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Always in Search of “Our Local”: 3 Days in Liverpool and 18 Days in Ireland

Always in Search of “Our Local”: 3 Days in Liverpool and 18 Days in Ireland

Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 01:35 PM
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Always in Search of “Our Local”: 3 Days in Liverpool and 18 Days in Ireland

Planning, planning, planning

In June 2023, we embarked on a COVID-delayed return to Ireland, a 21-day trip that began with 3-night stay in Liverpool. We set out to mix new destinations with old favorites, concentrating once again on Trad music pubs and scenic views. Our common bond as a married couple has been a love of Traditional Irish and American Bluegrass music, even though my dear husband can’t carry a tune. Part of that enjoyment is appreciating the atmosphere of any bar and pub, too. My husband’s father owned a bar, and my husband has always loved the feel of “a local” in any country. Yep, returning to Ireland and good Guinness was automatically a given with him.

Now age 70 and 78 with new, rather significant, health issues, we’ve had to adapt to declining vitality. One-night stays, which we always avoided anyway, were verboten; at least three-night stays were no longer just a preference but a must. And how we got from place to place would have to change. We once were avid cyclists and hikers. Around seven years ago, we realized our athletic pursuits would be limited to a quite frisky utilization of all forms of foot power and public transport. By the time we took this trip, close to three years after our last overseas jaunt, even public transport couldn’t be our mainstay. Our lifelong minimalist packing was suddenly a bit heavy for our bad backs, and I felt forced to design an itinerary allowing us to go to the variety of towns we wanted to visit without a lot of shifting of our few belongings. Taxis and point-to-point drivers would replace the transfers we had previously done by buses and trains.

But we had to decide upon an initial starting place in the UK.

Why the UK? Simple. Airfare!

I plan overseas trips around the cheapest non-stop airfare that can get me a lie-flat seat. In past trip reports, I’ve reported that I might be willing to sell my first born for leg room. In October 2022 I searched all possible combinations for June 2023. I sought non-stop scenarios and then calculated the best use of our considerable stockpile of American Airlines and Delta miles, figuring out which exact day going and which exact day returning could best use those miles (AKA, “the sweet spot”). I did pretty well, determining that if we flew a certain date to LHR with British Airlines and returned a certain date from DUB with Delta, using two different flight records for one of those legs, our cost for BA Business and Delta First would be about the same as or less than flying Economy.

You might think my plan was hardly a convenient routing, but we very much liked the idea of returning to England a bit too. We were both open to landing at LHR, training it to some TBD English city, spending a few days, and eventually flying onwards to Ireland again. Flights between UK and Ireland are frequent and rather cheap. We just had to decide from where and to where in each country.

But where should we go in the UK for a short stay? Good question. I had fun for a month playing “destination chess” with UK rail schedules and UK flights to Ireland.

My considerations:
-We felt we’d done enough London to last us for a while.
-We didn’t have enough UK time for Wales (still on my bucket list) or Devon/Cornwall (always worth another trip).
-Birmingham, where I still had “Christmas letter exchange” family in the suburbs or even to Manchester/ Wigan, where other “Christmas letter” relatives lived, were possibilities. We were interested in how these industrial cities had transformed themselves, plus I could visit with family.

But the lightbulb went on when I was chatting with my sister about the documentary “McCartney 1, 2, 3”. She and I shared with each other our memories of The Beatles’ American invasion in February 1964. We recalled our dear deceased father, a musician with British parents, being so delighted by and proud of “his boys.” I was in 5th grade then. My husband was a college freshman. I told my sister how funny it was that even with that age disparity, her brother-in-law and I both remembered that Sunday’s February 9th Ed Sullivan Show as if it were yesterday.

Well, she asked, then why aren’t you guys going to Liverpool to do ticky-tacky Beatles things?

Heck yeah, why not?

