All posts by Jenny Wilde

Liverpool, part 2

The next day’s agenda was…another tourist escapade! We went on the Yellow Duckmarine tour! I can hear your inward groan, but I have to say, I learned an awful lot about the city on that tour. Sure, there was a cheese factor, but mostly it was great. For example, did you know that Liverpool has the largest cathedral in the UK? And the largest Anglican cathedral in the world? Did you know that Lime Street Station was the first passenger railway station in Great Britain? Did you know that Hope Street is the only street in Europe that has a cathedral at either end (Anglican and Catholic)? Did you know that Liverpool is home to the Super Lamb Banana? I thought not. It turns out 3 days isn’t really enough time to see Liverpool; I guess we’ll have to go back.

view of Albert Dock
We all live in a Yellow Duckmarine...

Constance also told us (rather belatedly) that we had to send some muffins, or failing that, muffin mix, to her friend Susan back home. This is because of their warped version of the song “All My Loving” that they’ve changed to “All My Muffins.” You know, “all my muffins, I will send to you-ou.” Hence the need to post muffins.
We found some day-glo muffins at the 99p store (also picked up some umbrellas…) and we wandered around Liverpool One looking for a post office. Eventually, muffins and packing materials had been acquired and the muffins were sent. Except that Constance forgot to write down Susan’s address before we left on the trip. We grudgingly went into a Starbucks because they were supposed to have wi-fi and we needed to look up the address. As it happened, the wi-fi was so slow as to be impossible to use so that was a waste. Instead, we used the time to package the muffins and ingest some sugar. We eventually guessed at the address and, it turns out, we were off by only one number. Susan did get the package all the same (and ate the day-glo muffins), so all was well.

I swear, my life often feels like a series of near-misses with catastrophe. As if I’m constantly warding off crisis by the skin of my teeth. I know sending muffins to a friend back home doesn’t sound like it could go that terribly wrong, but you must remember I am a parent of a teenager. Everything takes on epic proportions when you’re 14. Even so, it feels like my life is high maintenance. I’m not really sure what that says about my life, because I don’t think I, personally, am all that high maintenance (others may disagree, I don’t know). Somehow, though, my life is forever in flux, teetering on the brink of…something. I’m pretty sure I have influence over that, but I just live the only way I can, the only way I know how, the way I feel compelled to live it. On the other hand, boring would be far worse than forever in flux. I think.

So, after the muffin escapade, we headed back to the hotel (in the pouring rain) with a brief stop at the Cornish Pasty Company (mmm, pasties). Duncan was set on using the hotel swimming pool so Constance and I took a stroll over to St. John’s Memorial Garden. It’s a “memorial garden” instead of a park because it used to be a cemetery, and by calling it a memorial garden they can leave all the dead bodies in the ground. If it were a park, they’d have to disinter everyone and move them. Too expensive, so…memorial garden it is!

Frolicking in the garden of the dead

We ordered room service on our last night, seeing as how we were bushed and the rain was coming down furiously. The food was ok, not going out was wonderful.

There are two kinds of weather in Britain: rain, and looks like it might. - Asterix

The next morning we packed up and walked back over to Lime Street Station. So much left to see and no time to see it! The Tate Liverpool, the cathedrals, the International Slavery Museum (oh yes, Liverpool was a major depot of the slave trade), Croxteth Hall, the list goes on…

Alas, our stay had come to an end and we sat in the station waiting for our train to Edinburgh, from thence by bus to Stow. While we were waiting, there was an announcement of a delayed train “due to a fatality.” Funny, I don’t think they usually tell you that part back at home.

So long, Liverpool. I underestimated you... Sorry.

Next up: Scotland!

It’s not the leavin’ of Liverpool that grieves me, but darlin’ when I think of thee

Well, maybe it’s a little bit about the leaving of Liverpool.

What do you think of when you think of Liverpool? I’m betting The Beatles. That’s what I figured too.

When we first started making real plans to take this trip to Scotland (because I pushed relentlessly, I know…), Constance avowed that we’d also be going to Liverpool “on the way.” You know, since we’d be in the area and all. Mark thought this was kind of crazy, seeing as how being in the area was akin to stopping in Seattle when we were going to San Francisco from, say, Germany. I agreed, but I also pointed out that Scotland was a lot closer to Liverpool than California was, and that nearness was a relative term. And Constance would not be put off.

