Thursday, April 14, 2016


Following on from the highly successful short breaks we had last year in Manchester and Leeds, we've just had a long weekend in Liverpool.

We stayed with a friend, and the reason for the timing was the Grand National at Aintree. However, while Mel went to the races, I wasn't overly fussed about the idea of standing in a cold muddy field in a huge crowd, being unable to see anything properly, while being lashed by rain and hail. So I spent more time looking round Liverpool instead.

We went to a fair number of pubs in the centre; I'll cover those separately.

We went on the train, down to London and up to Liverpool Lime Street. One thing I will say, is that Euston is a dismal station, and the concourse is dire. The second thing I'll say is that it's a bit cheeky to charge for WiFi access on a train these days.

Liverpool Lime Street, on the other hand, is a pleasant station - light and airy.

The first evening we had dinner at Fazenda. For those who haven't tried this (we had been to the restaurant in Leeds, and before that to a similar place in Madeira so knew what to expect), the servers keep bringing out chunks of meat and carve off a slice for you. It's all you can eat for steak. Go there hungry, and skimp on the salad bar. It's not cheap, as it's a set price, but it's good food and good value. I was astonished when Mel had a dessert as well.

Then we hit the Cavern Club. Liverpool isn't just about the Mersey Beat and The Beatles, but if you've got them make use of them. It's not the original Cavern Club - that got destroyed in development, but it's a re-creation a few doors down. We arrived early enough that there wasn't a queue, and it was quiet enough that we were able to sit down. The beer's nothing special, but the atmosphere is pretty good. There was a pretty dodgy warm up act on at the start, but later - and it was getting pretty loud and packed by this stage - we had a Beatles tribute act, and they were really rather good.

Travelling around Liverpool and environs is pretty easy with MerseyRail. We were staying out on the Wirral at Wallasey, a few minutes walk from the station on the Wirral Line. It's pretty cheap, and we can use our Two Together railcard as well. It's slightly confusing at first how the train does a clockwise loop through James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street, and Central, but that covers the whole of the city centre.

Next morning we went in on the train and had a little wander down the front before going into the Maritime Museum. Like the other city museums, entrance is free. We did the Seized! and Emigrants exhibitions in the basement, before heading upstairs. The Lusitania and Titanic exhibitions were decent, I think I found the Battle of the Atlantic exhibition the most interesting. The International Slavery Museum is part of the same building, we had to skip that as we had an appointment to keep.

Saturday was race day and I was largely left to my own devices.

To get a feel for the city I was booked on  the Free Walking Tour. We did most of the major locations, starting at St George's Hall, down William Brown Street, through the centre to Mathew St and the Beatles, the Nelson and Victoria statues, the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, the Three Graces and the waterfront, ending at the Albert Dock. These aren't professional tour guides, so you get a different feel - although sometimes the delivery was along the lines of the Jungle Cruise Ride at Disney. We had an ideally timed stop for coffee along the way (ideally timed as a shower came over just as we arrived at the coffee shop).

In the afternoon I headed back up to the Walker Art Gallery. This is actually pretty good, there's nothing famous but there's a pretty strong range of most periods. I particularly liked some of the earlier material - the colours of some of the works are remarkably fresh and vivid given their age. Like the other museums. it's free, and has a fairly decent cafe.

Next door is the Central Library. While it's not of itself a tourist attraction - it really is a library - it's worth wandering in to have a look at the building. There's the newly re-modelled main building, which is clean and light, and the refurbished Picton Reading Room.

At the bottom of the street is the World Museum. Researching ahead of time, reviews were mixed, but it's pretty good in some ways. The building is a little awkward and could do with more or better lifts, I had to wait quite a while to get a lift up to the top and then walk down. The Space part was interesting - they had Tim Peake on a loop. Dinosaurs and Natural World were disappointing - coverage was too thin to be any good. The Ancient World is closed for refurbishment, but I found the World Cultures to be very interesting. I just had time for a quick flip through the aquarium as they were getting everybody out at closing time.

After a quick drink met up with the racegoers at the Monro Gastropub for an excellent meal. And Gastropub is a pretty good description - solid food, well presented.

Sunday we went round the Beatles Story. This comes in two parts. What I think of as the main part, on the Albert Dock, is a history of the Beatles and the Mersey Beat. Very interesting, if slightly disjointed and out of order. The second part, up at the Ferry Terminal, is just weird. It hasn't got all that much to do with the Beatles for one thing, the audio guides don't work, and the Fab 4D show is plain bizarre.

Around grabbing a few more pubs, we had a light dinner at Veeno. Shame the chain hasn't expanded south, it's ideal when you don't want or need a full meal, and just want a bit of wine, meat, and cheese to keep you going.

Monday we had a little drive round the Wirral, including stopping off at Nicholls for an ice cream, before lunch at the Telegraph Inn in New Brighton. Then just time for one last drink at The Crown Hotel by the station before taking the train home.