Liverpool: Down by the riverside!

Trip Start May 26, 2012
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Trip End May 26, 2012


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

For sister-in-law Carla's birthday, the family decided to celebrate over several days. Not the 'just go out and get pissed’ kind of celebration but ‘let’s do stuff first then think about going out to get pissed’ kind!!

On the Friday, Roisin, Carla, Kate (their mum) and Auntie Eve spent the day at Kilhey Court spa resort. The brochure states that Kilhey Court is set amidst stunning countryside. Now that is their first fatal error! The Rockies is stunning. The view across Hong Kong harbour is stunning. Even the Australian outback is stunning. This Spa and Beauty Club; this haven of peace and serenity is on the outskirts of Wigan!!! Hardly a UNESCO heritage site!! No, a rewrite is definitely in order. If the brouchure read: ‘…set amidst ‘nice’ countryside or ‘pleasant’ countryside…’  then it would be more believeable.

They all returned from their day invigourated, even if a little sore from an overeager masseuse! Nothing beats a little pampering now and then; relaxing in the lap pool (even if it was not so much a pool – more of an over sized bathtub!!), taking a leisurely lunch with a little vino then off for a beauty treatment in the afternoon.

You should come, next time’, suggested Roisin. ‘You’d enjoy the beauty treatment’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘Not even if St. Jude, himself was performing the facial!!’

Carla, Kate and Auntie Eve arrived at our house at 11am on Saturday morning ready for part 2 of the birthday celebrations; a day in Liverpool!!

‘Are you going to write a blog?’ asked Carla.
No. You know I save my blogs for when we are on cruises.’ I replied
‘Yes, well aren’t we on a cruise today? Carla was quick to retort.

Gulp! She was right. Today we plan on having lunch at the Yacht club in Liverpool Marina before heading to the Pier Head where we will catch a ferry that will take us up stream, over to Seacombe and Woodside on the ‘dark’ side before heading back across the River Mersey where our 50 minute river cruise ends.

Next, we will join the Yellow Duck marine where a 1 hour ticket will take us through the streets of Liverpool city centre and in to the docks for a ‘duck eye’ view of the city.

The weather was going to remain around 80F (25C) all day.

Lunch was done and dusted about 1:10. The Mersey cruise departed from the Pier Head, 1½ miles along the promenade. We had 50 minutes to walk to the terminus and buy our tickets. We had 2 seniors of 70 years +. I just hoped I could keep up!!

1½ miles in 80F heat wasn’t as taxing as I thought it would be. The nearest I got to ‘taxing’ was passing Queens Dock, home (but not for much longer!!) of the local VAT Office!!!

We headed toward Liverpool’s famous Albert Dock along Kings Parade, passing the Echo Arena. This is the second most recent addition to the Liverpool waterfront having had its first ’gig’ in 2008. Since then it has been the host of everything from Andrea Boccelli to Whitesnake. It has also accommodated diverse sporting events such as boxing, basketball, premiership darts and Davis Cup tennis. With its exhibition centre attached, the 11,000 capacity Arena has certainly secured a reputation as one of the leading multi-purpose venues in the UK.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The River Mersey is about a mile or so wide at the Pier Head. The ‘other side’ was crystal clear. The outline of the Birkenhead Town Hall dominated the skyline as its dome glistened in the sun.

We occasionally stopped to let joggers and dog walkers past which was a welcome respite for me as the 70 years olds were shifting along as if they had Roman candles firing out of their backsides!!!

We arrived at the Pier Head and secured our tickets for the Mersey Cruise. The Pier Head has developed over the past 40 years. In the 60s and 70s, this site used to be the main terminal for local buses. Its latest guise has seen the construction of a waterway that links the Leeds-Liverpool canal to the Southern Docks complex and the marina beyond. What hasn’t changed is the 3 most distinguished landmarks in all of Christendom! They are known as the ‘Three Graces’.

The oldest of these buiding is the Port of Liverpool Building. Built from 1903 to 1907 with its characteristic domes is home to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. .