After that, our final itinerary gradually fell into place:

USA to LHR
train to
Liverpool
for 3 nights,
flying from John Lennon Airport to West Ireland Airport (Knoch) to…
Westport 3 nights
Galway 3 nights
Dingle 3 nights
Killarney 3 nights
Cork 3 nights
Dublin 1 night before
morning flight back to USA

Next post: Houston, We Have A Problem: Getting to Liverpool
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Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 01:44 PM
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We hope to visit Ireland in several years so looking forward to your report. I, too, very vividly remember the famous Ed Sullivan show! Saw the Beatles live at shea stadium in NYC in august 1965. One of the highlights of my life😀
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Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 02:03 PM
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Oooo, this should be good.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 03:40 PM
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Houston, We Have A Problem: Getting to Liverpool

Over the winter I happily sketched out our trip, nailing all our hotel reservations right away, meticulously keeping notes on each town, booking our UK to Ireland flight leg, exchanging emails with a variety of potential guides or tours, hiring or booking some of them, listing alternative travel options, creating a Trad music pub map with notes for each town, keeping leeway for some changes. I had my “travel alert” check list for credit cards, services and neighbors.

I kept an Excel spreadsheet of paid reservations, remaining balances and proposed estimated costs. I maintained a “To Be Decided” checklist from which I’d cross items off as we approached our June departure. Exactly how we’d get to Liverpool from LHR was just a sketch, but I was confident things would fall into place.

I was dead wrong.

For the first time in my life, my transport planning confidence was entirely misplaced.

Had I known when booking our original flights that our UK destination would be Liverpool, I could have easily used a few more FF miles and $$ to have BA book us all the way through Manchester. Then we just could have zipped down to Liverpool from MAN via train or taxi quite cheaply.

Could a, would a, should a…

Instead, I found our Liverpool destination and my merely sketched out plan to get there becoming a nightmare of locked-in “ifs” and potentially wasted $$$.

Darn it. I should have known better. I had always known the USA to LHR flight leg was notoriously unreliable in timing and frequently cancelled. In fact, this flight had never landed on time on three previous LHR strips. The time gap between my original booking and my desire to add onto the route prevented ticket re-booking with BA; just adding a LHR to MAN on its own would be iffy if we did not include an overnight stay in London or book a refundable airfare. Yep, more $$$.

What was also problematic was the Avanti West trainline. Too late in the game it came to my attention that the very company I needed to get us to Liverpool had been in economic turmoil throughout 2021 and 2022, and last-minute cancellations were still frequent. Pre-purchasing tickets for a good price seemed to be iffy. The LHR landing unreliability had not been as much of a problem with planning our previous onwards trains to Cornwall because we had purchased Senior BritRail passes that covered not only all our extensive rail journeys for the entire trip but also our initial leg from Heathrow Express. We had had complete flexibility in timing then; now we had seemingly endless limitations. Senior BritRail passes just weren’t a deal for this trip, so that was out.

I even found myself in the weeks before the trip checking out direct limousine services from LHR Terminal Five to Liverpool. Those were more $$$$, and I was reading reports that these also were not always reliable. Staffing, it seems, had become an issue everywhere with everyone.

Train it would have to be, reliable or not, I concluded. I just bought tickets for a time that assumed we’d be delayed two hours, that we'd be through customs/passport control in an hour, and that we'd somehow get to Euston Station in over an hour.

But just getting from LHR to Euston Station was more expensive and potentially even more time-consuming than I’d like. My initial pricing estimates for everything were way off base. Boy, was I rusty!! Getting to Euston Station via taxi was $$$; getting there via Heathrow Express train/tube meant more luggage shifting in one day than I physically would like, and that route was not dirt cheap either. Yes, we had taken the Heathrow Express to Paddington twice before, but at those times our luggage shifts were directly onto the train towards our final destination. Having to go from Heathrow to Paddington to Euston Station (and there were other variations, too) would mean shifting our stuff again with bad backs on a busy travel day. We had already encountered non-working escalators and elevators before at Paddington and I knew I had to take those potential failures into account.

Ei, yi, yi. Getting old is the pits.

