Sunday, 21 October 2012

A Day Trip to Liverpool

Liverpool.  Before looking into visiting my only associations were the Beatles and overzealous football (soccer) fans.  [I'm not even sure if that is deserved but perhaps the Heysel Stadium and Hillsborough tragedies were somehow etched in my brain.]  At any rate, it seemed a rough around the edges, down in the dumps sort of city.  So, given that we aren't really Beatles fans, why go there?

Reality is much better than my ill-informed perception in this case.  From the Wiki site:

Liverpool is noted for its rich architectural heritage and is home to many buildings regarded as amongst the greatest examples of their respective styles in the world. Several areas of the city centre were granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2004.

Liverpool has more galleries and national museums than any other city in the United Kingdom apart from London.  In 2008, the cultural heritage of the city was celebrated with the city holding the title of European Capital of Culture.

At any rate, we thought it worthy of a visit and we certainly weren't disappointed.

Another benefit is that Liverpool is just over 90 minutes away and is quite an easy drive at least in UK terms (on a Saturday at least).  Divided highways and motorways almost all the way.

Our first stop was the extremely massive Liverpool Cathedral.  It is apparently the 2nd longest and 5th largest (by volume) cathedral in the world.  As you can probably tell, it is considerably more modern than most we have visited.  It was started in the early 1900's but wasn't officially opened until 1978 (two world wars certainly slowed down the construction).

Not sure I get the point of building something so large in this day and age.  Medieval times were all about awe and inspiration of the powerful Church.  Is that still the case?  Oh well, I digress . . .

Yes, that's my family at the base.  Did I mention how big this place is?

large stained glass window -- not used to the neon messages in the other cathedrals either

looking down towards the alter

and the alter itself

A big church requires big bells.  This "peal" is the highest and heaviest in the world.  The organ (not shown), at 10,268 pipes, is the largest in the country.  We can also attest that it is very loud too as they were practicing (or checking) it while we were there.

One of the best parts of the cathedral is the panoramic views at the top (though there is an extra fee for this).  The waterfront (where we will be headed next) is ahead.  Albert Dock is the set of red brick buildings towards the right along the Mersey River. 

The city actually has two cathedrals.  This is the very modern looking Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral.  I'm afraid it reminded me of . . .

. . . the Mercury Space Capsule.  My brother had a really cool G.I. Joe capsule and spacesuit that I inherited (and probably tore up).  But I digress (again).

panning a little further to the right:  along the river you have Albert Dock, Liverpool Museum and the 3 Graces.

zoomed in a bit -- the Liverpool Museum is the funky white building on the left, the 3 Graces to the right.  Not sure what the black building is, but it was empty (still being completed?) when we went past.

Interested factual tidbit:  the cathedral was designed by then 23 year-old Giles Gilbert Scott who also happened to design the iconic red telephone box later in life.

We enjoyed our brief visit to the cathedral and then decided to head to the waterfront.  We moved the car and then left it for the day.

Came across the interesting "Nelson Monument" as we were meandering from the car park.  It's located behind the Town Hall and was was intended to "express the town's gratitude for the decisive victory of the English fleet at Trafalgar, while at the same time lamenting the loss of the national hero".  Pretty sure I didn't get all the symbolism, but interesting nonetheless.

Here we are around the front of the Town Hall.  It could use a little sprucing up and by the looks of it, that's in the plans.  It's the oldest building in the area (1754, late Georgian).

continuing our meandering to the waterfront -- check the street sign on the left if you can make it out;  still in search of the Muffin Man though (must have just missed him)

This is the street side view of the Royal Liver Building, one of the "Three Graces" along the Pier Head mentioned earlier.  It's a Grade I listed building.  From wiki:

Opened in 1911, the building is the purpose-built home of the Royal Liver Assurance group, which had been set up in the city in 1850 to provide locals with assistance related to losing a wage-earning relative. One of the first buildings in the world to be built using reinforced concrete, the Royal Liver Building stands at 90 m (300 ft) tall and was formerly the tallest storied building in Europe.  Today the Royal Liver Building is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city of Liverpool and is home to two fabled Liver Birds that watch over the city and the sea. Legend has it that were these two birds to fly away, then the city would cease to exist.

We moved around back.  The Royal Liver Building is (just) on the left.  The building in front in the second of the Three Graces:  the Cunard Building.  From its construction until the 1960s it was home to the Cunard Line shipping company.  (Grade II listed).

another view of the two building mentioned so far, with more emphasis on the Royal Liver building this time

and finally, the 3rd of the Three Graces and another Grade II listed building:  the Port of Liverpool Building.  (All 3 are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site).

. . . and now for a more modern look, the Museum of Liverpool building which just opened in 2011.  We couldn't fit this in this time, but it will be on the short list for a future visit.

A "Graving" (cleaning) dock.  The sign mentioned 1765 but I'm not sure if that applied to this particular one or not.  Once a ship was in the dock, the gates were shut and the water pumped out or drained through pipes or small gates.  The ship was left high and dry, sat on blocks and propped up at the sides with wooden beams.  The barnacles, etc. could then be removed.

Our destination after all this meandering was the Merseyside Maritime Museum.  This is a large (and free) museum that we tackled in phases with lunch and a tour to break it up.  I've placed the photos together though.

I was quite interested to see the International Slavery Museum which is housed on the 3rd floor.  It was well done but also made me realize that I was decently versed in the subject from my US history classes.  Liverpool was a key player and port in the trade and prospered heavily as a result.  Slave trading was outlawed in the UK in 1807 and Liverpool continued to prosper with the established trade links (for other goods).

Interesting fact:  only 3% of the slave trade went to the US according to the information in the museum.  That was surprising.

