Land of the Fab Four and Football
A Liverpudlian by any other name is, well, a… Liverpudlian. And he speaks a wee bit of a clipped dialect known as Scouse. English, yes, but a dialect nonetheless that is straight from the banks of the Mersey River made famous by Jerry and the Pacemakers long before we needed one or even knew what a pacemaker was. If you are a die-hard fan of this music, including that of the Beatles, then you’ve undertaken a pilgrimage to the exact right spot. On the other hand, if you’re interested in what else Liverpool has to offer, then you’ve also come to the right spot for there is much to entice even a hardened traveler.
A Tale Of Two Cities
History and culture. Hard times and rock-n-roll.
Start with the fact that Liverpool’s one-half-million people celebrated their well-deserved recognition as a World Heritage Site in 2004. In 2008, they’ll toast again when their city becomes the European Capital for Culture. Liverpool is recognized as England’s finest Victorian city. Sadly, though, there is a tarnished veneer on this wonderful façade. Hard times and the economic downturn of the 1980s left their sullied mark. Nonetheless, the people of Liverpool are resilient and have a long past to fuel their momentum even when times have been tough.
As early as 1715, Liverpool was already a bustling seaport. Ships manned with local men and young boys transported regional cotton goods and hardware to the shores of West Africa. Terrified slaves were then crammed into the emptied dank holds to begin their torturous crossing to the West Indies and the fledgling communities in Virginia. Raw cotton and tobacco were packed into the once-again empty ships and sent back to Liverpool where the whole profitable and regrettable practice began anew. The rich got very rich. The poor had employment. This sad tale is spelled out, along with the story of great ships, the Battle for the Atlantic, and the emigration to the New World, in detail at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Albert Dock.
The Liverpool docks were alive with activity again between 1830 and 1930 when a whopping nine million people lumbered up gangways with bundles of possession, a world of hope, wide-eyed children in tow, and little else to set sail for the New World.
Following the First World War, Liverpool went into a tailspin. The impact of the shrinking British Empire and the advent of the airplane resonated across empty docks and echoed in abandoned warehouses. World War II brought this scene back to life. One million American military personnel gathered here prior to the D-Day Invasion.
So much history, so little time. Thankfully there are excellent museums to highlight the part of the tale that piques your interest including the Western Approaches Museum housed the Western Atlantic Command Center for the Battle of the Atlantic. Military history buffs should visit. Check for opening hours.
The Tate Gallery is an offshoot of London’s famous Tate and features modern art. Liverpudlian Henry Tate of Tate & Lyle Sugar is the man who made this all possible. It’s found at the Albert Dock.
Albert Dock, by the way, was built between 1841 and 1845 and is the site of Britain’s most extensive collection of Grade 1 listed preserved historical buildings. Phew. Iron columns and a formal colonnade alert you to the five stories of shops and restaurants in addition to the museums. And there are more museums on William Brown St.
As far as cathedrals, there are two you mustn’t miss. The Metropolitan Cathedral, which was to be larger than even St. Peters in Rome, was completed in 1967. Due to and economic downturn, plans were scaled down and it is now lovingly referred to as “Paddy’s Wagon.” The Anglican Cathedral, only completed in 1978, is a category of superlatives: Britain’s largest; features the world’s third largest bell; highest Gothic arches ever constructed (107 feet); largest vault and organ (9704 pipes), and so on. Sports fans that remember the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough Football Stadium should pause at the memorial to the 96 fans that lost their lives.
OK. The Beatles and Football
Well, soccer (as Americans know it) is a passion of Liverpudlians. If there’s a game on or a practice, visit either the Everton Football Club at Goodison Park or the Liverpool Football Club at Anfield. And you’d best be wearing the team’s kit if you want to make friends with the fans.
The Beatles. Whether a fan or not, you must agree they inalterably changed the course of contemporary music. And their story unfolds for you either at “The Beatle’s Story” at Albert Dock or during the Magical Mystery Tour, a 2-hour bus journey down Penny Lane including a look at Strawberry Fields, homes and haunts of the Fab Four, and a look at the Cavern Club (not the exact original, however) where those local lads who started the “British Invasion” performed 275 times between 1961 and 1963. Wear rose-colored glasses, psychedelic bellbottoms, and a flower in your hair. And while there, discover what it means to be “just another brick in the wall.”