A Hard Day's Night (x4) in Liverpool!
Trip Start May 23, 2008
9Trip End Jun 20, 2008
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Where I stayed
On Friday morning, Dawn and I left her home in Grays (east of London) for Liverpool. We arrived at the Fenchurch Street station, and got on the underground at Tower Hill to go to London Euston station. We made good time in getting there, and soon we were on the train! Luckily we had seats reserved, as it was pretty crowded on the train. Strangely, we had no window next to us, just a blank wall! We had a few inches of someone else's window, but that was it. During the train journey, we were delayed due to a signal failure (no accident as far as we knew, though), and arrived into Liverpool about 45 minutes late.
We took a cab to our home for 4 nights, the brand new Hard Day's Night hotel! It opened in February. It's a lovely hotel with 110 rooms. It was smaller than I expected, but really pretty. There's Beatles music playing constantly and there's Beatles stuff everywhere without it being cheesy or overwhelming. It's right around the corner from Mathew Street, which is where the Cavern Club is located, where The Beatles did something like 275 shows in the span of just a few years. Luckily, our room was not facing Mathew Street (where there are lots of clubs that stay open until the wee hours of the morning) and instead was facing a quiet parallel street. We were on the 4th floor (but known as the 5th floor to the US, as England numbers the floors differently, and starts at Ground or 0, then the next floor above that is 1), with a huge balcony about 1/4 of the size of our room! We could see both cathedrals, the Liver buildings, the back of the new Liverpool One shopping complex, and lots of seagulls. It was really lovely...probably my favorite part of the hotel. There was only 1 floor higher than us and the seagulls would dive bomb off the top and get really close to our balcony. The room itself was fairly small for my expectations, but adequate, and we had a painting of Paul McCartney (rooftop sessions era, with a full beard) above our beds! The flat screen TV was cool and had the Beatles One album available for listening as well as numerous internet radio stations, including a Beatles internet radio station! They also had "A Hard Day's Night" as part of the movies selection but we weren't sure if it was free or not.
After relaxing in our hotel for a little while, Dawn and I wandered around the hotel, as there's a main stairwell that has HUGE photos of the Beatles, solo and as a group, and we took photos of everything, from the 5th (aka 6th in America) floor down. When we got to the bottom, security told us that we weren't allowed to be taking photos! There were no big signs stating so, so we didn't know. It feels strange not to be able to take a photo in your own hotel, even just of friends! Their excuse was that there is lots of original artwork in the hotel, which is pretty silly. I've never been in a hotel that restricts photography!
We left our hotel and went to the shopping area of Liverpool, picking up our tickets for the Liverpool Sound concert on Saturday (headlined by Paul McCartney, featuring the Kaiser Chiefs and the Zutons) at the tourist information office, and ran into my friend Ellie, who I hadn't seen for 5 years! It was really nice to see her for a few minutes and unfortunately we weren't able to catch up for a longer time. All day I was getting text messages from friends who were arriving into Liverpool that day, which was lots of fun. We went back to the hotel and waited for our friends to arrive from the airport - Fiona and Diane (visiting from Texas) were flying in from Ireland! Their room was only 2 doors down from ours and we first saw each other on the balcony! :) The 4 of us went to the brasserie in the hotel for dinner, and my friend Kate (who had just flown in from Poland!) joined us for dinner. After dinner, and after getting a tour of our room, Kate parted ways with us, as it was getting late, and the 4 of us headed downstairs to Hari's bar. Just outside Hari's bar they have a wall with celebrities holding up their favourite Beatles album. We didn't recognize most of them, but we definitely recognized Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul's current drummer, who is FABULOUS and the son of famed bass player Abraham Laboriel), who was holding up the White Album. They have some really cool themed cocktails in the hotel, but the Hari's bar only had a small selection of cocktails, so I had a bellini, which was very good.
