On Saturday, Elizabeth and I went to Liverpool for the day to check out some of the Beatles attractions. For various reasons, we only had about 5 1/2 hours to spend in the city itself. After a four-hour train ride, we arrived in Liverpool around 1 and followed the signs to Albert Dock. Elizabeth and I have a tendency to just show up in cities without fully researching them so we were pretty shocked when we arrived in Liverpool. I guess we haven’t been to many cities in England besides London and smaller towns like Oxford, Canterbury, and Brighton, so we were surprised to see how much Liverpool had to offer. There was a huge range of architecture and lots of shops along the strip. We finally got to Albert Dock and found the tourist information center.
Elizabeth had found something online about a Magical Mystery Tour, a Beatles-themed tour bus that would take passengers around the city for 2 hours, stopping at the childhood homes of each of the Beatles and other attractions. She remembered there being a tour at 2 p.m., so we asked the man at the desk if there were any tickets left. Unfortunately, it was all sold out. Elizabeth and I were ready to leave the store dejectedly to wander about the dock and make our own Liverpool experience when the man said, “But wait! I can call you guys a Beatles taxi! It’s the same price and goes to all the same spots.” He put in a call for us and within fifteen minutes, a guy named Ricky showed up ready to take us on a tour around Liverpool.
The Magical Mystery Tour left around the same time as us so waved good-bye to them as we began our journey. Ricky turned out to be a phenomenal tour guide. He grew up on Penny Lane and his uncle went to school with John Lennon. He made it his goal to show us a different side of the Beatles’ lives as they grew up in Liverpool. Our first stop was Ringo Starr’s childhood home. Ringo and George lived in the working class area of town while Paul and John were of more middle class backgrounds. I was surprised to see that Ringo and George’s houses were not even marked, while Paul and John’s houses are part of the National Trust.
As we got back in the car after taking a look at Ringo Starr’s house, we saw the Magical Mystery Tour drive by, its passengers struggling to snap photos of the house as it passed. Good thing we got the taxi! Our next stop was Penny Lane, and as we drove down the street, Ricky explained to us all the lines of the song, pointing out landmarks along the road that are mentioned in the lyrics (the bank, the roundabout, the barber shop, etc.). He showed us the bus stop where Paul used to wait to catch the bus to school. We got out of the car to peek in the windows of the barbershop where there were photographs on the walls of the barber cutting peoples’ hair (just like it mentions in the song). We got back in the car to head to our next stop and as we did, the Magical Mystery Tour rolled by, its passengers eagerly snapping photos again.
After Penny Lane, we went to George Harrison’s childhood home. Again, the house was unmarked. The name of the street is Arnold Grove, a pseudonym that Harrison used as an adult.
The next place we went was Strawberry Fields, and Ricky played some Beatles songs for us on the way over. Once we got there, he stopped the car and we all got out, but he left the door open so “Strawberry Fields Forever” was playing in the background as we stood in front of the gates and he explained the history of the song to us, pointing out the trees that John Lennon used to climb near the orphanage.
Our next stop was John Lennon’s house. Ricky pointed out the place where Lennon’s mother was run over by a car and the window to his room as a child. Finally, we went to Paul McCartney’s house, and Ricky dropped us off an hour and a half later on Albert Dock. The tour was a great introduction to Liverpool and brought us to all the places we never would have been able to find on our own.
While we were on the dock, we went to the Beatles Story, a museum dedicated entirely to the Beatles. It had all these rooms and exhibits recreating places of importance to the Beatles during their career and loads of memorabilia on display (Lennon’s glasses, suits they wore, Harrison’s first guitar, etc.).
After the Beatles Museum, we walked into town to check out Mathew Street, where the Beatles used to hang out. We went to the Cavern Club, where the Beatles played their first concert (the original building was torn down in the 70s but a replica was built in the same spot) and saw the Grapes, another pub where they hung out.
I’ve always liked the Beatles peripherally, but after seeing where they grew up and learning more about their lives before fame, I will definitely listen to their music with a new appreciation. After our excursions in Liverpool, Elizabeth and I headed back to the train station to catch our train home. On one leg of the four-hour train ride we made a four-page long list of all the crazy things that have happened to us this semester. Some highlights:
- running and sweating through Heathrow Airport after countless delays to catch our coach to Bath on the first day
- experiencing the entertainment carriage on our first First Great Western train ride to Oxford
- hiking along Offa’s Dike and then seeing Tintern Abbey in the mist
- climbing to the top of Bath Abbey and overlooking Bath before we knew what we were looking at
- studying till midnight in the Univ. library at Oxford
- getting lost in Milan at 1 a.m. and trying to communicate with an Italian cop
- climbing the Eiffel Tower just to find ourselves in the middle of a protest at the top
- punting along the Thames
It’s been quite the semester. We teared up on our final First Great Western train ride from Bristol Temple Meads to Bath Spa and stood by the platform to watch the train go out of sight before hugging each other and leaving the train station for the last time. It’s crazy how attached to this place I have become. Just as it begins to really feel like a second (third?) home, I have to leave it all for good.