Opened in 1911, the dominant building of this trio is the Royal Liver Building with its twin clock towers and each tower topped with the world famous Liver bird. Legend has it that these birds are chained down because if they were to fly away, the city would cease to exist. Another popular belief is that if a virgin or honest man were to walk past, the Liver Birds will flap their wings!!  I prefer the story that the female Liver bird looks out to sea, keeping an eye out for our sailors and seamen whilst the male Liver bird looks inland keeping an eye out for when the pubs open!! (This doesn’t quite work nowadays with the relaxation of licensing laws!) However, that’s not too far from the truth as the Liver Birds are facing away from each other; one looking across the city (Our people) and one looking across the Sea (Our prosperity).

At this stage, the town planners must have realised that there was too much space between the Royal Liver and the Port of Liverpool buildings. In 1916, the third of the 3 Graces, the Cunard building was ‘squeezed’ in. This is much more of a squat structure with a flat roof. Once the headquarters of the Cunard Shipping Line it is now a regular ‘office block’ with half of this Art Deco building remaining empty.

We took our place in the line waiting to board the Ferry for a 50-minute cruise on the River Mersey.

Over the years there have been hundreds of boats transporting commuters and tourists from Liverpool to Birkenhead, Wallasey and New Brighton. The current fleet consists of three vessels, which were all originally from the 1960s and were named Mountwood, Woodchurch and Overchurch. All three ferries have been extensively refurbished and renamed Royal Iris of the Mersey, Snowdrop and Royal Daffodil respectively. The "Royal" prefix was granted to the original ferries Iris and Daffodil for their service during the First World War.

The gang plank went down on the Royal Daffodil, and after letting the previous cruisers off, the surge then the rush began. Despite the ferry looking quite small and the queue in front  (and behind) of us looked fairly big there was room for everyone. Once aboard there were seats aplenty. Even those sons and daughters of Satan whose only purpose in life seems to be wheeling push chairs and buggies everywhere they go found places to sit without getting in our way!! Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with these contraptions providing there is a child in there being pushed. It seems in many cases, the child either walks or is being carried and the buggy is nothing more than a means of transporting bags and purses and some used as extensions to shopping trollies!! People take too much stuff with them when they go out.

When I was younger, I remember my mum was so busy gathering loads of stuff and getting me and me sister ready to go over to Harrison Drive ‘lido’ swimming pool that it wasn’t until we got to the top of the street that she’d realise she’d forgot my nan!!! It seemed  a bat with a ball attached by a piece of elastic had taken precident over the senior member of our family!

The most consecutive days Roisin and I have spent at sea is 4. It’s amazing how quickly 4 days at sea passes by. Needless to say we’d hardly sat down and our 50 minutes were up. It was very pleasant while it lasted. This cruise was accompanied by a running commentary on the history of the area aiding and assisting us in our exploration of Liverpool’s rich past.

The Royal Daffodil was once again tied up at the Pier Head, the gang plank lowered and we all scrambled off to make room for the next 860 lucky passengers.

We had about an hour before our next event, Duck tours. This gave us time to wander the ½ mile or so through the Albert Dock to the Yellow duck marine terminus.

The Albert Dock is another enigma. The 1.25 million sq feet of warehouse was opened in 1839. What made this dock and warehouses an innovation was that prior to this, warehouses were mainly made of wood and had a tendency to burn down!! This was the first enclosed, non-combustible dock warehouse system in the world, and the first structure in Britain to be built entirely of cast iron, brick and stone. It was to gain another 'first' in 1848, when the world's first hydraulic warehouse hoists were installed. During the decline of the Port in the 60s and 70s, the Albert Dock fell derelict until its redevelopment in 1982 and was reopened in 1984 to coincide with the tall ships race ending in Liverpool of that year. The complex now houses museums and galleries, shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Part of the Albert Dock has also been converted to luxury apartments. The world famous Beatle museum is also part of the Albert Dock family.

There are 4 Ducktour vehicles in the fleet. They are all converted ex-miliary amphibious crafts. The tour would take us around the city, past many landmarks and then back to the docks where the craft would then take to the water (like a duck??)  for the final part of our journey.

