Tourists in Liverpool (1)
After five and a half days in tourist mode maybe it’s time to put words onto a screen…
Liverpool is stunning – visually and aurally, culturally and commercially. It is a vibrant city, not afraid to recognise its past as a port so many people emigrated from
Liverpool’s growth as a port came from a decision in 1710 to create a wet dock from a pool that fed into the Mersey.
With boats able to berth in deep water and not suffer being stranded on Mersey mud banks the port of Liverpool rapidly grew.
In this first Tourists in Liverpool post, it’s the outdoor view, the visual, the buildings and the coastal landscape that will feature. As Cleddau had progressed down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal so many people had insisted “You’ll love it now!” But why now…?
It seems that the combination of Millennium money which provided funding for the Liverpool Link (opened in April 2009), the development of Liverpool One (the huge retail area funded by the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate and opened in 2008) and of the European Capital of Culture (in 2008) plus PFI Funding for the redevelopment of the Central Library has brought about massive and positive regeneration in areas of the city previously afflicted by wartime damage and industrial decay.
So what do you see of Liverpool’s proud buildings?
Most striking if you arrive by boat (along the canal link) or by ferry from the Wirral or by cruise ship (yes, there are plenty of these) from the Irish Sea, are the Three Graces, three wonderful iconic buildings. Atop the Royal Liver Building are the Liver Birds (mythological birds said to be a combination of an eagle and a cormorant). Then there is the Cunard Building and next to that the Port of Liverpool Building.
The Museum of Liverpool is a stunning modern structure, opened in 2011, one hundred years to the day since the opening of the impressive Liver Building. (Is there a theme of good timing developing here…?) From the top floor of the Museum you can gaze across at the Liver Building and at the Mersey-facing liver bird (for a full scale model of a liver bird, see next post).
The moorings for visiting narrow boats are in Salthouse Dock, next to Albert Dock. The solid colonnaded buildings around Albert Dock have been revitalised. There are apartments, a Holiday Inn, shops, restaurants, museums – and below ground, The Beatles Story. How popular Albert Dock is now: on Wednesday evening Liverpool football supporters surged along the dockside to the Echo Arena to watch the Euro final match on a big screen; all weekend crowds of visitors (and numerous sashed and labelled hen parties) have thronged the bars and eateries. Walk out by the Mersey Ferry Office and there just walking along, larger than life, are the four Beatles, still it would seem, being pestered for photos and autographs!
Of course there are boats to be seen, many of them, though only three will feature here: a Dazzle boat ( “dazzle painting” in World War 1 was deployed to disorientate enemy shipping) , a yellow submarine apartment boat and the three-masted schooner Kathleen and May, a boat that evokes childhood memories of watching her being unloaded at the quay in Pembroke right opposite the castle…
Once away from the waterside there is plenty more to see. There are the cathedrals of course, the Anglican one, constructed between 1904 and 1978, and reputed to be the second largest Church of England cathedral in the world. Yes, it’s huge, it’s simply massive. Less than a mile away along Hope Street is the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a circular structure completed in 1967 (and referred to fondly by some locals as “Paddy’s Wigwam”).
Liverpool welcomes visitors; street signposts estimate the number of minutes it will take to walk to a particular area. In the Cultural Quarter are the World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, the Central Library,
A berth in Liverpool for six days was going to provide lots of time for sight-seeing. Top of the To Do /To See list had been a city bus top tour, not difficult to achieve when a pick-up point was just at the far end of Salthouse Dock and duly accomplished on the first morning.
Second on the list had been a cruise – to Manchester… Some might remember the aborted trip from Seacombe on the far side of the Mersey up the Manchester Ship Canal in September 2012 (see here). “Let’s try and book for that Ship Canal trip again,” the Captain suggested, “There’s one scheduled for Friday.”
Now what is it about the Cleddau crew and the Manchester Ship Canal Cruises? “Might not be running,” said the chap at the Mersey Ferries desk. “Canal’s blocked. Bridge fell down this morning…” And so it had, a new suspension bridge under construction next to the M60 up near Manchester had collapsed with debris falling into the Ship Canal. Subsequent checks by phone, on the website and in person confirmed the cancellation…
There were great views of Liverpool’s waterfront though from a 50 minute local cruise. Public transport was used (an 82 bus, way out through Toxteth to Speke and beyond, that was some long distance misunderstanding!) to get to Liverpool Cathedral on Wednesday, while on Thursday there was a 20 minute train ride from the Central Station on the Southport line to Hall Road. The tide was high, so not all one hundred of Antony Gormley’s figures were visible.
Still to come in Part 2 of Tourists in Liverpool : interiors and back row seats at the Everyman…