Few cities in the UK can have had such an impact on the collective consciousness of a nation as Liverpool.
But it wasn’t until I arrived there last weekend that I realised how much I, sort of, already knew about the place.
Admittedly, my understanding was pretty much limited to The Beatles, Brookside, Cilla Black, WAGs and a ferry that crosses the Mersey.
But, it’s a place that I feel like I’ve seen and heard so much about growing up, that it was really quite exciting to finally visit.
If I’m honest, it wasn’t somewhere that had been on my list of top places to go – we ended up visiting due to a family wedding on Saturday. But once there, the urge to explore took over…
We only had a day to cram in as much as possible, so headed straight for the city’s most famous tourist area – The Albert Dock.
And it was only once I spotted those familiar looking red posts that I remembered another great Liverpool icon….Fred the Weatherman and his floating weather map!
Who can forget his amazing jumpers and the anticipation that one day he’d misjudge his jumping ever so slightly and end up in the murky waters of the Mersey?!
Sadly, Fred’s weather map is no more, but the area is home to plenty of far more exciting things – The Tate Liverpool, The Beatles Story, The Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Museum of Slavery, as well as shops, restaurants and bars.
The area is steeped in history, including this boat, which was built in 1899, but only dredged from under the water when the docks were renovated.
There’s also some slightly less historically important vessels on display…
All three of these converted canal boats are available for people to stay in – with The Yellow Submarine recently featuring on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed programme.
And, while the area is famed for its historic buildings, which have earned it the accolade of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is also some stunning modern architecture too.
Take a look at the Liverpool Echo Arena…
I don’t know who or what the giant gold face is all about, but I love it, and I think Nottingham’s arena should get one asap!
But, let’s face it, the building everyone wants to see when they visit Liverpool is the Royal Liver Building, as seen in virtually EVERY programme made about the city. Ever.
So I am completely ashamed that this is the best picture I could manage of it…
I like to think it captures the raw, wet and windy nature of the docks on a February morning.
But in reality, it was a quick snapshot through the rain-soaked windows of the Yellow Duckmarine, because it was just too bloody cold to walk around outside for any longer than strictly necessary.
Which is where this bright yellow, amphibious vehicle turned out to be an absolute life-saver. You might have spotted the bizarre looking boat in the first picture and wondered what it was.
Well, it’s basically the best tour bus I’ve ever been on. Originally a WWII Army vehicle, it sounds like a battered old tractor and stinks of diesel, but is a great way of getting around the key sites of the city.
The tour lasted about an hour and took us to all the places that we just wouldn’t have been able to walk to in the freezing, wet weather.
It takes in the Liver Building, The Cavern, the city’s two cathedrals and the gates to China Town before splashing down in the docks and bobbing around in the water.
But the highlight was our guide, a cheeky Scouser with designs on being the next John Bishop.. “I’ve noticed a few of you are taking photos. That’s great, but please don’t put any with me in them on Facebook. I’m still on the Giro.”
After all the excitement of floating around the docks in a 70-year-old vehicle and wondering if we’d make it home and dry, we grabbed some lunch in a nearby bar before heading on to the bit we (but especially my dad) had all been waiting for… The Beatles Story.
The museum charts the history of the band from their humble beginnings at a parish fete, through to the heady days of The Cavern, and on to worldwide superstardom.
One of the most impressive bits is a recreation of The Cavern as it would have looked in the 1960s. The real one is just up the road, but is still a working club, so not open to the public at all times of the day.
I think the look on Mum and Dad’s faces shows how much they enjoyed it….
It goes on to tell the story of how things began to change for the band, following the death of their manager Brian Epstein, and has a great section documenting their psychedelic era.
I can’t claim to be a huge Beatles fan, but I absolutely loved this museum. The sense of pride that the whole city has for the four men is overwhelming, and it’s a great celebration of their biggest icons.
Nottingham, and other cities, could learn a lot from Liverpool. It has lots to shout about and it’s great at doing it.
What we saw in about eight hours is clearly only a tiny slice of what it has to offer, and we’ve already vowed to go back when the weather’s a bit better. I already can’t wait to get stuck in to the shopping at Liverpool One.
I’ll leave you with this piece of street art I spotted in the dock. It seems apt when there’s so much more of the city left to discover…