Liverpool: An Underrated City

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The birthplace of The Beatles.

A rejuvenated city.

Unfortunately, many foreigners have come to regard Liverpool as the “lesser London.”  Having lived in London for a brief period, I entirely understand the allure.  However, when you only visit that glistening, historic city people regard as “all of England,” you miss the exceptional and exceptionally underrated city of Liverpool.

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White Star Line Property: used on the Titanic along with many other ships that made Liverpool such an important port.

Eclectic and friendly, Liverpool offers so much than what meets the eye.  When I told one of my friends I was touring Liverpool, she ever so politely asked, “Umm why?”

Valid question.

Originally, I only visited because my trip to northern Wales required a flight from Paris to Liverpool.  Then, two people from the UK convinced me to spend more time than just the half day my layover between the flight and the train allowed.  If peer pressure hadn’t convinced me by then, a girl in my hostel in northern Wales became excessively giddy and excited at the mention of Liverpool.  “Everyone who plans a trip there stays longer than expected,” she told me.  “Of course, I extended my trip,” she said, along with apparently every other tourist in the city.  So there we go, after my trip to Wales, I joined in the throngs of foreigners extending their trips to Liverpool.

Unlike Paris, which throws you into this tumbling whirlpool of beauty and confusion, Liverpool somehow tricks you into thinking you’re home.  Now, I feel at home here in Paris, but that relationship has required a whole lot of lovin’ and special care.  With Liverpool, I felt at ease in mere minutes.  Although not necessarily as breathtaking or awe-inspiring as places like Paris or London, Liverpool welcomes you in as if you’re a long-lost friend who’s just a little late for a pint.

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Entering Liverpool after a long hiking trip in Snowdonia, Wales

To start, I stayed at the Hoax Hostel.  If you’re traveling on a budget, I’d highly recommend this little place.  The noise can get a little overwhelming because it’s attached to a pub but you won’t find a better location.  Plus, this very pub helped me make fast friends in the city.  Don’t miss quiz night!   You’ll leave with 15 new friends who then insist on taking you to their favorite city spots, I swear.

My Favorite Locations:

1.  Tate Liverpool Museum

The Tate organizes each exhibit by a cluster of words, including those pertaining to both form and emotion.  In this matter, the art tells a more holistic narrative than time period alone could demonstrate.  I don’t even remember if we could take pictures.  Although not typically a fan of modern art, I found some of the pieces so consuming I entirely neglected to pull out my camera.  Prepare yourself for the more graphic, sometimes disturbing forms of art.  Some of the quirky pieces might make you smile or perhaps raise your eyebrows in confusion (including this odd bicycle contraption I found).  Others could evoke that voiceless, visceral feeling that haunts your subconscious.

One exhibit featured a video in which this artist hoped to demonstrate the human desire to control and be controlled.  Apparently, she attempted to release authority of her own body by allowing a crowd of strangers to do what they wished to her.  The camera recorded various forms of humiliation and self-mutilation over the course of many hours; the passing black and white images of this woman lying there, a puppet in her own experiment, still pass through my mind from time to time.  It’s not something you easily forget.  Then again, other pieces were simply beautiful, adhering to the more traditional construct of how we perceive “art.”  Either way, prepare yourself for the works of art that teeter on the grim, border the disturbing, and delve into the melancholic.  The lighter paintings and statues will feel like savory breaths of fresh air, and somehow, the bizarre combination will feel perfectly dynamic and balanced.

Plus, it’s free admission so there’s no excuse to miss it!

2.  Albert Dock

One of my favorite memories of the trip involved a simple stroll along Albert Dock, coffee in one hand, scone in the other.  Somehow, I completely avoided the rain, allowing me to spend hours in the Autumn sun, watching people go about their daily lives while I pretended I didn’t have a care in the world.  If you have time for nothing else in Liverpool, just go for a walk.  Honestly, I find walking aimlessly the best way to experience a city anyways; carve out the time to do nothing and you’ll see something worth seeing.

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3.  The Beatles Museum

So much Beatles.  Everywhere Beatles.  If your lifelong aspiration is to know everything under the sun about those cute boys who reminded us that love is all you need, go to the Beatles Museum.  And if you’re not some obsessed fanatic convinced you belong in the 60’s and simply want an entertaining way to pass the time, still go to the Beatles Museum.

4.  The Cavern

Although tourist-infested, The Cavern does not disappoint.  Before The Beatles became “The Beatles,” they played in this tiny underground pub called The Cavern located on the infamous Matthews Street.  Apparently crowds would swarm the streets in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite Beatle.  (Did these men ever not have women falling at their feet?)  Eventually, long after The Beatles achieved fame, the owners were forced to close it down and the building was destroyed, but in 1987, ~15,000 bricks of the original building were used in the recreation of this popular venue, which they kept on Matthews Street on ~75% of the original location.  In 1997, Paul McCartney performed there before releasing his new album “Run Devil Run.”  (But actually, why do I know all of this?  If you go to Liverpool, you immediately become a Beatles aficionado.  There’s just no stopping it).

When one of the Liverpool locals accompanied me to The Cavern, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  It will probably be crawling with tourists, I muttered with a little eye roll.  This hole in the wall serves as a strong reminder that I can be incredibly stupid; sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a little tourist action.  I loved it.

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The owners of The Cavern can’t exactly hire Paul, George, John, and Ringo (although actually, at the time, their drummer was named Pete.  Poor Pete) to perform every night, so instead, they employ lesser known musicians.  One of them looked so similar to Paul McCartney, and his voice had acquired the exact same intonation, that I felt slightly unnerved.  He even had the haircut.  That might have been the tipping point.  And yet, the live music created a fantastic atmosphere and the musicians genuinely impressed me.  If you don’t like The Beatles, well, you probably shouldn’t go here, but if your friend drags you along anyways, never fear; they play more than just Beatles covers.  We heard some amazing Bon Jovi and The Who songs as well.  Love Reign O’er Me and Pinball Wizard, folks.  Can’t beat it.

Liverpool shocked me.  I find that the places I’ve neglected to put on my “list” surprise and delight me the most, Liverpool being no exception.  Its laid-back vibe put me at ease and by the end of the trip, I couldn’t stop telling my new Liverpool friends (Liverpoolians?) that someday, I could live there.

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