Dave, our guide kept us all entertained during this 1 hour experience. We headed up toward Hope Street. At one end stands the  Anglican cathedral and at the other end the Metropolitan cathedral. Both are very characteristic in making up the distinctive Liverpool skyline.

Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect was only 21 when he designed the Anglican Cathedral. 21!!! I know some 21 years olds that can’t even make their own bed!!! The foundation stone was laid in 1904 and finally finished in 1978. Familia Sagrada in Barcelona please note: It CAN be done if you put your mind to it!!! It is the 5th largest cathedral in Europe. The belltower is the largest, and also one of the tallest, in the world

By contrtast, the Metropolitan cathedral’s original plans were submitted by Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s. The design for this cathedral was quite aspirational. If successful the dome atop of this cathedral would be the 2nd largest in the world. The cost to build started at £3m. However, with the war looming and the economy falling, the costs soon spiralled out of control to a whopping £23m. Needless to say in 1941 the plans were scrapped after only completing the cathedrals crypt. The city then commissioned Giles Gilbert Scott’s brother, Adrian to scale down Lutyen’s plans but to keep the dome. They soon realised that they had chosen the wrong brother and that architectural design didn’t run in the family after receiving Adrian’s proposal…in green crayon!!!

This wasn’t getting things done so the problem was thrown open to competition. Over 300 entries were received and finally Sir Frederick Gibberd’s plans were picked. You could say he was the original ‘chosen one’!!! Work was started in 1962 and completed in 1967. The cathedral has since adopted nicknames such as ‘Paddy’s wigwam’ and the ‘Mersey funnel’!! I’m sure these are terms of endearment.

The Radio City Tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Built in 1969 it is the 32nd tallest in UK!! That makes it NOT even the tallest tower in Liverpool!! It was originally designed as a ventilation shaft for St. John’s Market. I think someone must have spilt coffee, or something over the plans because why do you need a ventilation shaft 138m tall?? I think the original plans must have said 13.8m!!! The decimal point got smudged! I remember that there used to be a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower but it was closed for health and safety reasons. The tower remained derelict for years until Radio City came along with a lifeline to this landmark that was in danger of becoming a white elephant.  The tower has since been revitalised and is now home to a local radio station. There is an observation tower open to the public if you don’t mind climbing the 558 stairs up to the top!! Oh, I almost forgot to mention, those less enegetic can take the 30 second lift!!

40 minutes in and the duck bus was standing at the top of the slip way of the Salthouse dock. Splash!! Despite the massive displacement of water, I was surprised I didn’t get wetter than expected. The short 10 minute ‘paddle’ took us passed Wapping Warehouse. Half of it was missing. Burned down, so I am told!! We passed a gang of lads showing off jumping from the quay side in to the dock. Where do they think they are? Accapulco? I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the dock is awash with jellyfish!

We passed through Queens Dock in to Coburg and then out at the marina slipway. We were hoping that the craft would stop to ‘re-adjust’ itself. This would have  been a good moment to alight as we were only about 50 yards away from where we had parked the cars! No such luck. After 2 unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep slip way, the driver gave it some wellie and we found ourselves once again on Kings Parade heading back toward  the Albert Dock. It looks like we would have to walk back after all. Ah well, at least it’s dry!!!

The evening meal was a roaring success. This was held in the Sandpiper pub in Bickerstaffe. We were given the whole of the back room and were joined by members of the family who were unable to make the daytime activities.

I finally decided on the Spanish chicken. Aunty Pat asked me what is the difference between Spanish Chicken and English chicken?

"English chickens lay and Spanish chickens olé!!!", I was quick to retort.

The ‘cake’ finally made its appearance. Carla’s little face lit up. Literally as her hair caught fire when trying to blow the candles out!! I must admit, I didn’t realise human hair was so combustible!!

All in all this meal brought a perfect end to a perfect day.

**NB** All explanations and descriptions in this narrative may be ‘loosely’ based on the truth!!
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Comments

Maxine on

Fab. Love it. About time you did a piece on the beautiful city that is liverpool :) xx

Elaine on

Another great review Chris and a cruise on the Royall Daffodi!!!!!!
A wonderful experience and even better -------NO TIPS !!!!!

Carla on

Fab blog and fab day ;-) x

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