On Saturday morning, we went on the National Trust tour of Paul McCartney and John Lennon's two childhood homes, which was really cool. We booked it back in November and it filled up soon after that! The tours are done in minibuses that hold 15 people, and they only have 4 scheduled a day. I guess they added 2 more later as it was REALLY crowded in the city that weekend. Both houses have custodians (1 person who lives there, takes care of the place, and gives tours) and the tours are restricted to the 60 people who are booked on the National Trust tour. The houses have been restored to how they were in the 1950s, and it's fascinating to go in. Afterwards, the tour dropped us off at the Anglican Cathedral, outside of the city centre, as there was too much traffic in the city! It's the largest cathedral in the United Kingdom, and it is GORGEOUS inside. There was a children's choir rehearsing while we were there and it sounded lovely. Paul McCartney held a performance of his recent classical work "Ecce Cor Meum" (Behold My Heart) there on May 1. Must have been amazing.
After the Cathedral we went down to Albert Dock to meet up with Fiona and Diane for lunch, then Dawn and I went back to the hotel to get ready for a screening of "The Concert for George" at the FACT cinema. We met up with our friend Heather (who we saw a few days earlier in London) who sat next to us. Olivia Harrison, George's widow, was there in person and introduced the film. I was very emotional during the film, which is a memorial concert that was done in 2002, 1 year to the day of George's death, and all of George's pals came out to sing his songs. We stuck around for a while afterwards because there was a private screening of the film! We saw Joe Brown, who had done "I'll See You In My Dreams" on ukelele during the concert, and then security asked most of the fans to leave if we didn't have tickets to the upcoming show.
One thing that gets me very confused in England is that the sun doesn't set until about 9 pm! So sometimes I can't remember timings of things.
After the Concert for George, we went back to the hotel for drinks, this time in Bar Four, where I had an amazing cocktail called "Honey Can't Buy Me Love", made with honey vodka, milk chocolate liqueur, double cream, egg white, and some other lovely stuff. I tried to drink it slowly but it was REALLY good. As it was Saturday night, it was really crowded inside the bar and in all of the restaurants. We didn't eat dinner until 9.45 pm! The hotel sent us to a nice italian restaurant called Piccolino's, where we met my friend K and another friend Yasu. It was a quick dinner, as we had to go meet another friend after dinner, but the food was good.
On Sunday morning, we took a Ferry Cross the Mersey! It was an overcast, drizzly day, but it was fun. We took the whole loop of the ferry, which took 50 minutes. The day before had been nice and sunny, so it was disappointing that it was overcast! K and Yasu joined the 4 of us for the ferry ride. Then we sat around relaxing in our hotel room for a little while. I went out by myself to buy a Liverpool Football Club scarf, as I wanted to be warm during the show (which I never ended up using). I ended up buying it from the Tourist Information Centre. It was crowded inside, and as I was paying for it and finishing up my transaction, a guy came up next to me to pay for his item. I looked over and it was James McCartney, Paul's son! A select few of you know that I had a huge crush on him about 10 years ago, and I had never seen him in person, so it was really weird to be standing next to him. I didn't say anything to him as I didn't know what to say and he probably wouldn't want to have been recognized, but it made me happy. :)
Sunday night was the Liverpool Sound concert! Dawn, Fiona, Diane, and I took a cab up to Anfield Stadium and it was so crowded that the cab had to drop us off blocks and blocks away! Dawn and I waited for Fiona and Diane to collect their tickets from the ticket office. On the other side of the gates we saw security preparing to let in all of the general admission people who would be standing on the ground (the "pitch", aka the field...but it was covered with something so it wasn't muddy). My friend started queueing (lining) up just after 6 am, and she was #19 in line! They had a line of police officers walking together to make sure that no one ran. They let them into the stadium in groups, so unfortunately I didn't see the mass chaos once people entered the stadium, as we were still outside. Since we had VIP seats (we upgraded to them), we had a separate entrance and a separate bar that we could use for the whole show. I bought a bunch of merchandise at the very crowded stand - a hooded sweatshirt ("hoody"), a tote bag, and a programme. It was really nice to have that little VIP bar - they had free sandwiches, cookies, potato crisps (potato chips), and free soda! There was also an exclusive bathroom so we didn't have to wait in the HUGE queue that everyone else in the stadium had to use. We chatted with two couples at our table. The husband in one of the couples reminded me of Hugh Laurie for some reason (but it wasn't). The other couple was an older couple, originally from Liverpool but they had never seen The Beatles live, and then they moved to Canada for a number of years. They saw Paul play in Toronto a couple of years ago and loved it. They had come to the show for their wedding anniversary! It turned out they were sitting right next to us, which was cool. The other couple were sitting about 10 rows behind us. Dawn, Fiona, Diane and I were lucky enough to get seats next to each other (we had requested it), which was really nice.