In redoing Rome2Rio searches for the hundredth time mere days before we left, the fog cleared. I had found a way.

Yes, it took about a half hour longer, which is why it had never shown up on my initial potential route radar, but this route wasn’t taxing on our bodies, and it would be dirt cheap, less than $20 for the two of us. We’d just take the Tube from the basement station at Terminal 5 on the Piccadilly line, get out at King’s Cross and roll our way down Euston Rd to the station.

Then if we were too time crunched, we could always fall back on the $$$$ taxi or the physically harder Heathrow Express combo. If things worked—that was the big “if”—the longer-but-simplest route it would be.

I threw caution to the wind and prayed everything would work.

It did. The plane’s landing was delayed close to two hours—told you so!–but passport control/customs was ultra speedy, and our easy familiarity with Terminal 5 gave us a bit of extra time to use the BA First/Business Arrivals Lounge to change our clothes and wash our faces at warp speed.

We descended to the basement Terminal 5 Tube Station. We looked around for the manned ticket window the LHR website explicitly told me should be there, and oh no, we only saw a ticket machine. And our credit cards refused to work in it. We tried every single one we had on us. Dang, dang, dang. Options, options, what were there?

We asked a nearby official looking person about how we could buy tickets and he scoffed, “You don’t need that love. Just hit your credit card on the scanner at the entry gates.”

OK, our credit cards wouldn’t work in the ticket machine, so this was going to be a bust.

OMG—both our credit cards worked instantly. It was the Miracle of the Open Tube Gates.

We found the Piccadilly line and piled in. Luckily—and do I mean LUCKILY—we got seats. It was a long ride (54 stops) in an increasingly packed-to-the-gills train. Getting out at King’s Cross was a matter of strategically planning a tense three-stop inches-forward pincer movement around sweaty bodies. We successfully exited the train with the kind assistance of fellow passengers. Maybe looking old was a slight advantage now. More helpful people at the station exit pointed us in the correct direction towards Euston Station, and we powered there in time to board our train north.

We could relax now. And soon, the catering cart serving beer and wine stopped at our seats. And the included light meals weren't bad. Life was good.

After another beer, we became BFFs with a Liverpool guy across the aisle who traveled to the States frequently. He was so excited we had made Liverpool a priority of our trip, and he gave us some tips about his favorite places in the city. The hours passed by like minutes.

At the end, we easily found the taxi rank to nab a cab to our hotel (Note: we could have walked, but we deserved this taxi!). Our hotel was The Resident, a converted Victorian warehouse in the Ropewalks area on the hill above the Albert Docks and the Museum Quarter. It wasn’t a plush place—heck, it didn’t even have a breakfast room, let alone a restaurant. I chose it simply because it was a spit from two rail stations and close to the Albert Docks.

We quickly settled into our quirky room and set out to find…
…our “local” of course!

I had researched on Google maps all the nearby eating establishments and the beer offerings of nearby pubs. I was pretty sure my husband would like one place right away, and I was so right that he never wanted to test out another. The Seven Bro7hers Beerhouse, just two blocks away, had a variety of IPAs he could try. While he was taste-testing those, I selected a glass of a “guest” session beer, A Hazy Shade of Citra IPA from Vaux, a Sunderland brewery. I enjoy Citra hops. It was perfect, and my husband was envious after he stole a sip. It became our beer for our stay.

We ordered some nibbles along with our next round, and we decided to call it a night. We were exhausted. On our walk back, we noted that the street crowd was awfully intense for a Thursday night. Club bass sounds were pounding away. I worried the noise would infiltrate our room.

Nope. It had GREAT air conditioning. Nighty nite.

Next: Exploring The Albert Docks

Last edited by AlessandraZoe; Jul 22nd, 2023 at 03:43 PM.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 04:32 PM
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Exploring The Albert Docks

The next day, we decided we’d just roam around the Albert Docks and see what we could see. We made no plans, no itinerary. It was jet lag, train-lag recovery day. If we needed a nap, then we’d go back and nap.

