For the last decade, a magnet with the gloomy silhouette of a building has clung to my white board. Underneath The Beatles’ famous logo, the magnet reads Liverpool, England.
It never actually occurred to me that the mysterious building had a real-life counter part but I always knew that one day I’d visit the city. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the exact building I unknowingly admired for years grandly resting on left bank of the River Mersey. I knew it had to be the same building because of the strange statues decorating the top. As I later learned, the mythical Liver Birds perched atop the Royal Liver Building symbolize the English port city. The Royal Liver Building and it’s neighbors, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building, make up the Three Graces of Liverpool.
I only learned all of this fascinating information after I arrived in Liverpool. Traveling is supposed to be for learning. But it is also for fulfilling life-long dreams and that is what drew me to the city in the first place. Ever since I was about twelve years old I promised myself and anyone who would listen that one day I would go to Liverpool. Fast forward to the October of 2015 and I finally found myself stepping off a plane at the appropriately named John Lennon Airport.
Now that we’ve established a little background knowledge, let’s get to the traveling part of this post.
I have a complicated relationship with Europe’s premier budget airline. Ryanair, I hate you because your baggage restrictions and merciless threats of surcharges give me major heart palpitations. I love you because there is no cheaper way to hop from country to country and I consider my 20€ ($23) flight from Dublin to Liverpool a blessing. After one of the quickest flights of my life and a few confusing minutes trying to figure out British coinage, I made my way into the city center. Although my first goal was to find my hotel a few short blocks away from the bus stop, I was very quickly distracted by the sounds of the River Mersey and the twinkling lights of the docks just across the street. Without even realizing it, and still strapped into my backpack, I darted off in the opposite direction.
At this point my sleep deprived senses were on overload but everywhere I looked there was something new and exciting. I don’t know if anything will ever top looking out at the wide and murky river as it’s waves softly beat against the docks that first night. There was such a simple beauty to it and a peculiar feeling of finally having arrived somewhere I was always meant to go was threatening to overtake me. I spent a few euphoric moments realizing that dreams do come true before tearing myself from the river and setting off with an armful of late night takeaway to find my hotel for the night. The next morning I woke to a hot cup of tea courtesy of the kettle conveniently located on my nightstand and a view like something out of a Victorian novel.
I might not know all the hottest bars and clubs, although Liverpool ranks first in nightlife in the United Kingdom, but finding fantastic breakfast in Europe was my specialty. Priorities, right? Dutch pancakes and apfelstrudel sure seemed to have a way of calling out to me and in Liverpool I found perfectly flavored eggs Benedict on a bagel nonetheless. A perfect way to start Halloween day. Moose Coffee served up a mean cappuccino and, as if it couldn’t get any better, the cozy cafe’s decor was comprised mainly of giant moose portraits like the American astronaut moose featured below.
After fueling up I headed back to the docks to explore a few of the national museums. Liverpool is home to:
- Museum of Liverpool
- Merseyside Maritime Museum
- International Slavery Museum
- The Lady Lever Art Gallery
- The Sudley House
- The Walker Art Gallery
- World Museum
One more thing the UK is doing right: all national museums have free admission. Free. If you’re traveling in the UK and are running low on funds, spend a few hours in some of the best museums in the world and get a free education. For instance, did you know the United States’ first overseas consulate was established in Liverpool in 1790? I meandered through the first three in a single day and found them to be quite insightful. All the exhibitions were wonderfully crafted and covered a wide range of history from Liverpool’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and the Battle of the Atlantic to the social history of the city and, of course, The Beatles.
Which brings me to the day’s main attraction which was none other than the Magical Mystery Tour itself. Normally I cringe at the very idea of any guided tour but I had some very specific sightseeing to do and I was willing to make this one exception for The Beatles. And so I clambered on to a bus, painted yellow and blue with all the trimmings, full of mostly middle-aged British tourists and took a nice window seat. We visited everything from Strawberry Fields and the church were John Lennon and Paul McCartney met in 1957. My favorite moment was walking along Penny Lane, the tune to the song buzzing in my brain.
As an added bonus to the tour, all tickets include same day admission to the Cavern Club, the nightclub where The Beatles became, well, The Beatles. I spent my favorite Halloween night of all time in the dimly lit club sipping on English beer and listening to covers of the old Beat bands from Herman’s Hermits to The Kinks. At one point the band played Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry and the Pacemakers and the entire place joyfully sang along to the chorus. A simple song takes on a whole new meaning when its namesake river is just a few short blocks away. That’s one memory I’ll cherish as long as I live.
Liverpool was definitely a destination off the beaten path. If it wasn’t for my longstanding love for The Beatles, I wouldn’t have discovered the city’s magic and charm. Hopefully next time I can time my trip to catch Liverpool FC take on Manchester United. Now that’s a football game I could actually sit through. But that’s besides the point. In my mind, Liverpool will always the birthplace of The Beatles but after a few days in the city, I quickly realized the significance of Liverpool’s rich history and culture. Liverpool stole my heart the second I arrived and I can’t wait to book my return trip.