Liverpool, England – Impressions

Two hours by train north of London, Liverpool is known for its culture, primarily its musicians have produced more no. 1 singles than any other city in the world. And, of course, it’s the home of The Beatles.

bitmap-2021-07-26-20-25.png

Liverpool is the fourth largest city in the UK by population, and after London, it has the second-highest number of Art Galleries. It’s also an important port similar to Bristol to the south and was heavily bombed during WWII.

img_7754-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

After arriving in the early afternoon, I dropped off my bag at my room and set out to explore in the 32-degree heat. I quickly located the Walker Art Gallery and headed inside in the hope of finding some cooling. It was cooler but not as air-conditioned as I’d hoped.

collage1-2021-07-26-20-25.jpg

While not huge, the gallery still had plentiful exhibits, from the room full of ancient Roman statues and imprints to collections of ceramics, and of course, paintings from many different styles, old and modern.

img_77561-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

After my wander around the gallery, I began exploring the city, including the County Sessions House. The Victorian era building was originally the city courthouse, then the Merseyside Museum of Labour History, and now the staff offices for the Walker Art Gallery.

img_7766-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Along from the Walker Art Gallery is the World Museum, which opened in 1853 and became one of the great British museums. It suffered extensive damage during World War 2, burning down after a bomb landed on the library next door. After I visited the art gallery, I decided to explore the city more before coming back to look through the exhibits but never made it. Headlining while I was in town was an Exhibition on AI.

31167328-c70b-4be4-a432-85bd12d1696a_1_105_c-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Wandering down towards the docks, I discovered the Royal Liver Building with its two spires, one at each end of the building; this end is facing the river. At the top of the spires are Liver Birds, mythical creatures that watch over the city. It is said that if they were to fly away, Liverpool would cease to exist, so the birds are chained to their perches just in case.

img_7781-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Near the Royal Liver Building is the Titanic Memorial, a granite monument commemorating the 244 engineers who lost their lives in the Titanic disaster in 1912.

ef1c4274-e876-440c-9b2f-1f72b6939671_1_201_a-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Heading along the docks, I took a walk around the Royal Albert Dock and found the Jellybean mosaic of The Beatles I’d seen in my first brief visit to Liverpool several years ago. I then crossed back into the main commercial area, where I stopped in the heat for a sly cider or two to help cool down. After finding something to eat, I decided to change my accommodation and settled into my new, cooler and quieter place for the night.

img_7815-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

The next day, after finding a local place for a Full English Breakfast, I headed for my booking at The Beatles Story. I spent the next 90 minutes listening to the Beatles’ story from beginning to end on the provided audio device while walking through rooms dedicated to parts of the story. For the story, they recreated the Cavern Club, where the band began, along with their first recording studio.

img_7796-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

While The Beatles were from my mother’s era, I still knew a fair bit about them, and this tour just filled in a lot of gaps. Afterwards, I enjoyed a coffee and scone in the cafeteria before heading on for my day. I headed into the main commercial area for lunch before exploring the city some more.

658f1927-7199-4d58-84eb-efb267d2d907_1_105_c-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

On the East side of the central city, in an area known as Ropewalks, I found St. Lukes Bombed Out Church which, on May 6 1941, was struck by an incendiary device. The ensuing fire lasted several days before it left only a stonework shell of the building. It is now a memorial to those who lost their lives in WWII.

3a9a4b32-2de2-40e7-823d-82e526cbbdcb_1_105_c-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

A block along from St. Luke’s Bombed Out Church is Liverpool’s Chinatown, the first established Chinatown in Europe. I have to admit, other than the rather grand gateway, the area is a little underwhelming. Perhaps it was just timing, as none of the restaurants were open Friday afternoon.

498d34d0-8c0b-40e7-934c-edb4330f9f74_1_201_a-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

I then worked my way back to Matthew Street, home of the infamous Cavern Club, before finding a perch and a cold cider.

img_7814-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Then it was back to the docks to the Museum of Liverpool, where I spent the next hour strolling around exhibitions relating to the Blitz of Liverpool, the history of the region from Ice Age to present, the overhead railway that once ran the length of the docks, and a gallery on the city soldiers.

img_7820-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Back in the heat, I attempted to get to the Liverpool Cathedral, its tower visible from across the city but ended up in the Cains Brewery Village and Baltic Market area instead. It’s a large area of bars and food outlets, including several box parks. After a quick look around, I continued on.

img_7825-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

On finally reaching the Liverpool Cathedral, I felt a little humbled by its size. For a start, its design is a more modern red brick instead of the gothic styles of other cathedrals I’ve seen. It was huge. This side height is 36 metres, while the central tower beyond is just over 100 metres. It is the longest cathedral in the world at 189m.