We walked downhill towards the Docks, delighting in everything we saw. Red brick buildings reminded us of home. Born and raised in small towns in the US Rust Belt, we were familiar with how much effort and how many years it takes to bring back once declining cities and outlying small towns from the brink. Shifting entire generations away from reliance on manufacturing jobs, reviving once orange-colored creeks and brown-green rivers and trash-covered lake edges from pollution, bringing new life to aging buildings without destroying their past, pushing a city’s vision forward were dynamic challenges with which we were familiar. It took heart.

Liverpool epitomized that heart. It had successfully transformed its grit into beauty.

Equally thrilling was knowing that my husband’s Cornwall great grandfather had set off alone here to the New World to establish a new life, as did my grandfather’s entire Wigan family and six of my Tipton grandmother’s 12 siblings. These docks below us held our 19th and 20th family histories.

But our first tourist activity had nothing whatsoever to do with our family history, just our own. It would end up being the most delightful moment of this 21-day trip. The Beatles Statues on the renovated Pier Head floored us. Larger than life, the Fab Four look out across the broad River Mersey and essentially onwards to the New World.

First erected in 2015, the statues were cast in resin and clay by sculptor Andy Edwards, who had done meticulous research about each Beatle. The Fab Four look as though they were stepping out of the film “A Hard Day’s Night.” Paul, the left-handed player, is on the left; John, the right-handed player, is on the right. Ringo is just a tad behind in the group, as a drummer usually is. Paul holds a camera that supposedly refers to Linda Eastman (although one Beatle expert we met said that’s actually binoculars because he was a birdwatcher and another told us that it’s a camera because Paul himself was a photographer; both statements about Paul are true but who knows for sure what he's holding!), John has two acorns in his hand (he and Yoko sent acorns to world leaders as a message of peace), Ringo has his childhood postcode L8 referred to on his shoe sole, and George Harrison has Sanskrit on his coat belt.

We weren’t the only ones with embarrassingly misty eyes. Scanning the people around us this bright morning, we heard cries of joy in at least four different languages. Many were of our generation, and some were explaining to grandkids who these men were. These guys sure meant a lot to a lot of people.

We then meandered through the museum quarter, first taking in The British Music Experience, a museum of artifacts and short film and photos and sound that covered much of what we had enjoyed about the entire British invasion of the 60s and 70s.

Our next stop was the little café inside The Museum of Liverpool for a quick coffee and scone. This museum was a darling place for families, covering everything from the evolution of local land transport to regional archeology to social history.

From there we worked our way south to get a small beer at the Pump House, recommended by our Liverpool train friend. After we people-watched for a bit, we continued onto The Maritime Museum, which holds the excellent International Slavery Museum on the 3rd floor and exhibits about the Titanic and the Lusitania among other wonderful exhibits elsewhere. We enjoyed it all.

We returned for another quick beer at the Pump House, now packed to the gills, and decided to indulge ourselves with a tacky museum, The Beatles Story. After a jam-packed morning and afternoon of free admissions (one only made donations) in first-class museums, we laughed at ourselves for forking over 30 pounds for what we were sure would be a “La Tourista” trap. Well, guess what? We LOVED it. It wasn't a huge place, but it was jam-packed with information. Earphones came with the price, and we took our time at each exhibit, totally absorbed.

We wandered around the docks a bit more, impressed by the variety of shops and restaurants, intrigued by the mixture of the crowd (lots of locals, lots of families). We so wished we had energy to do the quite tempting art museums just steps away; instead, we headed up the hill to our new “local”, The Seven Bro7hers.

On the way back to hotel room after a few pints/halves to freshen up, we made a early reservation at the nearby Wreckfish Bistro.

Later, after an enjoyable dinner at Wreckfish, we could barely squeeze through the street crowd to get across the street to our hotel. Friday night in Liverpool sure was hopping. Surely this would be the night we wouldn’t sleep.