We decided that we’d stop in Liverpool for 3 days before heading into Scotland. Since we flew into London, it really was on the way, more or less. I figured 3 days was plenty of time to do the whole Beatles tourist thing.

We arrived in the evening and we were starving. The helpful concierge suggested we walk over to Liverpool One, a shopping plaza, that had lots of restaurants. I wasn’t terribly keen on going to a mall, but we were all very tired and hungry and we decided to just go and see what we saw. In the end, we went to a lovely French restaurant called Cafe Rouge. It is a chain, but the food was good (no, seriously, the English know French food).

Constance is thrilled to be here, can you tell?

Oh, and did I mention the rain? It was raining, not too, too hard, but enough to get us pretty thoroughly wet. This would be a continuing theme…

Anyway, Cafe Rouge was quite nice. Our waiter nervously approached our table and said, “I just have to tell you we’re all out of steak tonight. And whole chickens. The pirates ate them all.” (I believe there was some other form of meat he mentioned as well, but I’ve forgotten.) We hesitated for a moment, still processing that tidbit. After we had our moment, we assured him it was not a problem.

It turns out there was an enormous gathering of “pirates” that day in Liverpool in an attempt to break the world record; how sad that we missed it! We all found it terribly funny that the pirates came through and cleaned out the restaurant of all the big pieces of meat. The other funny part was that many of our friends had been at the Northern California Pirate Festival setting that very world record. Small, geeky world.
The pirates became a running joke for us during our stay in Liverpool.

The kitchen stayed open late so we could have dessert. The desserts were excellent. We overtipped. (oops)

One strawberry ice-cream concoction and one chocolate.
I had the clafouti.

Duncan ate his too fast for me to get a picture before it was gone…

We mostly just passed out after we got back from dinner. Mark and I had shared a bottle of red wine and we were feeling no pain. The rain helped keep the warm mugginess of Liverpool from being oppressive and we didn’t mind all that much being wet. We’re rain-loving folks anyway.

A little tele before bed:

Missus, will ya, make me tea. Make love to me. Put on the tele, to the BBC!

I have to admit, it was all any of us could do not to break into Monty Python and Eddie Izzard bits and speak with British accents. We really, honestly didn’t want to mock anyone, nor to make anyone feel we were mocking them, but the accents SO wanted to come out.

The next day was all about The Beatles Story. We went down to the Albert Dock and descended into the lengthy, and highly produced, Beatles “experience.” I did learn a lot about the band, possibly more than I ever had the inclination to know. Some of the location recreations were really cool. I love that sort of thing. There was a Cavern Club, the office of the Mersey Beat, and a psychedelic Yellow Submarine area. My numerous pictures of that, and other locales in Liverpool can be found here.

After spending far too much money at the Fab4 Store on the way out (partnered with Starbucks, there’s no escape), we were hungry and went looking for a place to eat lunch. We almost ended up at a pub-type place, but they were out of nearly everything (residual pirate fall-out?), though we learned an important factoid there: they had something called Scouse on the menu, apparently a traditional lamb stew that is a local speciality. From this stew comes the locals’ name for residents: Scousers. Not to be confused with Mancs (from Manchester). There is quite the rivalry between Scousers and Mancs, mostly friendly (but not always). Never having been to Manchester myself, I lean toward the Scouser side of things.

So, didn’t eat at that restaurant, don’t remember its name. We did eat at Gusto, an Italian restaurant right on the waterfront.

On the way back, it started pouring. We didn’t have any umbrellas (naturally) so we got exceedingly wet. Stopped to take this silly picture in which you can tell the kids are simply sopping:

But, where's the pool?

When we were nearly back to the hotel, we stopped in a pub called the Rat and Parrot. How could we not, you know? Coffee in the UK seems to always be served with a sprinkling of sweet cocoa powder on top. Also, virtually every dessert appears to be served with the choice of vanilla ice cream, sweet cream, or whipped cream, and most are served warm. That means that if you order chocolate cake, it will come warm with melty chocolate frosting and in a pool of cream or with a dollop of ice cream. Took some getting used to, but I think I like it. Warm sticky toffee pudding with cream? Oh my god.