As you may know, slavery was very much economically driven (as are most things) and came about as a result of the labor intensive crops (cotton, sugar, coffee, etc.) in the Americas.  The slave trade was actually established by the early colonization by Spain and Portugal but also picked up (and then some) by the English and Dutch.

The rationalization, if you will, was that the Africans were barbaric and closer to animals so they could be treated as such.

Do you ever think about what things we do today that will seem absurd and barbaric in 100-200 years?  I can think of a few . . .

the visuals certainly help drive home the message

not a Merry Christmas for most in the photo

There was much more but I'll leave it at that.  Very powerful.

The majority of the museum was devoted to the early history of the large ship liners that were based out of Liverpool.  The most famous of which was the Titanic which was registered to the White Star Line in Liverpool (though built in Belfast).

There were actually 3 disasters in a span of about 3 years:  the Titanic (1912), the Empress of Ireland (1914) and the Lusitania (1915).  The later was a causality of WWI and was torpedoed by a German U-20 submarine.

Nicole asked me how we used one of these.  Geez, feeling old here.

The Steamship business was big in the early 20th century.  The White Star Line (Titanic) was purchased by Americans and the UK government did what it could to keep the other Liverpool based business competitive.  It helped for awhile since the two eventually merged to form the Cunard White Star line.

We happened to catch a Flash Mob outside between our museum adventures (not such a coincidence as we were told about it when we arrived).  It was put on by a present-day anti-slavery group.

I could tell the energy was a little low in the group.  We had gotten up early (for a Saturday) plus Nicole was battling a cold.  So rather than continue the museum march, we decided to take a somewhat unique tour in the amphibious DUWK.  Though not cheap, it was a fun tour around the city (and eventually into the water).

Photos are a little rough, especially since I wasn't on the window side.  Here's a quick shot of the Lime Street station.  I thought the guide mentioned something about "oldest" train station and "first" something else but my post-trip fact checking isn't coming up with anything.  Sorry.  Neat station at least.

Note, I did consider taking the train but it just didn't make sense.  Driving was faster and much cheaper in this instance.

The gateway to Chinatown (the largest gateway outside of China though Washington, DC has the largest single-span arch).  According to the Wiki link:  Many Chinese immigrants first arrived in Liverpool in the late 1850s as a result of Alfred Holt and Company employing large number of Chinese seamen while establishing the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. The commercial shipping line created strong trade links between the cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Liverpool; mainly importing silk, cotton and tea.

Now in the water (that was a cool entry, by the way).  Being overtaken by some rowers -- not the fastest vehicle but it was a fun tour.

a view of Albert Dock from the water

the unique self-catering option:  The Yellow Submarine.  Even cooler, this was actual the sub used in The Hunt for Red October.  Only £375/night!  (cool, but yikes)

After the tour we decided to walk around Albert Dock.  This photo is for Nicole's good friend.  I didn't know she had her own shop.

There was a confectionery store where we bought some treats (but not $8 pop-tarts)

nor $8 chocolate "flavor" syrup

the kids and me as we walk back towards the center of town

This interesting (Grade II listed) building is the Albion House, also known as the White Star building.  As mentioned about, the White Star Line built/registered/owned the Titanic.

Heading towards Liverpool ONE, the new, expansive outdoor shopping mall and we run into a McLaren.  Don't see one of those every day (or any day for that matter).

All Alex cared about all day was getting his "football kit".  When we arrived a year and a half ago, Alex picked the Liverpool FC (Football Club -- that's soccer for the Americans in the audience) as his team.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps an early friend liked them as well.  He's wanted a "proper" kit to wear at afterschool football club so this was the chance. 

Not that I follow these things, but I did remind him that Liverpool isn't exactly lighting  up the Premier League this year (or the last few) but he said "I can't change teams because of that, Dad."  (That's a good lad).

Side note:  Liverpool is the winningest city in UK football history.   Liverpool FC (aka Reds) is the "new" team having been established in 1892.  Everton (the Blues) is the other (and first) team which was established in 1878.

This was quite an expensive purchase so we went 50/50 to make sure the interest was really there.  It was:

Jumping forward a day, here he is in his new "kit" (they use that word frequently here).  He opted for the road black rather than the red because he thought it looked better (and the red had a collar).

Back to Saturday.  I had planned to take in the Beatles Story but decided to save it for another time.  Instead, we did a (very) poor-man's self-guided tour of walking around ourselves.

Hard Day's Night Hotel -- looked posh and there was a doorman to (I assume) keep out the riff-raff.

Lennon statue on the corner of the hotel

another Lennon statue near the Cavern Club

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say

I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

and one more photo of the Fab Four

We continued our self-guided walking tour to St. George's Hall -- another architectural marvel and Grade I listed site.  It's also a popular wedding site as you can see.

Exotic car day?  First a McLaren and now a Ferrari.  Perhaps for the wedding??

On the other side of St. George's Hall is St. John's Gardens.  [This is a stock photo of the Monument to the King's Regiment.  There were a bunch of teenagers around it when we walked by.]

Our walk ends at Derby Square and the Queen Victoria monument (again, an internet photo).

We capped the day off (quite successfully) with a very nice meal at Etsu, a Japanese restaurant.  Winging it didn't work well at Chester so I thought I'd plan ahead.  I made a booking the night before and everything.  Well done, if I do say so myself.

So, all and all, a nice day out.  The city was very walkable and had a lot to see and do.  We still left a lot on the table (Beatles Story, Liverpool Museum, Tate Liverpool, World Museum, etc.) so we'll have to come back.

Big week upcoming for Nicole.  She's off to Gibraltar with her school Netball team.  She leaves in the middle of the night and gets back Thursday.

No blog next week.  Kuk's parents arrive Friday morning and we are spending the week+ in London during the kid's "Autumn" half term break.

Have a good (two) weeks everyone.