Nope.

Next: Beatles or Bust
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Old Jul 22nd, 2023, 08:58 PM
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This is great! We don't see a lot of reports about Liverpool. My cousin and I hope to go to England next year, and since we won't be that far from Liverpool (Leeds, as our fathers were born there), we definitely want to do the Beatles thing. I'm looking at the Hard Day's Night Hotel and their Beatles Package. Taking notes of everything you did! 😀
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 12:27 AM
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on for the ride, great so far
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 06:53 AM
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Beatles or Bust

The next day would be total Beatles. I had booked two back-to-back tours for this day months and months in advance, and I was psyched. We would cover much the same ground the Paul McCartney and James Corden did on that special
segment, the one where Paul signed the Penny Lane sign (we got to see his signature).

Our Fab Four Taxi Tour driver Keith picked us up at our hotel at 10 for a three-hour “Classic” tour. Soon we were off. We would visit the outsides of the childhood homes of each Beatle, with stops at Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, and Eleanor Rigby’s grave among others. It was sheer delight.

Some tidbits from this taxi tour:

--Ringo Starr's (Richard Starkey) two childhood homes were within a block of each other in Liverpool's quite poor Dingle Toxteth area. His mother Elsie, deserted by Ringo's father before he turned four, often worked two or more jobs. Ringo would spend much of his early life in hospital, and he was near death numerous times. His physical and educational growth were highly impacted. Ringo's stepfather Harry came into the picture when he was around 6 years old. Ringo has often said he has no bad stepfather stories--Harry was a gentle, very loving man who encouraged his love of music. Never having had a real drum kit, left-handed Ringo actually played drums the wrong way! Thus his drumming, deceptively simplistic, ends up being hard to duplicate.
One can't tour it, but one can spot Ringo's second childhood home a mile away--it's been decoratively painted in a sort of "Sgt Pepper" salute. The Beatles knew Ringo from their time in Hamburg because his band at the time, Rory and the Hurricanes, played there too. In fact, Ringo would fill in with the Beatles for Pete Best there from time to time.

--George Harrison grew up in the Speke area, but he, his parents and his three older siblings lived in various homes. One of those homes was put up for sale in 2022, and a man from the United States bought it. It's now listed on Airbnb.
A quite skilled guitarist from an early age, George was only 14 when he auditioned for John and Paul on top of a double-decker bus. Paul had already taken to him, John had been reluctant to use him, but George's open air "audition" got him a foothold. He was only 17 when the group left for Hamburg, where they truly learned to be a band.
Harrison's mother Louise had listened to Radio India while she was pregnant with George because her constantly kicking in-utero baby would then calm down. No wonder the sound of Ravi Shankar's sitar would appeal to him later on.

--St Peter's Church in Liverpool was the birthplace of the Beatles.
On July 6, 1957, 16-year-old Lennon was performing with a skiffle band, The Quarrymen, at its church fete in Woolton, Liverpool. While setting up their instruments for the evening performance, the band’s bass player introduced Lennon to a classmate, 15-year-old McCartney. John had grown up singing in St. Peter's boys' choir, as did many of his fellow skiffle band members, and they'd sneak out to smoke cigarettes by the grave of a person named Eleanor Rigby.
John had an "only child" childhood with Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, but actually John had three half-sisters and two half-brothers: Julia and Jacqui Dykins, who lived close by, two half-brothers by his father Alf, and one half-sister by his mother and an unknown man, Victoria, who was adopted by an English and Norsk couple and renamed Ingred Pederson. John only really knew Julia and Jacqui.

--Paul was a choirboy-reject! He unsuccessfully auditioned twice. He finally was accepted at age 11 at St Barnabas.
Paul might be the Beatle who has given back to Liverpool more than he has ever taken, probably because a) he's still alive and b) he's kept in close touch with his younger brother. He has quietly supported numerous local causes and has quite vocally supported others.
He and wife Linda bought his childhood home and donated it to the National Trust. When Yoko asked why the National Trust was not doing the same for John's childhood home, she was informed she'd have to pony up first. She did.


