Tuesday, June 12, 2007


And now a special report on our day away to Liverpool. I was up at 3.30am and Ruth arrived at 4am, so we set off to Banbridge to lift Robert. As we pulled into his drive, there was the ominous sign of no lights. No sign of life at all (although bizarrely, there were lights on in the house across the road...). Maybe the sound of the car would bring him out of the house. Nope. Maybe if we rung his phone, he would come out. Nope, phone was off. What to do?

I knocked on the front door. Nothing. Knocked again louder. Nothing. Knocked a third time. Nothing. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I rang the doorbell. Nothing. Doorbell again, more sustained ringing. Nothing. Doorbell again and again, and behold, the sound of stirring from inside - Robert had awakened! 'Gimme two minutes' was the hurried cry from inside the door. We retired to the car, laughing.

And then we were off, on the road to Dublin. Er, well, we got as far as Scarva Street before turning back so Robert could get his college room key and his band card. But you get the idea. Eventually we were on the road to Dublin; parked up at the Quickpark and into the airport.

Flight was smooth, once we got out onto the runway to take off - the queue at the airport was as bad as the Westlink. Into Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and onto the bus to the city centre.This was Ruth's first time in Liverpool, I had been there a couple of times, but Robert was the Liverpool guide supreme. From the bus station we walked to Paddy's Wigwam - the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. (I almost wrote the Metropolitan Tabernacle there!) We had a look around it - such a huge structure, but well laid out liturgically. Everyone could see what was happening. Sadly the original crypts were out of bounds due to exams being held there, so we made our way out to the bus stop for the city sightseeing tour bus.

Even though it was a short distance to Liverpool Cathedral, we were able to have the ticket for the whole day to jump on and off as required. Liverpool Cathedral is massive - seemingly the biggest in the British Isles, with the highest and heaviest peal of bells in the world. Up we went to the top of the tower to enjoy the view of the city and further afield. Then back down to explore the cathedral, and get lunch in the cafe. One of the most refreshing things about both cathedrals in Liverpool was the fact that you aren't confronted with a till as soon as you arrive. Rather, visitors are asked to make a donation - much better than being forced to pay a set fee when you arrive at Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, or St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin, or Westminster Abbey. The respective Deans, take note!

We got back on the tour bus, and were taken right round the two cathedrals again, before going on through the city centre, and arriving at Albert Dock. Here we find the headquarters of Granada Television. This Morning used to be filmed here, but sadly the floating weather map has been removed. In the sunshine, we had a wander around the dock, calling into the Tate Liverpool, then the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Customs and Excise Museum. Fun stuff, although I couldn't help but wonder if the displays could be used to help the forgers and smugglers get better at their trade...

Back onto the bus again, and surprise, surprise, back round by the two cathedrals for the third time, before back to the city centre, where we left the bus tour for the day. Speaking of the two cathedrals reminds me of a couple of problems with the bus tour commentary. The claim was made that Liverpool is unique in being the only city with two working cathedrals. I'm not sure where their catchment area is - possibly only England, because within Northern Ireland there are three cities with two working cathedrals in each - Londonderry, Belfast and Armagh. The other howler was when the commentary talks about the four bells in Paddy's Wigwam's bell tower. I quote - 'They are named after the four apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.' Hmm, slight problem in that they are four Evangelists, rather than apostles. Matthew and John were apostles, but Luke and Mark didn't have that role or function!

Having got off in the city centre, we wandered about, finding the essential commodity of water (in a roasting hot day). We then went into the Cavern Quarter to find the home of the Beatles - the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. From there, it was on to the World Museum Liverpool, which we explored in the last hour before it closed. This was a brilliant place - completely free (museums in Northern Ireland take note!) and packed with brilliant displays.

My favourite was the Wallace and Gromit exhibition. There you could see some of the models used in the 'Were-Rabbit' film, and there were interactive elements. One such element was where you could add your own sound effects to a clip from the film, then watch it back! In total there were five floors of stuff, with a bugs exhibition with tanks of tarantulas, beetles, scorpions, bees, stick insects and many others; and an aquarium feature with lots of colourful fish.

Then we sat in the gardens for a while, taking it easy, and marvelling at the lack of traffic in the city for rush hour. Had it been London, Dublin or Belfast (or even Lisburn) at the same time, traffic would be crazy, but in Liverpool, you could hardly notice any cars, and there were no queues!

We then went for dinner in a Chinese buffet restaurant, where there was a special offer of 10% off food for students. I have to admit, that partly swayed our decision, and in we went. We said we were students, and the waitress asked to see our cards. On seeing that we were students at Trinity College, Dublin, she refused us the student discount, because we weren't students at a British university. We were the victims of racism from Chinese people! The food was decent, although they were very prompt in coming to clear away plates almost as soon as you had finished eating, which I wasn't too fussed on.

From there, we went back out to the airport, getting photos taken beside the Yellow Submarine fixture outside the airport. Inside, it was virtually deserted as there were just two more flights going out that evening, so we grabbed the comfy chairs at the (closed) Starbucks and relaxed until the flight was called.

All in all, it was a great day. Just a pity Simon Genoe (to name and shame him) wasn't able to go with us as he was tired!

Photos will soon be available at the usual place - Flickr!

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