British Isles- Day 12- Liverpool, England
Sunday, July 24, 2011- Liverpool, England.
We were startled awake at 5:10 A.M. The glassware on the table top had slid across the tilted surface making a racket. The Ship’s Captain came on the intercom, throughout the entire ship, reassuring passengers that everything was okay. We found out later that a local pilot, in steering the great ship into the approach for LIverpool, had cut a corner a little too swiftly, causing the ship to list precipitously. Cabin stewards made the rounds asking if anyone needed help and cleaning up any mess created by the sudden shift. The swimming pool had dumped a load of water of deck fifteen, making a mess. It was quite a commotion for this early in the morning. I guess some crew member’s butt will be in a sling by day’s end.
The Horizon’s breakfast area was abuzz with chatter from the passengers about the incident. It was a break from the routine and thus of interest to everyone. We had our breakfast and gathered in the Explorer’s Lounge for our four hour “Beatle's Magical Mystery Tour.”
The bus stopped at the nearby Albert Dock on Liverpool’s waterfront. It is a small marina surrounded by a restored rectangle of factories that hover above a first floor level of shops, boutiques and cafes. We had to wait for twenty minutes or so until the “Beatle’s Experience” opened up. It is a first floor museum with a collection of posters, Beatle's memorabilia, acoustical recordings and everything you ever wanted to know about the Beatle's.
The guide got tickets for us and we entered as a group. Like a complacent herd of sheep we wandered in a pack, stopping at each site to listen to the audio accompaniment of that particular site. Recordings of each of the Beatle's, their managers and all thing pertaining to them were of interest to the dedicated fan. Posters of the Yellow Submarine, Sergeant Pepper’s album and other bric a brac brought back for us the colorful history of these e four Liverpool lads. Their emergence on the scene, in the U.S. in 1964, had been a cultural tidal wave that I still remember fondly. The Ed Sullivan show featured them playing “I wasn't to Hold your hand.” Teenagers screamed and carried on in excitement. It was an event that eclipsed even the near mania of an Elvis siting. And now 46 years later, Sir Paul McCartney still performs.
Our guide was knowledgeable in Beatle’s lore. He detailed the young group’s emergence from the obscurity of Hamburg, Germany clubs and their meteoric rise to superstardom. The “Mersey beat” had rocketed to the top of the charts.
From the Beatle’s experience museum we drove a few blocks over to the restored site of “The Cavern.” It is a performance club in a basement at 10 Mathew St. After the Beatle’s breakup, the group had relinquished their spot as top of the musical heap. The Cavern club, site of so many top performers, had been abandoned and the site filled in for future development. When John Lennon had been killed, a new interest in the Beatle emerged. The club was excavated and restored to its original appearance. Small in size, the underground grotto with a very same stage had hosted most of the greats of rock and roll since the early 1960’s. Outside and above ground, the name of every group who had ever played here is etched on a brick in the building’s facade. There too is a life sized bronze statue of John Lennon whom all of us had out picture taken with. The Cavern even now had a good crowd of other tourists like us, some having an early pint in a toast to the Beatle's. On weekend evenings the place still rocks to the sounds of other groups seeking their time in the sun. I felt even irreverent using the W.C. and thinking of all the famous performers who had stood here before me.
After the Cavern, the bus took a leisurely ride through Liverpool. China Town here is prominent. The LIverpool merchants had a strong relationship with Shanghai going back to the 1870’s. The huge and ornate Chinese gate, that spans the entrance to China Town, is weirdly beautiful.
Near the restored waterfront we could see the sparkling new exterior of the Liverpool Museum. It had just opened a few days before and was crowded with Liverpool’s finest enjoying their new attraction. The “streaky bacon” appearance of the White Star Shipping lines building is a local attraction. That and the two “Liverbirds,” mythical birds and symbols of the city. They sit facing in opposite direction atop one of the Waterfront buildings.
The University of LIverpool sits in the tonier West end of the city. The Liverpool Art Institute here had been the starting point for John and Paul. They had written many of their early songs here and in the home of John’s aunt, nearby.
