo designed a sculpture called the Lamabanana, which is meant to be a cross between a lamb and a banana.

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It was both a comment on the dangers of genetic engineering and also heavily influenced by the history of Liverpool’s dock trading products.

So, In 2008, as part of Liverpool’s year-long position as European Capital of Culture, 125 individually designed miniature replicas were created. 

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Did anybody know that ‘Flock of Seagulls’ were from Liverpool?

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The Museum also boasts the best view in Liverpool overlooking the Three Graces, The Mersey and Pier Head.  This photo doesn’t quite do it justice.  It really was lovely.

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Have you ever wondered what Scouse was?  Or why Liverpudlians are called Scousers?  Well…Scouse is a type of stew. It was eaten by Liverpudlians living in poverty before the 1900s. Ingredients include lamb or beef, cabbage, carrot, potatoes and onion.  Who knew?

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Ferry Across the Mersey

by: Gerry and the Pacemakers

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
’cause this land’s the place I love
and here I’ll stay

People they rush everywhere
Each with their own secret care

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
and always take me there
The place I love

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
We don’t care what your name is boy
We’ll never turn you away

So I’ll continue to say
Here I always will stay

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
’cause this land’s the place I love
and here I’ll stay
and here I’ll stay
Here I’ll stay

And…… this is the ferry that you’ll catch today, painted as such in case you can see it!

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I think this might be the best food truck idea I’ve ever come across.  Cheese on toast.  That’s it.  That’s all they sell.  Cheese on toast.  Well done.

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My ever optimistic tour guide showing me that the skies were indeed clearing up and the blue was pushing her way through.

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Every city has got one of these now I think.  I’m not sure who was the first – probably Liverpool.

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And I think the Parisians probably took this idea home with them after a visit to the docks in Liverpool.

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The Mersey is quite tidal, as you can see.  Tides can reach up to over 10 metres and as low as 1 metre.

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It is suggested that you don’t swim here…. good suggestion, thanks.

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The city has two cathedrals, one situated at each end of Hope Street. The Anglican cathedral, which you can see her near the large rat, is one of the world’s largest religious buildings; it has the world’s heaviest bells and its tower is more than 100 metres high.

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The Catholic Cathedral, is a very modern building that I first thought was some sort of gas works building, but those poles at the top actually represent the Lord, our King’s crown.

We couldn’t go inside this one because we missed the closing by 10 minutes.  Isn’t it always the way when you want to go to church?

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See what I mean?

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This is a gas works….. not a cathedral.

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This is the Cathedral.

And this is a very modern door decoration.  Is it Jesus?  I don’t know.

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There is a very important piece of art in Liverpool…. in fact, its in this photo below by Tracey Emin.  Can you spot it?

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It is a small bird on top of a four-metre high bronze pole and it is a tribute to the city’s famous symbol the Liver Bird – even though it’s obviously not a liver bird.

The sculpture was commissioned by the BBC as part of their contribution to the art05 festival and Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.  Apparently it represents strength and femininity.

The bird, which is the size of a sparrow, disappears when viewed from the front and only reappears as the viewer moves left to right.  A bit like the Mosa Lisa following you around the room.

There are other art installations all over the city, like these piles of cement suitcases that sit in front of the Liverpool School of Art.  If you look closely, the cases have names of famous Liverpudlians on them.

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So with that our tour came to a sad close.  It was an awesome tour and I would highly recommend anyone heading to Liverpool, they should contact Saskia first.

Dinner that night was with Saskia’s family at one of Liverpool’s top tapas restaurants, which was lucky because when I went to the train station the next morning, this travesty happened!

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2 thoughts on “Liverpool, the Best City Outside of London

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