Another great day. Contrary to weather expectations, it was fine for our drive up the Wirral Peninsula to Birkenhead and Liverpool. We had intended to take the “Ferry cross the Mersey”, as per the well-known 1965 hit song by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Bit of trivia: in 1976 I worked at NCR with a chap from Liverpool – Les Chadwick. He had been a member of the band. Watch a video of it: http://youtu.be/-GWoV4r67h0. More trivia: The song is often misspelled as “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey”, but according to the song’s lyrics, the track is correctly titled “Ferry Cross the Mersey”. “Cross” is not a contraction of “Across” but an imperative – “Ferry, cross The Mersey.”
The drive from Chester was quick and easy along a flat meandering motorway. We had a good feeling entering Birkenhead on the main road into town – wide and with nice houses along the way. On arriving at the intended ferry dock we learned that it only ran Mon-Fri – bad luck. However it did allow us to get our first good glimpse across the River Mersey (actually more of an inlet) to the main harbour/docks area on the Liverpool side. We were astounded to hear very loud music reaching us over the water from that general area, a distance of about a mile.
No ferry, so plan B was to take the Queensway/Birkenhead Tunnel under the Mersey over to Liverpool. We were thinking of you all the way, Andy. For non-Sydneysiders, our good friend Andy helped to build a tunnel here, but we think it was the Kingsway Tunnel.
After dropping the car and armed with directions from the super-helpful car park attendants we set off for the Albert Dock. After only a few minutes we could already hear the same loud music as from the other side. Next we saw runners coursing through the streets. We later learned that this was the inaugural Rock & Roll Liverpool Marathon. That probably accounts for the music emanating from the Arena adjacent to the Albert Dock.
What struck us immediately about Liverpool was how wide the streets were, and how many attractive buildings it had. It must have been a very prosperous city at one time.
The most famous and impressive buildings are adjacent to each other just off the waterfront. These are: the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Liverpool Ports Building, collectively known as the Three Graces. The Liver building looks like it has a castle built on top of it, with a huge bird atop each of its towers. There is a story about these birds which we didn’t quite catch, but they were originally intended to be eagles. The Ports building has what looks like a lighthouse in each corner and a huge copper done in the middle. In the bouts of bright sunlight these buildings make a fantastic impression – I was enchanted.
To our relief, there was a one hour ferry cruise, which we took and really enjoyed because of the mainly sunny conditions. The tourist commentary was most informative. We had lunch on the terrace of the ferry terminal building, with just the best view of the Three Graces.
The harbour area impressively has a number of free museums in the Albert Dock area. We visited the International Slavery Museum – an eye-opening experience, but also quite depressing. To Canada’s credit it was the first country (well, colony) in the British Empire to outlaw slavery – in 1793.
We next had a longish walk to the Anglican Cathedral; a very large building constructed using a reddish stone quarried right next door. It’s not old, but we couldn’t find a definitive date – possibly 20th century. When we arrived at 3pm an evensong session had just started so we sat down on chairs to the rear of the church and listened to the service. Although it was big, we didn’t find the cathedral that interesting. On exiting we found that it was raining.
Our next destination was the Philharmonic Pub, a fine listed building opposite the Philharmonia concert hall. This is an elegant pub and it is known for its fine gentlemen’s loo. We learned all this from the Lonely Planet. We did have a beer here and I did visit the loo. We also chatted to a local couple, who, while living in the city had only ever been to this pub once, several months earlier. They were there today as part of their 30th wedding anniversary and they were staying at a nearby hotel. Their daughter is currently travelling in Australia. It’s a small world. After exiting the cathedral we had also chatted to a local man whose daughter lived in Sydney. On the ferry cruise we had learned that between 1830 and 1930 nine million people departed British shores for the new world from Liverpool.
On the way back to the car we walked down Hardman St which consisted of a continuous string of fast food outlets. A little further on we encountered a hen party dressed in tight pink and black with the name of the bride emblazoned on their T-shirts. Their leader carried a large pink inflatable male member – hilarious. This reinforced our experience in Chester of numerous women in groups out on the town. Perhaps this also goes on in Sydney but we have never seen it.
We had a long walk back to the car park. Along the way we passed by the cultural district which included quite a number of impressive buildings. We were sorry that we did not have more time and better conditions to appreciate them.
Despite the late rain, Liverpool exceeded our expectations and we fully enjoyed our day here. Recommended.