Saturday, June 06, 2009

UK Holiday, Part 2

The next-to-last day of my journey I boarded a (short) flight from London to Manchester, then bought a ticket at the Manchester rail station for Liverpool. I had said good-bye to V. earlier that morning before she flew back to New York. I was now traveling solo. That scared me a little.

There were only about five people on the train when I boarded it. Maybe that was the first sign that I wasn’t in London anymore, that there wasn’t a huge crowd of people everywhere I went.

I began to get more nervous as the train got closer toward Liverpool. I put away the copy of the Guardian I had been reading and stared at the steep walls of rock near Lime Street. I tried to think of interesting topics of conversation to bring up. What do you say to a person whose blog you’ve been reading for six years? A person you know both everything and nothing about?

I got off the train and didn’t see him. Oh crap, he forgot. But I also remembered I hadn’t checked my e-mail in a week. I imagined the e-mail waiting there in my inbox, canceling the whole thing.

I walked around the terminal some more, looking for some place with Internet access, then saw a guy in a black sweater and jeans that I thought I recognized. “Stuart?” Luckily he looks just like his picture on Facebook.

He was taller than I expected and had a thicker accent than I expected. I think like a lot of Americans, I’m not too familiar with northern English accents.

A true gentleman, he took my bag so I could drop it off at the hotel I was staying at. Our agenda for the day was a tour of the city: Liverpool’s two cathedrals, Penny Lane, the Cavern Club, etc.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to be very awed by the cathedrals in Liverpool, not after what I had seen earlier that week. But the Catholic cathedral was amazing. I imagine this is what the Catholic Church had in mind in issuing Vatican II. It’s a very modern place of worship with its non-traditional stations of the cross and stained glass that seem out of an abstract painting.

Right afterward we went to the Anglican cathedral, which was much more traditional. I was more than happy to see some more Gothic architecture. Stu informed me it took 100 years to finish. 100 years? He said he used to have school performances there, and I couldn’t imagine that.

And then it was time to see some Beatles landmarks. It was a fairly long bus ride to see Penny Lane where the landmarks from the Beatles song are—the banker and the barbershop, the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout."

On a walk down the “real” Penny Lane, I saw the Penny Lane street signs all covered with graffiti that Stu said often get nicked (er, stolen in American).

I love landmarks that aren’t all tourist-ed out, and such was Penny Lane.

Then back to the city center to see the Cavern Club where the Beatles were discovered. The real club was demolished and is now replaced by a power substation, which I thought was funny. The “new” Cavern Club really does seem like a cavern given that it’s underground and very dark. Over glasses of Pepsi I remarked it was a lot smaller than I expected. A young folk rocker was playing on the tiny stage and an American singer was set to go next.

The weather had been really bright and sunny that day, “blue suburban skies”, but after the Cavern Club a downpour began and I didn’t think to bring an umbrella. My sweater got soaked as we headed to the Albert Dock. Stu assured me it was “Liverpool rain” and would be over fast. Fortunately he was right.
As we walked through the city, I got the feeling Liverpool would have been quite a different place had I visited even ten years ago. The Liverpool I saw was bright with upscale shops and restaurants that Stu readily noted were recent additions. It seems like the sort of city that’s always been a gem but only now is getting the polish it deserves. The European Capital of Culture 2008, woo hoo…

I found out what a Superlambanana is and saw the gate to Liverpool’s Chinatown. Liverpool has a Chinatown?

I have to say I really enjoyed the half-tourist, half-autobiographical tour. It seemed every block held a story (There’s the FACT Centre!…There’s where the Beatles used to go drinking…There’s where I went to secondary school).

Dinner was at the Everyman Bistro, which is attached to the Everyman Theatre playhouse. The underground bistro had gourmet food served cafeteria-style, something I hadn’t really seen before. I took a bowl of pasta with roasted vegetables, very tasty, especially since I hadn’t eaten all day.

We sat down and the inevitable conversation about blogging began (and later Twitter and Facebook and Spotify). The conversation meandered to writing and school and our respective futures. Stu told me I seemed like a laidback person, which I thought was funny since I tend to think of myself as the queen of anxiety.

But I think the day went by with a minimum of awkwardness. We reached my hotel and I thanked my host for the tour. “This is a very nice place,” I said. And I really meant it. There was definitely a cheerful vibe to Liverpool that wasn’t there in London. A different side of England and I liked it.

And, of course, meeting one of my blog heroes was pretty amazing, even though to be honest, it almost doesn’t seem real to me now. But there are my pictures and this, so I guess I can’t question it, just say it’s one of those rare moments in life I’m really glad to have experienced.

1 comment:

Holidays in UK said...

I do agree with you Annete Ever block has different story and looks. I was there in 2012 and exactly same I felt.