The Final Countdown: Europe, North America travel blog

Mersey, Liverpool

Albert Dock, Liverpool

Aquabus, Albert Dock, Liverpool

Aquabus, Albert Dock, Liverpool

Liverpool Docks

Titanic model, Maritime Museum

Yellow Submaarine?

Royal Liver building


Another Place, Crosby beach

Start of a Magical Mystery Tour

Penny Lane

Strawberry Field

Cavern Club

Cavern Club

Cavern Club

Mathews St

Hillsborough Memorial, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool FC

Anfield Stadium, Liverpool FC

THese houses near Anfield Stadium are all boarded up, ready for demolition...

Goodison Park, home of Everton, rivals of Liverpool, and just a short...

Saturday, 20th October

Liverpool/Lakes District/York photos

There is a big demonstration in London today, we are told streets will be closed off and traffic disrupted most of the day. Many transport services are cancelled because buses simply will not be able to get through the cordons. We check the TFL website, and the bus service we need to get to Victoria will not be affected. Tony takes a walk to see how far the bus stop is, we will be catching the bus route we should have caught when we arrived. It is on a different road, the A20, at the other end of Tanners Hill. It doesn’t take long to get to the bus stop, but there is a reason why the street is called Tanners Hill. We will cope though, it is not a big effort compared with how much we walked a couple of days ago!

There is a store on the corner that is an agent for UPS, wish we had known about that earlier we could have packed up a box to send home. Too late now, we will do that from Liverpool instead.

We get an early bus, leaving around 11am, it is fairly full so there is a bit of a squash getting on with all our gear. One couple we are talking to are heading off to a football game, and are worried they might be delayed getting there, if they make it at all.

We have no trouble getting to the coach station, and there is plenty of time to spare before the bus to Liverpool. It is a different story getting out of town though, the anti-austerity demonstrations have caused chaos. It is estimated some 100,000 people would be involved, but later reports indicate 150,000. It takes us an hour just to get to Knightsbridge. The trip is not without more delays when an accident on the M6 holds us up further. Tony sent Jack the website that tracks the bus journey live, and sends a couple of messages as well so he wont be waiting too long at the station. Tony has a clean out of his wallet, and finds a receipt from Journeys at Greenwich. He had not checked the amount when he paid, and we have been charged £27.48 instead of $46.80, not sure how they came to that figure.

We arrive in Liverpool soon after 6pm, Jack Hagan is there to meet us. He and Margaret live in a lovely home in Crosby, just a mile from the beach and the iron men in the sand (Antony Gormley’s Another Place). We saw these last year with (another) Margaret when we stayed in Manchester.

Margaret and Jack have prepared a lovely meal to welcome us, we are feeling very spoiled.

Sun 21st October

We come downstairs to a wonderful breakfast of cereals and fresh fruit. Margaret offers us a cooked breakfast as well. Wonderful food, and spoiled rotten again. Jack and Margaret offer to drive us into town, or anywhere we want to go, and we are to call them when we are ready to come home. It is quite cool and misty as we head into town.

Margaret takes us into town and drops us off at Albert Dock, there is a lot to see around here, shops, cafes, and museums. There is a Beatlemania exhibition here, but we decide we would rather take the Magical Mystery Tour bus that Catherine recommended. There is a bright yellow bus driving along the road, and we watch as it heads down the slipway and proceeds to sail around the docks, it doesn’t turn into a yellow submarine. There are several of these aquabuses about, but decide the cost for a short ride is too high, novel though it is. We call into the visitor centre and get a couple of maps so we won’t get too lost.

The weather has improved, and we are treated to blue sky and bright sunshine, though there is a bit of a nip in the breeze. After lunch we call into the Maritime Museum, entry is free. There are several floors to explore, and a permanent exhibition that features the sinking of the Titanic, Lusitania and the Empress of Ireland, referred to locally as the Forgotten Empress. These three ships had close links with Liverpool, and all were lost within a three year period. Included in the display is the original 20 foot long builder’s model of the Titanic and a survivor’s lifejacket from the ill-fated ship.

