There are some destinations we dream about for years. We read about them; plan for future trips, many of which go untaken; we save for them; and, when the time finally comes, we feel as though we’ve accomplished some big life goal.
We’ve finally done it!
And then there are some destinations we visit simply because the price was just too good to pass up. This is how I ended up spending a day in Liverpool.
The price was right.
In early-December, when I found myself with a full week off work I knew I had to take advantage of this rare opportunity. As it was nearing the Christmas season, and we were due to fly home in a couple of weeks time, I wasn’t too keen on spending a tonne of money so I decided that this was the perfect time to stay local and do a bit of sightseeing in my own backyard.
And thanks to an amazing deal on National Express (~£10 return), I was able to do just that!
It was a cold and foggy morning when I made my way down to the bus station. It wasn’t unbearably early but felt that way thanks to the weather.
It might have also been my lack of coffee at that point.
The bus was already waiting at the stand when I arrived, but the driver was nowhere to be found. He was off indulging in an early morning coffee, an activity I would have gladly participated in if it weren’t for the threatening sign on the bus prohibiting hot drinks aboard.
So I waited in the cold, foggy morning, ready to get my sightseeing adventure started.
When the driver returned I happily hopped aboard and fell into the plush, comfortable seat. The heat was pumping at full force, and as the warm enveloped me I felt my eyelids get heavy and I just couldn’t fight it.
Next thing I knew we were pulling into the bus station in Manchester; I’d been asleep (and most likely lightly snoring) for the better part of an hour.
I’d really hoped to use the bus trip to see a bit more of the northern countryside, but apparently, it just wasn’t in the cards for me that day. Plus, that mid-morning nap was divine, and just the thing I needed before a long day of wandering in the late-fall weather.
I managed to stay awake for the last part of the journey and enjoyed staring out the window as we approached Liverpool.
Liverpool was a city I’d heard a lot about, thanks to its connections to the Beatles and the Titanic, but I didn’t honestly know much about it beyond those two things, so I was looking forward to having the chance to find out just what made Liverpool so special.
The bus arrived at Liverpool ONE station, which is smack dab right in the middle of the city (and part of the expansive Liverpool ONE shopping centre) – such a pleasant surprise as I’d anticipated having to walk through the soft underbelly of the city to get to the attractions. I hopped off the bus and made my way to the Liverpool Waterfront, taking in Albert Dock and strolling past many of Liverpool’s most famous sights, including the statue of the Beatles at Piers Head, which had a lineup of people just waiting to have their picture taken with the bronze figures.
I just happened to be in Liverpool around the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and it quickly became obvious just how important the musician had been to the city. Dotted all along the waterfront were makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and even letter to Lennon, commemorating the anniversary of his death, thanking him for his contribution to the arts, and even detailing the effects he’d had on people’s lives. It was surreal to read some of the words that people had for this long departed musician.
After sneaking in and snapping a few photos of the bronze fab four, my stomach started to rumble. It had been far too long since my last snack, so I thought it was the perfect time to step away from the waterfront and explore Liverpool’s Chinatown; a hot bowl of Wonton noodle soup was exactly what I needed on this cold December day.
Just a short (uphill) walk from the waterfront, I quickly found myself standing in the centre of Nelson St, staring up at the paifang, one of the largest, multiple-span arches of its kind outside of China (source). Liverpool’s Chinatown was the first established Chinatown in all of Europe, and I knew there was no better place to stop for lunch.
The street was decorated with Chinese lanterns hanging from lamp-posts and adorned bins dotting the sidewalk. My head flipped from side to side trying to take in all the intricate detail. Every so often I’d stop to take a look at a menu taped to a restaurant window. Basically drooling from all the options, I would be immediately disappointed to see that they were either a cash-only restaurant or their debit machine was out of order.
My lack of cash (and an accessible cash-point) were really doing me in.
Desperate for a reprieve from the cold, I finally found a place that would take my card for a nominal fee. Although I have a well-known hatred for bank fees, I hate being hungry even more, so the lesser of two evils won out that day.
I plopped down in my chair and warmed my hands on my green tea until my piping hot bowl of soup arrived. I slurped it down and just as my body temperature returned to normal, I was bundling back up and headed out onto the street.
Fuelled by a delicious medley of carbs, bok choy and broth, I spent the rest of the afternoon crisscrossing the city, from Liverpool Cathedral to the famous Cavern Club, from the Royal Court Theatre to the Mersey shore. I saw it all! And when I couldn’t walk anymore, I did what I love to do most when visiting a new city: I hopped on a tourist bus and saw just a bit more.
After a few more trips around the city, it was time to make my way back to the bus station as the afternoon dusk was starting to set in. As the bus pulled out of the station, the early-evening darkness started to set in and surround the bus, as if saying the day of exploration in Liverpool was officially over.
Liverpool is best known as the home of the Beatles, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not the biggest fan of the Beatles so you can understand why I was a bit worried that it would have little to offer me. While many of the tourist attractions were based around the band and geared to their die-hard fans, I was pleased to discover that there was so much more to see and do, including the Museum of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Albert Dock and the Mersey River shore.
Liverpool is a city of many sides and faces, one that lives up to all of its various reputations. It’s a city that beautifully melds the gritty, the grey and the industrial with the shiny, the sleek and the modern, and although I was only there for a day, I felt like I had a great opportunity to take in all the various facets that make up this mini-metropolis.
For a trip that was booked based solely on price, I’d say it turned out to be a pretty great day.
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