Experience has taught me the art of getting lost. Obviously with a phone in my pocket, it’s not that difficult to find out where I am, but it’s only on wandering around a new destination that you stumble across some fascinating people and places.
I had fully expected my weekend in Liverpool to be subsumed in a mix of Beatles music and football memorabilia, and yes, they played a part. However, on getting lost, my trip took an unexpected turn when I discovered the largest Chinese Arch outside of China and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. The Arch marks the Chinatown area of the city where the first Chinese settled in the 1830’s to trade silk and cotton wool. This led to the development of formal trade links and the growth of a mini industry to cater for the Chinese sailors. Nowadays, the area is a thriving community and is wonderful for a walk around.
The docks and warehouses these original sailors or merchants would have used are still in place today. Built in 1846, Albert Dock was revolutionary for its time as ships could load and unload directly into the buildings. Today, the only items loaded or unloaded at the dock are the millions of tourists who visit annually. Albert Dock is central to Liverpool’s UNESCO world heritage status and houses museums, restaurants, hotels and galleries.
One such museum which caught my eye was The Beatles Story. The exhibition holds recreations of the Cavern Club, Abbey Road Studios and The White Room amongst other Beatles memorabilia. The very detailed audio guide tells the story of the group and their musical journey. If, like me, you get rather anxious in enclosed places, be prepared as parts of the exhibit are particularly busy, small and narrow. After visiting the exhibition aficionados usually step on board a Magical Mystery Tour which whisks travellers to the Beatles childhood homes and significant places made famous in song like Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. The tour ends at the Cavern Club, which offers live music from 11am to midnight eight days a week(!). The nearby Hard Days Night Hotel offers a more sedate atmosphere to enjoy local singers and songwriters.
As you walk around the city, the St Johns Beacon seems to always be in your eyeline. The structure was originally a revolving restaurant. These days, the local commercial radio station, Radio City, occupies the top of the tower and visitors can walk around a viewing gallery to see the city from their vantage point. I guess it’s useful for live weather reports!
The culinary scene in Liverpool is also reaching new heights. From small artisan wine bars to restaurants that will soon bring a Michelin star to the city, there are some amazing meals to be had. We dined in Duke Street Market, which was a totally new experience for us. The communal seating area is served by 6 different kitchens, each offering different food concepts, as well as two bars and a wine kiosk.
The base for our weekend break was the newly opened Quest ApartHotel, brilliantly located in the city centre, next to the main shops, restaurants and bars. The apartments each have a kitchenette, washing machine, tumble dryer and a large walk in shower as well as a separate bedroom and living area.
Chester Zoo is somewhere I had planned to visit for a number of years, having been fixated on the “Secret Life of the Zoo” programme. Its not often attractions can offer a full day out, however, with over 21,000 animals, we found this to be an excellent place to see and would highly recommend it. If you get the chance, book an experience day so you can get even closer to the Giraffes, Meerkats or Fruit bats.
On this trip we travelled with Stena Line. The Stena Plus lounge is a very comfortable way to spend the crossing between Dublin and Holyhead. The drive along the North Wales coast is very scenic. The seaside towns of Rhyl and Prestatyn are also quite a draw with their fun parks, theatres, Seaquarium and Miniature Railway. If you are feeling particularly energetic, you can walk parts of the Wales Coast Path. Not too far from Holyhead, you can visit the Anglesey Sea Zoo and the Menai Bridge. However, you might also be amazed at the number of writers who stop in nearby Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch just so they can increase the character count in their travel features before they board the ferry!