We drove down “Penny Lane” and stopped for pictures under the street sign. Then we did the same for “Strawberry Fields.” The :”shelter in the middle of the roundabout,” “Rita the meter maid” and “Eleanor Rigby” on a gravestone are all items from local Liverpool. To a Beatle’s fan, they are like a trip to Mecca. We saw the home of John’s Aunt, where he had lived most of his early years. John had lost his Mother at an early age as had Paul. I thought then of “Mother Mary” and you begin to understand why these tunes had so much emotive power. They were real for the Beatle's and came across that way to listeners. The bus driver was playing beatle’s tunes. All of the aging passengers were singing along, memories from decades past, careening through their psyches. The specter of a bus load of sixty and seventy year olds singing “Yellow submarine” and other iconic tunes would be comical to watch had we not all looked like we enjoyed it so much. Gone briefly were the intervening decades, as we sang lustily of a time long past.
The driver narrated the long history of the Beatle's, their origins and meteoric rise to stardom. There is always ironic humor involved. One of John Lennon’s aunts had not liked the loud music. She reportedly said, and John later had the phrase framed in a plaque, “That playing a guitar well is all fine and good, but its not like you could ever make a living at it.” Famous last words.
From the suburban comfort of the Beatle’s homes, we drove back to Liverpool, passing the enormous Anglican Cathedral there. It is of dark red sandstone and massive in size. The bus let off ship side. Mary and I decided to take a walk through the area on our own.
The entire length of the Mersey River here has been renovated. A large river walk led us over to the Albert Docks area. Along the way, we passed the newly opened Liverpool Museum. It was crowded with citizens enjoying the new facility. Nearby, sits the well known “Tate Gallery, “ that of London Fame. It was featuring an exhibit of a wonderful surrealist named Rene’ Magritte, whom I much admired. We were running short of time however and hurried on. At the Albert Dock’s complex, we found and sat down in a small cafe, to enjoy some of those wonderful scones with clotted cream and jam. A decent Cappuccino accompanied the scones.
Then, we walked towards the central downtown shopping area. It features a large two-story pedestrian walkway loaded with shops and cafe’s. We walked for a time enjoying the cool sunny day and people watching like everyone else. Then we decided to try and find the Cavern again by ourselves. After a few blocks, we espied the new Beatle's hotel. It is named a “Hard Day’s Night.” Along the first floor exterior facade are four life sized statues of the fab four. Nearby, we again found Mathew Street and the entrance to the fabled “Cavern.” Once again we descended the several flights of stairs to the dingy interior of the fabled mecca of rock and roll in Britain. The place was aswarm with young and old, several enjoying pints and everyone taking all manner of pictures. It is an experience in and of itself just to sit here and think of the many famous musicians who had performed here over the years.
The day was waning and we were tiring. Using Boyscout skills, we navigated our way back to the ship on the Mersey and climbed aboard. We read for a time and then enjoyed some of that lovely Glenfiddich while sitting on the balcony. Dockside, hundreds of Liverpoolians had gathered quayside to gaze on the great ship. We were the attraction du jour. As the great ship eased away from her berth, hundreds of local citizens waved at us like we were old friends that were leaving forever. It was a pleasant cruise down the Mersey towards the Irish Sea. Tomorrow, we would be in Dublin, Eire. Once in the Irish Sea, we settled down for a wonderful nap in the late afternoon. Life is good.
7:30 P.M. found us in the Wheel house Lounge. We were enjoying the great vocals of a group called “Indigo.” The lead singer is from Cork, Eire. The rest of her group, from Albania. We much enjoyed them. For dinner, we were meeting Mike & Kathy MacDonald, from Wisconsin. We settled into the Davinci Dining Room to enjoy some good conversation with them and a couple from New York City. The Eggplant Parmigiana, pasta gagiola, shrimp and Tiramisu were all wonderful, washed down with a glass of Mondavi Cabernet.
We had a last drink in the Sky Lounge on deck # 18 before returning to the cabin to read and retire. It had been a full and interesting day.