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Queensland, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Queensland, Australia. www.noelleclark.net

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour

A day trip from London to Liverpool in search of the Beatles
I set my alarm for 5.15am and ventured into a very cold, dark London to catch the tube from Pimlico to Euston Station. I felt very brave setting out into the gloom, but as I had decided to do a Beatles tour of Liverpool, I was keen to get going on my adventure.

On arrival at Euston Station, I had arranged to meet up with the travel bureau representative (I was told to look for the man in the turban) to get my maps, tickets and instructions. I found him in the busy hall of the station and he handed me a brown envelope, and told me I was on my own. This was to be a self-guided tour, but the tour company had organized all my train bookings and I had a pre-paid bus tour in the afternoon to look forward to.

I waited on the right platform to catch the fast train to Liverpool which is about 250 miles from London. The journey from London to Liverpool takes three hours and the train was very comfortable. I took some breakfast bars and a small drink to have on the train and settled back to enjoy the glorious view from my window as I looked out over the gorgeous English countryside bathed in very early sunlight. I enjoyed the train trip very much.

There is a great system of canals in Britain and the train line followed it for miles through towns like Milton Keynes, Crewe, Stafford, Nuneaton. I could see scores of barges and riverboats, locks that village people would open to let boats through, little villages with the canal right in town, houses whose front yards were the canal, I could see old men sitting on the canal bank in the middle of nowhere fishing, farms, cows lined up to be milked, funny little black-faced sheep. I also saw the strange banded cows that I saw in Ireland which are apparently called Belted (or Banded) Galways. They are black with a broad white band right around their tummies. But most were just normal black and white cows (are they Friesians?). The English countryside is very beautiful and interesting. Bathed in the greens and golds of autumn, with quaint, steep-roofed houses, mostly white or stone, lots of hedges and rock walls for fences, and colourful flowers everywhere, I felt truly blessed to be enjoying such pretty English countryside.

When I arrived in the large transit centre in Liverpool, it was as chilly as London with a stiff cold wind blowing. With trusty map in hand I wandered down to Mathew Street which is only 10 or 15 minutes from Liverpool Lime Street Station and entered what they call the "Cavern Quarter" - in other words, the "Beatles" quarter.

As those of you who are old enough would know, the Cavern Club is where the Beatles first played as teenagers, firstly as the Quarrymen, then as the Beatles. The area is shamelessly cashing in on the "Four Lads" as they call them, with Lennon's Bar, The Revolution Club, Coffee @ Lennon’s, Hard Days Night Hotel, Quarry Quarter, Cavern Pub (not to be confused with Cavern Club), and, to thaw out from the biting stiff, cold wind, I had a nice hot coffee in the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Cafe!!

There was also a Beatles Shop here, so I ventured in and it was full of the usual types of souvenirs, but they also had some very old memorabilia. I bought a couple of little things thinking it was the only shop in town for me to get some Beatles merchandise. However, further down the lane in a newish shopping complex, I found a much nicer shop with a friendly man and his stuff was very good. Do you remember those awful old brown Beatles Wigs that were all the rage in the early 60s? Well, believe it or not they are a collector's item now (wonder why) and fetch at least 50 pounds.

The lanes of the Cavern Quarter are filled with statues of the Beatles - some good, one dead set ugly - and the main things are the wall of fame showing all the talent that Liverpool has produced who have had number one hits. One I did not realise was a Liverpudlian was the great Freddy Mercury. I later saw the building where they (the band Queen) got their name and logo from. On top of one of the buildings is the word Queen and the logo that they used on their records of the unicorn and crown. Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, those Gallagher fellers,Rick Astley, Elvis Costello, Billy Fury and lots of others. Liverpool certainly has produced some great singers.

After a good look around this area (the Cavern and Pub were not open yet and they are filled with memorabilia too so I made a mental note to visit them later), I wandered down to Albert Dock. Walking through Liverpool was interesting. As in all places I visited, there are major construction works. They are on a bit of a high economically speaking and there are lots of roadworks and building going on. A real pain for tourists but good for the area. Liverpool itself is a little hilly, not steep, but enough to give it a bit of character. The architecture is quite attractive with a good mix of old and new. It was founded in 1207 so when I was there (2007) it was celebrating its 800th birthday. It has some nice little grassy squares with statues, some really lovely old buildings and the new ones don't jar the eye like they do in some places. I rather liked Liverpool.

I finally got down to the Merseyside Docklands and the Albert Dock area is just lovely. I kept humming "Ferry cross the Mersey" to myself. The whole area is a series of Docks but this one is a square of water surrounded on all sides by massive old Dock buildings which now house several important museums such as the Maritime Museum. It has restaurants, cafes, nice shops and a big Holiday Inn hotel in the complex. But I was headed for the Beatles Museum (called the Beatles Story Exhibition). I must say it was very good. I spent a couple of hours in there with an audio guide but they also had vision and sound on each exhibit. It traced the story of the Beatles from their birth until the end but did it very tastefully and with genuine items and real things such as their clothes, John's glasses, gold records etc that have been donated by the Beatles themselves and their families. They also had their guitars, rare photos and the exhibition culminated in a reproduction of the Cavern Club complete with a set of Ringo's drums. I liked it.

I emerged into the brisk windy freezing day and had a sandwich in a cafe, after which I went to the bus stop to catch the yellow bus which would take me on the "Magical Mystery Tour". How exciting. The bus was full and they played Beatles music on it and the guide was very knowledgeable and apparently is himself a bit of a celeb in Liverpool as he appears in a movie about them and knows Paul McCartney and his brother Mike. (I later found out that the guide played the character, Phil, in the movie ‘Across the Universe’ which, at the time, had not been released in Australia.)
Our Magical Mystery Tour yellow bus took us to absolutely everywhere, with a very good commentary from our guide. We visited Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, the birthplaces and houses of George, Paul, John and Ringo, saw their schools, their churches. Our guide explained how the words of ‘Penny Lane’ were really just Paul and John describing the scene they knew so well of this area, a little shopping village in one of the suburbs of Liverpool near their home. ‘Strawberry Fields’ is a large common and the line ‘nothing to get hung about’ in the song referred to John once getting into big trouble for once wagging school and spending the day in the bushy and overgrown park. “Nothing to get hung about, Strawberry Fields forever”.
The bus tour was really great and I loved it. After two and a half hours or more, the bus dropped us back at the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. By now it was open and so I went in and they have the actual stage from the early Beatles days which they rescued from the original (now demolished Cavern Club) and rebuilt it. I sat there on a bar stool, drinking a Bulmer’s Cider, listened to Beatles music playing loudly, and let my mind conjure up the sights and sounds that were so familiar to me from the early sixties.

I was tired now and slowly walked back up the hill from the Beatles Quarter towards Liverpool Lime Street station. My feet hurt from the hours of walking I had done. My train back to Euston departed Lime Street at 6.15 and arrived at about 9pm. I then tubed it back to Pimlico Station and crossed the road up to Matt’s flat. It was a very interesting and fun Magical Mystery Tour day! A great day trip from London that is a little different from the usual Cotswolds or Stonehenge tour. Highly recommended.
Photos coming shortly for all you Beatles tragics like myself.

"Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting through my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which
dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as
they make their way across the universe

Sounds of laughter shades of life
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which
shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world"
c. Beatles

1 comment:

  1. Lovely! I'm a Beatles fan also! Thanks for writing this.