0c4c03ef-0274-4342-a26f-72915451eb82_1_105_c-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Final Impressions

Liverpool was a fun couple of days away from London in a city with many sides. There are so many things to do, hidden museums and galleries and, of course, Beatles sites everywhere. It’s definitely worth the visit.

img_7764-2021-07-26-20-25.jpeg

Until next time,
The World Wanderer

Oxford, England – Impressions

If you were to draw a triangle with points on Bristol, Birmingham and London, somewhere near the middle would be Oxford. At 90km west of London, Oxford is best known for its university, the oldest in the English-speaking world. The town and university are so similar to Cambridge that the pair often group under the name Oxbridge.

oxford-2021-07-10-20-06.png

Oxford was first settled around 900AD at a ford in the river, which the Saxons used to cross oxen. Like Cambridge, the city is very much a student city, with college buildings dominating the landscape. Oxford has a reputation as a party town, and soon after my arrival midday on Saturday, I noted many girls in their 20s were all dressed up to party. All afternoon, in various parts of the central city, I noticed more of them in different stages of drunkenness, but not so many guys.

img_77211-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

My first stop in the city was the Oxford Castle and Prison, which I’d booked ahead to ensure a spot. Unlike other castles in the UK, Oxford Castle has very much been integrated into the surrounding buildings and is not as grand as others I’ve visited.

img_7660-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

The hour-long tour took us to the top of the remaining watchtower, giving expansive views across the city and surrounding landscape.

img_7670-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

As the tour dove next into the lower chambers, I learned that the military value of the castle waned during the 12th and 13th centuries, after which it became more of a prison. And while digging the prison, they discovered an old chapel crypt thought to be from the original structure.

img_7672-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

During the Victorian era, authorities discovered that the prisoners were better fed and sheltered than many in the city, so they introduced a series of hardships. There were tales of up to sixty prisoners jammed into a single room and forced to sleep standing in ankle-deep human waste. Others were forced to turn great wheels that pushed water up to the top of the tower, only to trickle back down again. However, for those who could afford it, exclusive rooms were available with great fineries and clothing to help them enjoy their stays.

There are plenty of architecturally impressive buildings throughout central Oxford, but in my mind, not as many as Cambridge. Indeed, the central city felt less majestic than that other city, Cambridge. There are still some fine pieces, such as the Tom Tower – a bell tower that stands above the main entrance to the Christ Church,

img_7680-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

Or the Town Hall, which is currently closed to the public.

img_7678-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

Then there is the Carfax Tower, the only remaining part of St. Martin’s church, demolished in 1896 due to increasing traffic problems in the city.

img_7676-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

It is the tallest building in the centre and an excellent place to get a bird’s eye view of the city, which, of course, I did.

img_7697-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

Past the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is the Radcliffe Camera, perhaps the most distinctive building in Oxford with its round shape. The word ‘camera’ in Latin means room or space; the Radcliffe room is a part of the Bodleian library and houses the Radcliffe Science Library.

img_7704-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

The Bodleian Library is the second largest library in the UK, holding 11 million volumes on 190km of shelving, with 5km more being added each year. It’s a legal deposit library and can request a free copy of every book published in the UK.

img_7708-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

On Sunday, I had pre-booked a couple of museums after missing out in Cambridge. After scouring the city for a full English breakfast, I headed to the Ashmolean Museum.

img_7725-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

The Ashmolean is a classic art and archaeology museum with many exhibits and tens of thousands of items on show over several floors. From ancient Egypt, Persia, to the Roman Empire, from mummies to silver platters, to exquisitely carved blocks of marble. I wiled away 90 minutes skimming many items, and I still didn’t see everything.

collage2-2021-07-10-20-06.jpg

Then after a quick lunch, I headed to the Museum of Science History. Compared to the vast space of the Ashmolean, the MSH is but three medium-sized rooms, with various exhibits such as a collection of Islamic astrolabes, a collection of watches that tell stories, and the history of typhoid, to name a few.

img_7713-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

Once done, I headed to a pub for a cider and to wait for my train back to London.

img_7658-2021-07-10-20-06.jpeg

Overall Impressions,
After visiting Cambridge first, I expected to see more similarities between the two cities. Yes, there are colleges in both, grand architecture, and plenty of students. But Oxford reminded me more of York than Cambridge, more of a party town than a Mecca of education, even though it’s that too. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time in Oxford. I was more prepared and got to see more that it had to offer. Well worth the visit.

Until next time,

The World Wanderer