We entered the stadium around 6:00 pm from the bar and watched the constant stream of people into the standing section. The seats are VERY tight, even for me at just under 5 feet tall! We found our friend K in the crowd, who was about our distance away, just in the standing section, and we waved at each other. Our seats were right at the center of the pitch (equivalent to the 50 yard line), but a little bit closer because the stage was farther out. There were two HUGE screens on either side of the stage so we could see quite well. The show started promptly at 6.30 pm with the Zutons, who were very good. I only know their song "Valerie," and the version I know is Amy Winehouse's version. Then the Kaiser Chiefs came on and I have both of their albums (just bought the 2nd one recently though), and they were really energetic and lots of fun as well. The crowd was singing along a lot. Finally, Peter Kay, a famous English comedian, came out to introduce Paul. The crowd went crazy, and Paul launched into Hippy Hippy Shake, which isn't a Beatles song but a big song for Liverpool. The Beatles used to cover it at their concerts. He ended up doing at least 25 songs, including "A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance" medley in honour of John. He has NEVER done A Day In The Life live, so that was really cool. The best parts of the show were probably the acoustic songs like Blackbird and Something (his tribute to George on the ukelele), because the singing of the audience echoed throughout the stadium. Oh yeah, and they had a special guest - Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters/Nirvana came out to play a couple of songs with Paul and the band - Band on the Run (he played guitar), Back in the USSR (Drums), and I Saw Her Standing There (drums). The night finished with a huge fireworks display and it was great. We didn't expect Paul to do that many songs but were incredibly happy.
On Monday morning, we got up a little late and said goodbye to Fiona and Diane who were leaving back to Ireland. Then Dawn and I took a hop-on, hop-off tour of Liverpool, and almost fell asleep on the bus as the guide had a very soothing voice. After that we headed to an exhibition of John Lennon's drawings, which was really cool and there were LOTS of drawings! In the evening we went back to Bar Four in the hotel for a drink...it was almost empty! We could tell that everyone had checked out of the hotel that day. I had a Lovely Bubbly drink with 4 different alcohols in it including champagne, which was really strong. We were watching the bartenders make a drink and we were trying to figure out which one it was. They caught us watching and after they were done they gave it to us! They had been making a new drink called "Love is All You Need" with strawberries, raspberries, and pink champagne, and some other stuff. Dawn loved it, as she loves pink champagne...I thought it was OK, which was fine because she was able to drink the rest! Then we went out for dinner at Pizza Express (the same location where I ate after meeting Paul McCartney in 2001) and that was the end of our time in Liverpool!
Tuesday we took the train back to London. As usual, that was an experience in itself. I don't know why I've been having all of these delays and problems while travelling. As we were travelling, they announced there had been a fatality on the tracks down the line (we didn't hit anyone, thankfully), and we would be delayed. THEN, they asked if someone with medical experience could come to see the train manager. Dawn, being a nurse, went down to see the manager to do her duty. Apparently a woman in a wheelchair had been put on the train at Blackpool (north of Liverpool) and was supposed to get off at Liverpool. She didn't, and ended up staying on her train. She didn't know where she was or even her name or where she was going. They found her ticket and figured out where she came from and where she had been going to. Dawn stayed with the woman looking after her for the rest of the journey, and when we got to London the train station personnel were there to pick her up and they had an ambulance waiting.
So much drama has happened on this trip with transport...I don't know why! Hopefully there are no problems flying to Malta this afternoon. Sorry for the really really long email...I know there are a number of you who are interested in the Liverpool trip and that's why I made it so detailed. That's my excuse anyway.
Have a good day!
P.S. For those wondering, here's the setlist for Paul's portion of the concert:
Hippy, Hippy Shake
Drive My Car
Got To Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It
Long And Winding Road
Follow The Sun
Band On The Run (with Dave Grohl on guitar)
Back In The USSR (with Dave Grohl on drums)
Live And Let Die
Let It Be
A Day In The Life
Give Peace A Chance
I Saw Her Standing There (with Dave Grohl on drums)