For all types of music, history, architecture and beer
visit Chester and Liverpool, England.
Liverpool has something for everyone : pop music, classical music, fine architecture, good beer, international history, museums and art galleries of the highest standard.
For the pop music lover there is the Liverpool Beat Route. More than twelve night clubs with live bands six nights per week. Many of the bars, cafes and recording studios which were frequented by the Beatles are marked on a map produced by the City of Liverpool and the Institute of Popular Music.
For lovers of classical music there is the Philharmonic Hall which has its own large orchestra (which at times plays Beatles music !). That orchestra has its own recording label.
Personally, I like to visit the Bluecoat Chambers which is the oldest
building in the centre of Liverpool. It contains an art gallery, a craft shop with excellent pottery, a cut-price book shop and a cafÃ© which has tables both inside and outside. There is also a courtyard garden in which one may sit, as I do, on the seat in Penny Lane. Yoko Ono had an exhibition at the Bluecoat in 1967.
The Bluecoat is a Grade 1 listed building. That means its owners must
preserve it both inside and outside. Liverpool has many such listed
buildings and with help from both Europe and the British government, many Georgian and Victorian buildings have been restored. So, for connoisseurs of architecture Liverpool is a delight.
As with many cities, one must look up to see the individuality of many
buildings. At street level they are only shops occupied by retail chains, or offices occupied by banks or insurance companies, but look up and there are superb facades; all proof of the money which once made Liverpool the third most wealthy city in the Empire. Only London and Glasgow were bigger or richer.
The ultimate example of Liverpool’s past wealth and glory is St
George’s Hall. This is one of the finest neo-classical buildings in Europe. The Minton tiled floor is so spectacular that it is protected during public use.
Liverpool has two modern cathedrals. The Anglican is the largest in Britain. It was designed by Giles Scott, the
architect who designed Britainâ€™s well-known red telephone boxes. The cathedral is bigger ! It has a structural steel frame but is clad with stone to make it look like older Gothic churches. The Roman Catholic Cathedral is very modern. It is affectionately known as “Paddyâ€™s Wigwam” and seems somewhat utilitarian from the outside but inside it is spectacularly beautiful. Modern stained glass create memorable effects.
There are eight public museums and galleries in Liverpool and one need buy only one ticket to see them all. They include the Liverpool Museum, The Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Customs and Excise Museum, the Museum of Liverpool Life, the Walker Art Gallery and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. The Tate Gallery also has a Liverpool location at the Albert Dock, close to the “Beatles’ Story”, an exhibition which includes a re-creation of the Cavern Club.
When you visit the Merseyside Maritime Museum it is explained where the money came from to make Liverpool so wealthy in the past; from the docks which handled the ships which moved textiles to export markets, slaves from Africa to the Americas and cotton and sugar from the Americas back to Britain.
For me, and for many North Americans, it is of interest that many of our ancestors left Britain, or Ireland, from Liverpool to go to the USA or Canada. My maternal grandparents left Liverpool by ship in 1899 – one hundred years ago – and their names are in a ship’s manifest here in Liverpool.
A cheap sight-seeing ride is on the Mersey Ferry from Liverpool to Birkenhead and Wallasey, a 40 minute ride which gives you a good view of the docks, old and new, and of the skyline which contains no skyscrapers.
Having seen Liverpool, and if you have a craving for some older history, make the short journey by train or bus to Chester – the Romans called it Dewa. The City Walls are as complete as those of York and it is not as crowded. From the two mile walk around the walls you can see the Roman amphitheatre and many of the older half timbered houses.
Then walk into the middle of Chester and see the The Rows, which are galleried arcades on both sides of all four streets at the The Cross. Some of these half timbered buildings are genuinely old – from Tudor times – while others are excellent reproductions built in Victorian times.
The Youth Hostel in Chester is well placed and lower in price (Â£9.75) than that in Liverpool. Phone 01244 680056 or FAX 01244 681204.
In both Chester and Liverpool there are excellent pubs serving traditional British ale and the now popular lagers.
For serious wearers of good boots access from both Liverpool and Chester to great hill walking is easy. The Dales of Derbyshire, the Moors of Lancashire and Yorkshire and the mountains of North Wales are all within two hour’s journey by public transport.