Monday, April 27, 2009

Liverpool

After two crowded trains from Conwy, I found myself in Liverpool. Unlike Manchester, I was sort of expecting a dumpy city in Liverpool. From what I’d heard, it was a dingy, depressed place. Maybe because my expectations were lower, I was pleasantly surprised. I got in to Liverpool around 7 pm, but the place was bustling. It was still pretty sunny and there were stacks of people out. The walk from the train station to my hostel took me through a few pedestrian-only streets full of cafes (which were still open!), restaurants, pubs and shops. There were street musicians and people sitting around chatting and drinking coffees. And, compared to Manchester and even old Conwy, Liverpool felt squeaky clean.

My accommodation in Liverpool was a bit of a let down, however. I had booked into a dorm room at Hatters Hostel. The location was good, but it’s so new that it hasn’t really grown into itself yet. They didn’t even have a credit card machine, so I had to go running around the streets of Liverpool looking for a cash machine so I could pay for my room. Compared with the hip yet homey Hatters in Manchester, the Liverpool hostel was sterile and lifeless. Plus, they stuffed up my booking and put me into a private double room—a much more expensive choice, but I didn’t realise until after I had paid and got to my room. Since at this stage I was coming down with a very unpleasant sinus infection, I decided to go with it. I looked around downstairs for a lounge room, or an internet café, or some pamphlets about Liverpool, or even a map of the city (the things backpackers hostels generally feature) but found nothing. But, my bed was comfy, and I had a private bathroom so I can’t complain too much.

My lack of a Liverpool map severely hampered my explorations. Instead, I followed the black tourist signs to various attractions, which was fine but meant I missed things like Penny Lane and Abbey Road (which I didn’t even think about till I was on my way out of Liverpool, der). Also, I was running short on cash but didn’t want to get more out of the ATM because of the expensive international fees, so I was on a budget. But, I still managed to see a lot and have some fun.

I knew (thanks to a brochure in the Manchester hostel) that I wanted to go to Albert Dock, so that was my first stop.

I went through the Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum. Both were very compelling, given Liverpool’s history as a major hub for shipping and slaving. I saw replicas of the Titanic and the Lusitania that were as big as some real boats I’ve been on.

After the museums I took advantage of the “balmy” 15 degree weather and wandered around Albert Dock in the sunshine. The view from here to the city was a cool mix of old and new buildings.

I continued enjoying the weather by wandering through the city, vaguely in search of food. I saw lots of cool old buildings, especially churches. Liverpool must be a religious place, because there seemed to be a church-like structure at every turn.

I also paused for a moment to watch this interesting street performer. Employing stereotypical symbols of Native American-ness, this guy also had some minor influences from South America and Australia (see the didgeridoo?).

It was even warm enough here for the flowers to be cheery. (In Manchester they looked cold and out of place.)

The next day I walked in the other direction, towards the Liverpool Cathedral. This is the largest cathedral in Britain; the largest Anglican Cathedral in Europe; its organ is the largest in Britain; it has the highest and heaviest peal of bells in the world; it also has the world’s highest and widest Gothic arches. It is, quite literally, a big deal.

Photos don’t really do its enormity justice.

The cathedral is surrounded by a cool garden and loads of graves, which is a little weird but it didn’t feel as creepy as I thought it would.

The garden also has this holy, healing spring... which ironically had rubbish floating in its muddy pool.

You can go inside the cathedral for free (that is, if your conscience lets you ignore the many pleas for donations... mine did) to have a look around on the ground level. In a cathedral this big, there were obviously some major stained glass windows, altars, and several small chapels.

After a bit more roaming the streets, I made my way to the Egg Café (a sign on the way upstairs says it’s the egg of alternative capitalism), a vegetarian café with about ¾ of its menu completely vegan. For less than £5 I got the Spicy Burger—a plate piled high with a big patty full of kidney beans, tomato-onion relish, pasta salad, some sort of grain salad, and a green salad, plus a pita to stuff it all into. I enjoyed the vibe of the place as I ate (unfortunately my camera batteries had died by this stage so I could document neither the vibe nor the meal). Then I went up for dessert—a delicious vegan Chocolate Crunch.

Satisfied, I collected my bags from the hostel and headed to the train station. Unfortunately, this was the end of my UK adventure. Luckily, my flights back were much more pleasant than my first round of travel (well, as good as 24 hours in airplanes can be)... I had a whole row to myself between Manchester and Dubai so I stretched out my legs and got a whole hour of sleep! And unlike the first set of flights, I wasn’t ill. In fact, I was starving for the whole trip. I housed every meal they gave me, and broke into the backup provisions I had packed in Australia—all the while rocking out to my chosen radio station, UK #1 hits from my birth year, featuring awesome tracks like “Wake me up before you go-go” and “I just called to say I love you”.

In terms of vegan food, Emirates was pretty good. There were a few oversights, like the occasional non-vegan dessert (which, at least, was clearly labelled) but there were other nice touches, such as margarine bearing the Vegan Society sunflower. Plus, they had loads of movies to choose from. Among others, I enjoyed W. about George W. Bush; Viva Zapata about the life of Emiliano Zapata; Gremlins; and Slumdog Millionaire.

It was a long way to go, but I really enjoyed my trip to Britain. That said, I am quite glad to be home.

11 comments:

Mandee said...

Liverpool is deffo somewhere I would want to visit, mainly because I grew up listening to the Beatles!

I know that feeling of getting home after travelling and really feeling happy to finally get home! Good to hear you got home safe n sound :)

pavotrouge said...

Liverpool is an amazing city! what did you do in Dubai?

Bianca said...

Fun trip! I'd love to travel to Liverpool someday!

Theresa said...

Pavotrouge--Dubai was just a stopover. I had three hours to wander around the international airport. At least they have comfy lounge chairs set up outside the gates!

DJ said...

Liverpool Cathedral is amazing - I remember visiting on a school trip! Glad you had a good time and Egg Cafe sounds worth a visit next time I'm doon south!!

urban vegan said...

Looks like an amazing journey. The sky is so blue and clear!

My undergrad roommate was from Liverpool. I often wonder what happened to her.

Vaala said...

Sounds like a really great end to the trip. The photos are really interesting - I love old buildings and their surroundings. There's this feeling of such a great amount of history inside them that's just out of reach.

Liz² said...

lovely photos! I've never imagined what liverpool would look like before, but I like it! the cathedral remind me of the Basilica around here.

dessertobsessed said...

How do you always get to travel so much? i'm jealous! i LOOOOVE traveling, but i don't get to travel as often as i would like

nora said...

unfortunately, most of the fruits and veggies will be harvested over the summer once i'm gone :(

i was here for the lettuce, arugula, broccoli, strawberries, cilantro, and kale though!

most of it will go to students on campus for summer as well as community members who help out at the farm.

my friend is working at my college over the summer and she might come visit me in az for a wknd. i'll be beggggging her to bring me a crapload of peaches, passion fruit, and maybe even bananas (there are going to be 100s and 100s at the farm, we have so many trees)!

the little one said...

Glad it was a good trip! Thanks for sharing it with us!