Planning tip: do not book through TripAdvisor, Viator, etc—use the company’s actual website.

At the end of the tour, Keith kindly dropped us off at the pick-up point, the Liverpool South Parkway Rail Station, for our Beatles' Childhood Homes Tour, two guided walk-throughs of Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s homes. As we were waiting, we bought water and crisps from the station vending machine and took advantage of the restrooms.

I had been a bit worried that we'd be on "Beatles Overload". Surprisingly, we were not. We found the two houses to be surprisingly and quite starkly revelatory. One could feel the tenseness of John’s aunt’s home in a wealthier neighborhood and feel the utter family love in Paul’s lower middle class council house.

One fact that stood out for us post-tour was that John’s Aunt Mimi, who was a snob, only allowed Paul and John to practice in her house in a less than 5’ by 5’ closed-in entry porch that also included side benches and coat hooks. Paul was left-handed and John was right-handed and they practiced facing each other to fit into the space. It clearly explains why they always mirrored each other on stage so well, even after Paul switched from lead guitar to bass. (By the way, when left-handed Paul suddenly had to use Stu Sutcliff's bass guitar in Hamburg, he had to play it upside down. No problem--that was how he had learned to play guitar before his father showed him how to restring it).

John's mother Julia, whose personal life consisted of wall-to-wall bad decisions, had finally settled down and grown closer to her son when she was struck down in a car accident right in front of Mimi's house. We could see that spot from the front of the house. No wonder Paul McCartney, who termed John's upbringing as "tragic," is quoted as saying, "As a kid, [John's] mother was decreed to not be good enough to bring him up. His father had left the home when John was 3. So that's not too wonderful. It made me realize why he had that vulnerability."

In Paul's house, one understood the closeness of the family. It was so exciting to see "the bog" (the bathroom) that Paul wanted George Martin to reproduce in sound effects, to touch the piano (it's not the original so they allow it) Paul had recently played on the Carpool Karaoke episode, and to see the drain pipe he'd shimmy down at night. You can see how John and Paul were so free to write songs here. The dining room/music room was big enough to work in, and the living room with its piano was the perfect place to audition their efforts to Paul's dad and brother. The guide explained that Paul's mother Mary, a district nurse who died when Paul was so 14, was so well-respected and loved that they were allowed to stay in the council house after her death.

We were picked up by the National Tour transport bus and dropped off at the rail station again. What a perfect day it had been!

When we made it home via train to our Ropewalks hood from the Central Station, our feet automatically took us to us back to The Seven Bro7hers. The staff were getting to know us well enough that they started pouring as soon as we walked into the door. We found ourselves in the middle of a hen party, but not a typically rowdy one. Instead, a group of lovely young women were serenely painting on various art easels sprinkled throughout the upstairs loft while they sipped wine and craft brew. So fun and so sensible.

What wasn’t sensible was the number of people immediately outside the brewpub who were pretty much trashed well before evening. Saturday in the Ropewalks and surrounding area is something to behold, and as we made our way to our restaurant reservation at Aquapod on Bold St, it was hard work to make our way through the sheer number of bodies. By the way, dinner at Aquapod was much better than we expected. Reviews online were mixed, but not only were we quite pleased with our meals, so were the people surrounding us.

When we exited the restaurant, we lost our bearings for bit and this time we approached our hotel from a different direction. Wow! We never knew that just behind the hotel was a jam-packed open square of tables surrounded by pubs and nightclubs. The sheer din of conversation drowned out the competing bass beats of the clubs.

Surely this would be the night we wouldn’t sleep.

Nope.

Next: The Leaving of Liverpool and Trad Here We Come
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 07:05 AM
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John's Aunt was given a house in one of the most expensive pieces of land in the world. Sandbanks. When we used to sail past it in leaving Poole harbour, the tripper boats shout hello to her. She never waved back ;-)
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 07:11 AM
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Thank you, Karen Woo, Melnq8, SusanP, and bilboburgler for the encouragement. This is tedious stuff, and I always wonder, "Who in the world is going to read this?" You keep me going.