On the same floor is an exhibition about Liverpool in the Second World War, and we see how pivotal the port was during those years. Liverpool handled about a third of the country’s imports, and was the terminus for the Atlantic trade convoys. The key role the port played meant the city came under severe attack, the worst being a blitz in 1941.

There is a new Titanic exhibition commemorating the centenary of the ship’s sinking. This will be open until the end of 2013, and entry is also free. We are all aware of the story, how some two thirds of those aboard perished, but it really hits you when you see the list of passengers and crew with the names of those lost highlighted. It is chilling to see the blueprints for an additional sixteen lifeboats, not included because the ship already exceeded the Board of Trades standards, and in any case the boat was deemed unsinkable. There is a framed First Class ticket, the only one to survive. The person to whom it was issued was unable to travel due to illness, and after the sinking had the ticket framed.

We head into to the shopping centre to have a look around. Cynthea needs a cardigan to replace the one she left in Edinburgh. There is a wonderful market in town, but she still doesn’t find anything suitable. We call Jack and arrange to meet at the Royal Liver building.

The sun is setting as we head home, so we go to Crosby beach to watch the sun set. We just miss it, but still get some good photos. Back at home there is another wonderful meal for us.

We have to get rid of some gear, and we spend time looking at options. UPS will charge us some £200 to send a carton back. Most of it is souvenirs, and a few books, but there is excess clothing we won’t need over the next couple of months. It is too good to leave behind, but not worth spending that much to keep. We find a firm called Transglobal, they will send a carton of the same size and weight, through UPS, for around £96.

We make bookings for the Lake District, staying at Windermere YHA when we first arrive, £25. There are no vacancies for when we return from York, and book to stay at Lake District Backpackers, £31. We find a special offer on Late Rooms for a hotel in York.

We have a free return bus ticket to use on National Express (Tony wrote them a letter after the bus from Edinburgh to London was delayed more than two hours because some fool didn’t know that the bus wouldn’t start while in gear!). We use that to book a return from Manchester to Windermere, and pay £5 to get both of us to Manchester on Wednesday.

The new charger for the laptop has lasted less than two weeks. It used to get quite hot, but then so did the other one. Tony contacts Amazon, and they will give a full refund. There is no option to replace the charger, not that Tony would be happy with that anyway. They email him a post paid address label to send it back.

Monday 22nd October

One week to go before we leave the UK, it is going to be hard to say goodbye.

Another wonderful breakfast is laid out for us, and we decline the offer of a full English. The weather fine and cloudy today, rain is forecast. We stop at a camera repair shop, the good news is that they think the camera can be fixed, the bad news is that they will need a week, and we leave Wednesday.

Jack drops us off at Albert Dock so we can take the Magical Mystery Tour, (£16 each), a trip around Liverpool visiting Beatles locations. We get to see the homes and schools where the band grew up, as well as Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and much more. As we pass the Catholic Cathedral we are told it is referred to locally as Paddy’s Wigwam or the Mersey Funnel, due to the modern design. It is a fun tour, ending at the Cavern Club in Mathews St, and we have lunch in the Cavern Pub across the road.

We want to take the ferry across the Mersey, the last tourist type trip leaves at 4pm so we need to get cracking. Tony also needs contact lens solution so he heads off to the pharmacy. It is a bit out of the way, but he needs to get it for today, and we don’t know if the shops will be open when we get back. Murphy’s law kicks in, he passes three more pharmacies on the way to the wharf, and didn’t need to go out of his way after all. As he nears the wharf he sees Cynthea waiting for him, and the ferry is already leaving, bugger.

