First Time in Liverpool

January 31, 2015

“We’ll be arriving 3 minutes early today. We do apologize for the inconvenience of coming in early. If that causes any inconvenience for any of our passengers… Tough.”

My stay in the UK was full of fun and food. Despite all this talk about British food being unpalatable by American standards, I found the variety quite enjoyable: Polish in Shepherd Market, cupcakes from Hummingbird Bakery, and a healthy selection of sushi available from a chain called Wasabi. I’m sitting on the Eurostar from London St. Panacas to Paris Gare du Nord having spent ten days in the country. As always, I had a shaky arrival in Heathrow, but once I did adjust to traveling on the Underground and getting a sense of where everything was, from the Tower of London to Picadilly Circus, I found both the city and countryside quite navigable. Some observations:

1. Despite what Fox News reported Birmingham is not a city under siege by Muslims. In fact, that story made almost everyone in the UK laugh, including the Prime Minister.
2. Japan has towers, England as eyes. As in Ferris wheels. Each city seems to have its own, from Brighton to Liverpool.
3. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast, registered and stocked with supplies in Liverpool, and launched from Southampton.
4. All four members of the Beatles were from Liverpool. However, Abbey Road, the site of the image of one of their famous album covers, is in NW London.

It’s quite an accident how I came to Liverpool. My original plan in coming to the UK was to catch a coach from Heathrow to Southampton and stay with a friend, where I could be doted upon with tea and pasties. However, when she had to leave to start a new job in Wales, I had to adjust my plans accordingly. Having a few extra days in London wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t really want to do anything more than relax and see the country slowly.

Megabus in the UK, as in the states, offers cheap coaches to all corners of the country. I found one departing for Liverpool and thought I could take a train or bus to see my friend in Wales while exploring more of England’s history. After all, Liverpool was (and still is) a major port of trade and culture. First thing first, however; like the driver quoted above, the coach drivers here seem to have quite the sense of humour: “Minibars are available under your seats, and see Manuel at the front for free hot tea, espresso, and coffee.”

Over five hours from Victoria Station to Liverpool One, an indoor and outdoor pedestrian shopping center not far from the water. After seeing some of the shops there, I was starting to get a sense of the major chain restaurants: Byron Proper Hamburgers (delicious, BTW), Pret-a-Manger, Wasabi. But my main reason for coming this far north wasn’t food as much as history. My delightful mature Couchsurfing hosts were based next to two sites:

Saint James Cathedral
St. James Cathedral, one of the largest in all of the UK

Bombed Out Church
A church, destroyed by the blitz in 1941. Called the Bombed Out Church, appropriately.

However, the strength of Liverpool always lay in its waterfront (unless you count Ringo, John, Paul, and George): ferries across River Mersey to Wirral, the Isle of Man, and even Belfast. Sixty years ago, there was even an elevated train (beating Chicago to the punch) before it was deconstructed in 1956. And remember that scene in Captain America: The First Avenger, when he runs after the Hydra agent, who escapes in a mini-sub? That warehouse is on Stanley Dock in Liverpool.

If you’re looking for a different kind of UK experience, I’d definitely recommend getting out of London for a few days and seeing some of the mid-sized cities like Liverpool and Southampton. Not sure about Birmingham, but I hear Manchester and York are quite nice as well.

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