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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Liverpool, City Of The Beatles

How far will we go a dream? Shortly after I was married to my husband 5 years ago, he showed me the video called the Beatles Anthology. He was very fond of the band and still is. He has a lot of Beatles’ books and CDs. He knows their songs, the stories behind the songs and the life of each Beatle. He knows almost everything about the Beatles that was already published. He even can recognise each Beatle's voice when they sang together. They are his working class heroes. Visiting Liverpool, the Beatles' hometown, had been his longtime dream. To finally be able to step on the John Lennon International Airport was like a dream came true for him.

When we landed in Liverpool!

We arrived at the John Lennon International Airport in 23 April 2016. There we were, in the hometown of the Beatles. My hubby was so excited although it was freezing cold there. The temperature was 11 degrees Celcius but the wind was so strong it made the 10 minutes walk from Liverpool One to Hard Days Night Hotel feel longer than it actually was. A Hard Day's Night is the title of the Beatles’ first film. For that sentimental reason, my husband made a booking at Hard Days Night Hotel. Located just beside the world famous Cavern Club where the Beatles rose to fame, this hotel is loved by both art and music lovers, especially Beatles fans. A lot of pictures and memorabilia of the Beatles can be found in every corner of the hotel. Beatles' music scores were hung on the ceiling nearby the reception desk. We could also see a handwritten of Yesterday music sheet framed on the wall. The wall beside the stairs from 1st until 5th floor were full of pictures.

The Beatles on the wall.

After check-in, we had lunch and explored the places nearby the hotel. It was Saturday night and there was a football match, Liverpool v. Newcastle. A lot of people were on the street. Liverpudlian, the popular name of Liverpool native, were a very lively bunch. They liked to smile, talk and hang out in groups. The weather was so cold but their smiles were friendly and warm.

One of the must visit places for Beatles fans was Beatles Story museum. We visited that museum early in the morning next day. It is located in Albert Docks, a major tourist attraction in Liverpool. Through all the pictures, recording and documentation, we followed Beatles' journey starting from their childhood, the beginning of their success in 1963, Beatlemania, the breakup of the group in 1970 and the life of each Beatle post break up. There were many bands in Liverpool and in London those days but none was like The Beatles, a band that was very successful not only in England but also in America and all over the world. In music industry, they had started what was known as the British Invasion to America. What makes them even more special is the fact that their fans are across many generations and they inspired a lot of younger musicians until now.

In front of the Beatles Story Museum.

We spend the rest of the day walking around Liverpool One area, having lunch and window shopping. Liverpool One is a shopping and leisure complex in the Liverpool city centre. With around 170 stores and services, Liverpool One is the largest shopping centre in the city and the tenth largest in the United Kingdom. Well-known brands like Debenhams, John Lewis, Next, Mark Spencer, Nike and many others are available in the complex. In almost every corner, we were entertained by a street musician who sang and played guitar. Liverpool loved music as much as they loved football!

Liverpool One.

Liverpool is a vibrant city with great cultural heritage and nice architectural buildings. We still wanted to see more of the city but the weather was really cold that it chilled us to the bone. We couldn't even walk outside for more than half an hour! After a while, we decided to go back to hotel to drink a cup of warm tea.

At night, we visited the Cavern Club in Matthew Street. This is the place where the Beatles began their career long time ago. The pub is located underground, so we had to go downstairs before reaching the pub. It was very small but full of people and most of them enthusiastically listened to the band who sang rock and roll, including Beatles songs. The atmosphere was electrifying. We enjoyed Twist and Shout, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Johnny B. Goode among others. The visitors were not only singing the songs, they also danced to the rhythm of the music!

The Cavern Club.

Inside the club!

Early morning on the next day, we took the Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour to visit places related with the Beatles. Our tour guide was an ex-musician roughly one generation after the Beatles and he knew many people who were close or linked to the Beatles. He was very friendly and he explained very passionately about the Fab Four.

We went to the neighbourhood where the Beatles spent their childhood, Hope Street, and its surrounding. The first place that we visited was University of Liverpool. The student dorm used to be Maternity Hospital where John Lennon was born 76 years ago. From there, we moved to Falkner Street to visit Brian Epstein’s house. John Lennon used to stay here after he was married to Cynthia. Not too far from there, there is Bass Ye Cracke Bar where John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe spent their time drinking beer. The bar is still open and people like to go there. The rain started to come when we visited the Bar and it made the weather even colder.