Once again we have trouble with our Kobo reader locking up. We are not having much luck with our electronics! Tony calls into Smiths to see what they will do about it. We explain, again, the problems we are having, getting in first and saying that the battery is fully charged, and the problem is bloody frustrating. The salesman plugs it into his computer, hits the reset and tells Tony all that was wrong was that it was not charged, and the software had not been updated. Sigh. Tony tries to patiently explain that every time the software upgrade is done, the problem happens, and he keeps the charge up. The reason it wasn’t charged just now is because there was no point, the damn thing didn’t work. We get no further and leave feeling disappointed with the lack of action.

Cynthea spends more time shopping for clothes, picking up a nice new cardigan and top. Tony heads off to a sport goods store for a new day pack. The one he found in Cardiff is on special for £50. Still more than he wanted to pay, but it looks like it will last. Like his big pack, this one zips open like a case, it has a carry handle, back straps and a shoulder strap, and there are plenty of pockets. The old pack is several years old, and now has a small hole in the base. It might last until we get home, but we wont take the risk. After the problems with the last pack that Tony got we will hang on to the new one until we get back from the Lake District.

We call Jack to come and collect us from the Royal Liver building, and on the way we call into a Brazilian restaurant. They do a wonderful meal here, bringing spit roasted meat to your table. We get a voucher to say thank you to Jack and Margaret for hosting us as we are not allowed to cook a meal or doing anything to help around the home.

Jack takes us to Anfield, the home of Cristan’s (Cynthea’s late brother) favourite Premium League football club, Liverpool. We are not able to see the grounds themselves, and a security guard asks us to leave. We spend some time at the memorial for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, a human crush against fencing which occurred during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. 96 people lost their lives. We take a lap around the streets surrounding the stadium. It all looks very dilapidated and abandoned, and Jack explains that the neighbouring properties have been vacated so the stadium can expand.

Premier League rivals, Everton, are close neighbours, and we head to Jack’s favourite ground, Goodison Park. The security guard greets us with a friendly wave., and we head home for tea.

Back to packing our gear, and Margaret gets us a carton that Tony thinks it is too big, but he is surprised when we almost fill it. We had to weigh ourselves on the bathroom scales, and then again holding the box, we think it weighs about 10 or 11kg. It is a mission to complete the list of goods, but we finally get there. Our worry is that because we have to insure it for replacement, around £400, that customs will sting us duty on unaccompanied baggage. Much is of no commercial value, and a lot is Cynthea’s clothing brought over from home. Tony writes an explanation on the packing slip and signs two of the FOUR copies we have to supply. An extra one goes inside the carton with everything, just in case.

There seems to be only one car rental company in Windermere, and Tony has had a reply to confirm a vehicle is available. Tony sends another email confirming we will take it, but also wants clarification of a few things. We don’t get a reply before we leave, so it is a bit of a worry that something will be there for us.

Tuesday 23rd October

We contact the courier company through online chat and spend an hour making sure we have done absolutely everything that we needed to, finish the online process, pay £96 and call the courier to arrange pick up. The deadline is 11am, and we just make it. We have to wait at home for collection, they will be along sometime between 11am and 4pm. Tony is a bit peeved to read in the confirmation email that he could have had more weight in the carton, as that price went to 12 kg. We probably wouldn’t have sent much more home, we still needed all our winter gear for North America. Yosemite was expected to be cold as they already had a snowfall that has closed some roads there.

We look for somewhere to stay in Manchester, close to the airport if we can. We find a B&B that is on the bus route to the airport, so book that. Then we battle the Manchester council website to find the proper bus service and timetable, a nightmare to search in this instance. We also wanted to find fares in case a shuttle was a better option, but that was also impossible to find. Tony emailed the bus company direct, but they failed to reply.

The courier called to pick up the parcel around 2pm. Tony went for a walk into Crosby shopping centre to send some postcards and the charger also goes back to Amazon. Cynthea went to along the road to the cake decorating shop (she was not overly impressed). Later that night Tony remembers that power plugs in the UK have a fuse it them, and wonders if that was all that was wrong with the charger. Oh well, too late now, and it did get worryingly hot.

We are starting to feel very emotional about leaving, especially as we have been so well treated during our time in Liverpool.

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