Liverpool TBC…

Scotland, ho!

Departure day arrived and we headed off to the airport, after picking up the friend who would borrow our car while we were away.

Other than spilling a large quantity of very hot coffee in my lap, the SF airport was an uneventful place for us. There was one incident with a haughty Starbucks employee who declared that they didn’t take punch cards because, “This is the airport!” Well, of course! What was I thinking?!

Anyway, we boarded our little plane to Calgary and tried to settle in to the journey. Coming in to the Calgary airport (YYC) was pretty miserable (for me, in any case) because of severe turbulence as we negotiated the mountain winds in our flying shoebox. I haven’t felt that queasy on an airplane in quite some time.

The Calgary airport is homey, but weird. It’s got this whole “space cowboy” thing going on; literally. I mean, there is an actual  museum/exhibit thing that is even called Space Cowboy.
We didn’t go in.

The greeters and information folks wear red vests and big white cowboy hats. I’m not kidding. I wanted to take a picture but was too embarrassed to ask. Some of the automatic glass doors had wooden saloon-style doors painted on them. Yes, really. There was an elaborate display celebrating the majestic moose and we were seduced by the sounds of a large indoor waterfall. Giant models of space shuttles and spacemen hung from the ceiling in a variety of spots. It was kind of strange.

I did check out the “interfaith” chapel, just for kicks. By interfaith, I guess they meant “a variety of Christian denominations.” Oh well.
It was a funny sort of chapel, the tablecloth had cowboy boots on it:

Real homey, don't you think?

A model of the space shuttle was hanging right over the altar, to peculiar effect.

Direct flight to heaven?

Our layover was only four hours, enough time to eat and look around the airport a little, but not enough time to really see or do anything. It had looked pretty out the airplane windows on our approach…
We decided we would have to come back to see Calgary proper at some point.

So near, and yet so far.

Next we began our epic plane and train journey to Liverpool. This second leg of the flight was nine hours, lasting through the night, with our arrival to be roughly 11am the next day. Here’s the crazy part: the further east we flew, the later it got, right? Except that since we were flying above the line of darkness (yes, we were!), it was still broad daylight at 2:00 in the morning.

Always knew I was ahead of the curve.

I shit you not. We were consistently just ahead of the bell curve of darkness. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

It inspired me to write the following poem (ahem):
Flying north of night,
Skirting the darkness.
It follows us in our journey,
Remaining always a step behind.
Hours jump ahead
But we move through them
Time has no hold here.
We create our own wake,
Never looking back.

Upon landing at London Heathrow, we began the next leg of the journey: 5 hours or so on various trains. Destination: Liverpool! Because Constance wouldn’t permit us to be remotely nearby without making a stop in Liverpool (a remarkably cool town, by the way, but that’s for the next post…).

I had done my homework and I knew we’d need to get the Heathrow Connect (cheaper than the Express) to Paddington. At that point we would acquire a Family and Friends Railcard and use the attendant discount to buy National Rail tickets for cheaper. Thence, the Tube (London Underground) to Euston Station and the National Rail to Lime Street Station, Liverpool. All well and good. There did happen to be works on the Tube line we needed to take though, so we had to take the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus and then transfer to the Victoria line to Euston. Also, can’t actually purchase the Railcards at Paddington; have to get them at Euston. The website never mentioned that!
Anyway, no great shakes, right? Except you have to add 2 very tired children and 1 very tired husband (well, and a tired me), 3 large suitcases, 4 carry-on size bags, and a purse into the mix. Let’s just say it was quite a negotiation. We ultimately prevailed and made it to Lime St. Station intact with no loss of luggage (Duncan left a blanket on the plane, but it wasn’t his favorite “blankie,” thank goodness). Fortunately, our hotel was a mere 3 blocks away at One Queen Square, even if we did end up going rather further around because we didn’t know it was a mere 3 blocks away. What can I say? Making sense of a map is difficult when you’re tired.

By the way, mind the gap.

They mean it.

To be continued….!