Our next stop was Liverpool Colleague of Art where John and Stu studied. Just next to it, there was Liverpool Institute of Performing Art previously known as Liverpool Institute of High School for Boys where Paul McCartney and George Harrison studied. In 1985, the City Council closed down the Institute after 2 decades of political dispute. After its closure, the building stood empty and neglected, the roof leaking and the wall crumbling. Sir Paul McCartney determined to save the building. He bought it and in cooperation with Mark Featherstone Witty, he re-opened it as a Liverpool Institute of Performing Art in 1996. It was heartwarming to listen to the story of someone who was already very successful but still cared a great deal and gave back to society. It made us admire Sir Paul even more.

From there we moved to see Ringo's childhood house in Madryn Street. It was a complex for the sailor. A few years back, Liverpool government wanted to demolish the complex but thousands of Beatles fans were against the idea because Ringo Starr’s childhood home was there. They made a demonstration and finally the government cancelled the plan! Ringo and his Mum stayed only for a short period in this area together before moving to Admiral Grove. His home is now filled up with signatures from Beatles fans who came to see the place.

Just a few metres from that place, right across the street, there was Ringo’s second house in Admiral Grove and the bar where his mother used to work as a barmaid. Ringo used the picture of the bar as the cover of his first album post Beatles break up, Sentimental Journey. Life was quite tough for little Ritchie but he managed to become one of the legendary musicians from Liverpool. What an accomplishment!

Standing nearby Admiral Grove!

We continued our tour to Penny Lane. All Beatles fans must be very familiar with this street. Paul McCartney wrote a famous song with the street name as the song title, Penny Lane. The song basically talked about his childhood memories around Penny Lane. The stop where he and George used to wait for the bus, the barber, the Penny Lane cake shop and fish n' chip shop, it was surprising that all those buildings were still there! It looked like time stood still there. Interesting!

Next place we visited was St Peter's Church. John Lennon came to this church and became a choir boy in his teenage years. It was in this garden that John Lennon and his first group, The Quarrymen, performed. In front of the church, there was a building where Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the very first time. There was also a cemetery around there. Most people think it might be the place where Paul McCartney got the inspiration to write Eleanor Rigby.

We continued our tour to Strawberry Field, the inspiration for the famous song Strawberry Fields Forever that was written by John. It was actually a Salvation Army orphanage home. As we learnt from his biography, John Lennon came from a broken home. Since he was very young, his father frequently left him and his mother was busy partying. This might have made him feel close to the orphanage as he felt abandoned by his parents. He liked to visit the garden in the Salvation Army which was near his aunty’s home. Today, Strawberry Field is in state of disrepair even though it is a major tourist attraction for Beatles fans. In 2005, after nearly 70 years as an orphanage, it closed down and all remaining children were transferred to foster families. The iconic red gate from Victorian era was replaced by its replica in 2001.

Let me take you down cause we're going to Strawberry Field.

Our Beatles Fab Four Tour eventually finished after the visits to John and Paul's houses. It was a great tour. We thought we already knew a lot about the Beatles from all books that were written about them. However, visiting the real places and listening to the story from a Liverpudlian who knew many friends of the Beatles gave us a new perspective. To quote my husband's words, looking at the places where they used to live humanized them. Before they became very successful, they used to be “normal” boys like us who liked to play, socialise and work hard to achieve their dream. If they could be very successful, so do we.

Beside the Beatles Fab Four Tour, there is also similar tour but in a bigger group, the Magical Mystery Bus tour. The tour is shorter and not as private as the Beatles Fab Four Tour. If you are a big fans of Beatles, we recommend you to take the Beatles Fab Four tour. You won’t regret it!

The Taxi Tour, in front of John's house.

Most parts of our itinerary were related with the Beatles because that was our main purpose in visiting this city, but Liverpool is not only about the Beatles. If you are a big fan of football, you can visit Liverpool iconic Anfield stadium or Everton FC's stadium, Goodison Park, which is just a short taxi ride from Liverpool city centre. You can also visit Old Trafford in Manchester that is just 1.5 hours by bus from Liverpool. Liverpool also has many remarkable historical sites and landmarks throughout the City Centre. UNESCO awarded 6 World Heritage Sites in Liverpool because of its role in the development of maritime technology and its history as a major trade centre in the 18th and 19th century. A city tour to visit all of those landmarks will be very interesting.

Albert Docks.

Now, back to my first question. How far we will go for a dream? My husband is afraid of long flights. He overcame his feeling to make his dream come true. He also worked hard to save money so both of us could visit Europe. It was not easy considering he was the sole breadwinner in our family and the high living cost in Singapore, but he made it. Some of us may have our own dreams and challenges but do we have enough courage and effort to make our dream come true? Wish his determination inspires all of us to go for our dream, overcome our challenges and be excited when we reach our dreams. Life is too short, anyway.  

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