SusanP--I was so surprised at how few trip reports were made about Liverpool.
  • First of all, Liverpool's WWII's situation is almost entirely absent in American minds. We've been well aware of London's plight, particularly the East End, but until this trip, I never knew just how bad it had been for the city. Logically, duh! Docks, duh! The destruction and deaths were overwhelming. Our Liverpool train friend had emphasized how hard they were hit, encouraging us to look at the exhibit in the Museum of Liverpool.
  • Second, there's a good reason Liverpool was chosen to host Eurovision this year. It has the facilities and structure!
  • Third, Liverpool has the biggest concentration of museums in the UK outside London.
I could go on and on and on. We came to see Beatles stuff; we left with wanting to come back to see more.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 07:14 AM
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bilboburgler,
I have such mixed feelings about her. I don't know whether to hate her or respect her.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 07:17 AM
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"Who in the world is going to read this?"

Me for one. Very much enjoying your report, and I fully appreciate the time one invests in writing a detailed report.

Carry on please.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 08:11 AM
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The Beatles tour sounds wonderful! Would love to do that some day. I appreciate all the information you gave. I know it takes a long time to write all of that but it’s so interesting.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 09:17 AM
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Thanks for this lively report. I have an ancestor from Liverpool myself, name of Simpson.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 09:24 AM
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Enjoying your TR and looking forward to your experiences in Ireland (we're headed there later this year).
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 09:30 AM
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I hadn't really started any research on things to see other than the Beatles stuff, so this is all so interesting.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 09:41 AM
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The Leaving of Liverpool and Trad Music Here We Come

We were sad to leave. We knew we could have easily filled another two days in Liverpool alone and felt bad we hadn’t seen the various art museums, enjoyed many more various Beatles sculptures, walked Matthew St, visited the recreated Cavern Club, walked the Georgian Quarter, toured the Liver Building and seen the lovely cathedral and other churches. We could have easily expanded our time to a week or more by taking trains to the Lake District or Chester or York (I still remember being stunned by York Cathedral as a kid) or even Wrexham (yeah, silly but still…).

Oh well. Maybe another trip.

We had booked a 10:15 am taxi to take us to John Lennon Airport, but when we were two minutes—and I mean exactly TWO minutes late, just opening the outside door, the driver zoomed off. The front desk clerk’s dropped jaw told us that she was as shocked as we, and she very kindly called us another cab. That cab came a half hour later. I was beginning to get nervous about timing.

And for the first time all weekend, a Scouse accent was unintelligible to us. Our new driver talked and talked to us all the way, pausing and turning his head around with what seemed to be an expectance of a response, and we just nodded our heads or made some random agreeable comment hoping we sounded as though we had a clue as to what he was saying. Even when he pulled into a gas station, turning around to explain he had to stop for gas, we were so idiotically dumbfounded by his thick Scouse that we assumed he was kicking us out of the cab.

He wasn’t, thank God. We made it in time for our RyanAir flight at John Lennon. Security was a bit strange—I was held up by one shoe where I had to do all kinds of scanner things and I still do not understand the issue—but we were good to go. Getting to our gate was rather like following the Yellow Brick Road—we were required to meander through various shops and duty-free areas that took more time than we would have thought because just when we thought we’d have time to sit down, our flight was called.

Everyone complains about RyanAir, I know, but our flight was quite uneventful and rather comfortable. We landed to good weather at West Ireland (KNOCH) Airport and snagged a taxi after our swift exit through customs. The journey to our Westport hotel, the Westport Plaza, took close to an hour. We chuckled at our physical demise. In prior years, we would have taken the very cheap airport bus to the hotel—heck, in prior years we would have taken the cheap airport bus 500 to John Lennon Airport. Sigh. Well, at least we were travelling! And as we often said to our kids, at least we had not declined to the point that our only travel options were cruises.

