Friday, July 3: I’m writing this in Horizons (and it’s being finished the next night), relaxing at happy hour after a very good day in Liverpool, UK. We also had a good day in Northern Ireland on July 4, which will be documented in another update.
On my last update, we were on our first of two days of sea after Reykjavik. On Thursday, we continued southeast towards the British Isles and saw different sea birds and even some dolphins. Both of us are at “maximum food capacity”, so we did not eat dinner on Wednesday or Thursday, sustaining our nutritional intake on late lunches and canapés in the evening. We’re fading in trivia, but are still in third place right now (14 teams); we seem to be doing better at the evening trivia, beating everyone else last night by several points. We also both have “sea zombie syndrome” and cannot make synapses fire properly in our memories to retrieve information that is locked up behind too much sleep, food, drink and sea vistas.
On July 2, as we came within view of Scotland to the east and Northern Ireland to the west, we had an announcement about a medical emergency on board necessitating faster speed to Liverpool. This occurred while we we cruised very close to Belfast to the west. If it was a true emergency, I would think they would deviate to the nearest viable port, but apparently they decided to press ahead and get in to Liverpool much earlier than anticipated. For some strange reason, they also changed the excursion times to earlier departures (have no idea why this was necessary, as we were not supposed to sail until rather late this evening). Also, the UK immigration and customs rules just changed and they required a face-to-face passport inspection this morning, disrupting our nearly perfect record of days sleeping in on a cruise. Another bizarre development this morning was the announcement that we are leaving an hour earlier than planned that evening because the QM2 needs our berth. Some folks are irritated with this announcement; just be honest and say that we are leaving earlier because we arrived earlier to save port costs, rather than make up a strange late-night arrival of the QM2 (it might be true, but it would be unique). Oh, well, this trip does have some mysterious decisions. Update: We did pass the beautiful QM2 just after leaving Liverpool, so it was definitely arriving early for the celebrations in Liverpool on July 4.
I opened the blinds after we arrived in Liverpool to behold a vista of a very interesting looking city, very clean and vibrant, with Victorian and Georgian architecture blending with very new and interesting buildings. The sun was shining brightly and the temperatures were fantastic! We dressed in summer gear and got ready for our day. Our planned tour, which departed dock side at noon, was entitled “In the Steps of the Beatles”.
So, after we had breakfast and did the face-to-face rubber stamping of our passports, we decided we had time to walk to the historic Albert Pier, which was advertised as a five-minute walk from our dock location (after we took the handicapped shuttle up to the top of the dock area). Well, when you do not have good stamina, aggravated by so many days on a small ship at sea, this five-minute walk is a myth. It took us twenty minutes to walk over to the Albert Pier area, which features many museums and restaurants/pubs. Our objective was the Maritime Museum; getting there had us passing the Mersey Ferries building (brand new) and the Liverpool Museum, which was also new and quite dramatic. We finally arrived and spent some time in this free museum that included exhibits on the Lusitania and Titanic (Steve is reading “Dead Wake” by Eric Larsen, about the sinking of the Lusitania in WWI and I plan to order it for my Kindle app). The exhibits were comprehensive, with fantastic ship models and other displays. I agreed to walk back if we made sure we had plenty of time, so we did the journey in the reverse direction and waited in the pier area for a short time until the two buses loaded for the Beatles tour.
We chose Bus 10, which planned to stop at the Beatles Story at the Albert Pier last on the tour (yes, the very same Albert Pier). The first stop on the tour was at Mathew Street, a narrow pedestrian lane in downtown Liverpool where the Cavern Club was originally located, along with the Casbah club (the actual first club of the Beatles). There is a brick wall across from the Cavern Club with the names of all of the performers who have played there. The Club folded for quite a few years after the Beatles, then opened again to be a classic rock club. Steve went down the long sets of stairs to get some pictures, then we wandered down to the Grapes Pub, a place where the band had drinks after a set (the Cavern Club had no license for a long time).
After this stop, we did a lot of bus touring in Liverpool, with some Beatles locations identified in various places. Our tour guide also pointed out some general locations of interest in the city; Liverpool is filled with amazing museums and churches and would be worth checking out again for a few days. We saw the Liverpool Institute, where Paul and John went to school. Next, we passed the council houses that were being torn down, except for the block where Ringo Starr grew up. Crossing Sefton Park (one of the largest parks in Liverpool and a major city park in the UK), we arrived to a familiar street – Penny Lane. Everyone got off the bus to get pictures in front of the street sign. This song’s lyrics observe the local conditions, most of which are still in place! We also found out that the small home that George Harrison grew up in was nearby, but the bus does not go there because a family still lives in the place, putting up with crazy Beatle fans 24 hours a day.
Next on the agenda was a journey past Strawberry Field, which was a children’s home, and former home of PM William Gladstone, located behind Aunt Mimi’s home (John grew up with his aunt and uncle after the age of five, because his mother was so difficult). The “Strawberry Field” consists of a red gate and gateposts with lots of fan autographs. We stopped again around the corner at Aunt Mimi’s home for photos, which is now owned by the National Trust. It seemed like a lovely place and was saved a few years ago by Yoko Ono, making sure the house is maintained. A few blocks from John’s house was the council home of Mary and Jim McCartney, the parents of Paul, which is also owned by the National Trust.
After this tour through the Beatles locations, we returned to the Albert Pier for a tour through the Beatles Story, the officially sanctioned museum of memorabilia and band history. We had about ninety minutes before the bus returned to the ship (I was not walking that distance back to the ship for the third time), so we did a fairly hurried run through the exhibit, both of us (especially Steve) knowing a lot about the Fab Four. The audio bits included commentary by George Martin, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and other folks still alive now who lived through the Beatles era. The exhibits were very well done, with lots of recreations of various venues and scenes that seemed very authentic. After finishing the Story in about 30 minutes, we found our guide, who recommended a nearby pub that was right by the pick-up point for the bus. After some confusion about whether we could sit at certain tables, we finally settled in at a table in the bar area. Steve went over and ordered a pint of the best local beer, which was “Shipwreck”. The pub actually had over 200 beers in their list, which obviously accounted for its popularity. We also ordered one side of “properly seasoned chips”, which were delicious and we were starving!! A little aside: In the few days prior to Liverpool, I must confess to having had some tummy (lower system) issues, which I have isolated to a bad habit of eating too many peanuts and other nuts in the little dishes that appear at Happy Hour. After eliminating the nuts in my diet, I have felt much better and my appetite has returned and the problems have gone away.
So we sailed from Liverpool a little early, had an encounter with a thunderstorm at sea, and also passed the QM2, really heading into Liverpool early. Oh, another interesting story: One of our folks on our trivia team went to an alumni event on board and talked to another passenger and fellow alum who had to disembark in Liverpool because the medical staff told him that he absolutely cannot fly back to the United States. This person and his wife were booked on the QM2 from Liverpool, departing on July 4 to New York (with stops at Halifax and Boston) and they will take a train from New York to California to get home. Egad!
Ok, that’s my update for July 3, which was finished on July 4. Happy Independence Day, folks in the USA! Check back shortly for my update on our fantastic tour to St. Patrick’s country in Belfast on July 4.