Yet.

I had chosen the Westport Plaza, whose accommodation ranged from the basic (us) to plush, because of its walkability to pubs that had local music. Our room was quiet, comfortable, well-appointed, clean and air conditioned, perfect in a continuing heat wave. It and its sister hotel, the Castlecourt, shared a turnaround interior driveway that could accommodate touring buses, ones who would seem to be doing beep-beep-beep back-ups throughout all the days of our stay. The big draw for these sister hotels was their Golden Years Group Breaks. We would get a charge out of seeing various signs dotting the lobby advertising the water aerobics schedule, or bingo, that night’s history talk, or a cooking demonstration.

Our arrival coincided with the last day of the town’s Bluegrass Festival, and I had been able a few weeks before to book the late evening finale online. We thought we’d check out some of the local pubs before we sat for the concert, and we headed down to the town, first crossing over a cute-as-heck flower-lined bridge, and then ascending the town’s hill. Well, a few hours later, we were still ensconced in the tiny back room of our first pub, Matt Malloy’s, where we had grabbed our first pint (always a ½ pint/ glass for me). The one lone musician we had first encountered with an awfully sweet voice strumming lightly in the back had now been joined by a very bad banjo player who was soon joined by an American country guitarist which led to the entrance of a quite skilled (and funny) Czech banjo player. It turns out that the guy with the sweet voice could switch from guitar to violin to mandolin and amp up the volume and change key whenever needed. The musicians were on a roll, and we just did not want to leave. Ever.

Hours passed. Guinness for my husband (he had been so happy with his first sip on Irish turf); Hop House 13 (4.1 % AVB IPA-ish lager made by Guinness) for me. The room started looking off slope a bit. Maybe food would be a good idea.

We grabbed a bite across the street, returned to the scene of our overindulgence and continued. A woman guitarist with a gorgeous alto voice had now joined the group. Beers were coming our way because some Americans from Philly who came to Westport twice a year had decided to adopt us as long-lost cousins, even though we are NOT from Philly. Well, it would be rude not to sip.

In case you are wondering, we did make it to the late concert, but we only lasted until intermission. And somehow, we made it home over the bridge and up our hotel hill.

Sidenote FYI: Matt Malloy is a famous flautist connected to the Chieftains, a Trad folk band that in the early 60s (yes, at the time of the Beatles) helped popularize Trad Irish music around the world. I did not see him there, although I've probably seen The Chieftains in concert twice.

I was first introduced to Trad music through the Northern Irish kids who worked with me at the Jersey shore during early 70’s summers, but it was not until I met my husband’s best friend in the mid 70s, whose family I think came from Donegal, that I got totally onboard with Trad. My father, a professional violinist, had always appreciated American Bluegrass and Scottish reels, so Trad was just one generational and geographical step away. Soon we found ourselves at American local Irish bars where real, not fake “Danny Boy” stuff, was being performed Fridays and Saturdays. The songs of the Chieftains, the Dubliners, and the Clancy Brothers were always part of any set list. It was a great prep for Ireland.

And by the way, Matt Malloy’s is FAR from being the ONLY good Trad bar in town. It just happened to be the closest.

Next: Drudgery and Recovery Day
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 09:44 AM
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Folks, I have another entry, but Fodors editors seem to need to approve it. I'm going to take a break. Thank all of you for keeping me going.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 10:16 AM
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"Now age 70 and 78 with new, rather significant, health issues, we’ve had to adapt to declining vitality."

We are in the same boat, but it sounds like you're doing just fine. Finding "a local" is always a priority with us. I'm thoroughly enjoying your posts and looking forward to reading more.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2023, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by AlessandraZoe
Folks, I have another entry, but Fodors editors seem to need to approve it. I'm going to take a break. Thank all of you for keeping me going.

Your long post was intercepted by the spam filter. This is an automated process and was not triggered by the editors-moderators
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