Getting to Liverpool from Manchester is straightforward – take the M62 westbound to the end of the motorway. Getting to the city centre is problematic. You can follow the road signs which take you through Kensington towards the docks and the westerly end of the waterfront. I never like this route as you just get stuck in traffic and if you’re not careful you will end up in a tunnel going to Birkenhead. This time I took the route through Greenbank near Penny Lane. We still got stuck, but we did see a dog parlour called ‘Ultimutt’ which amused us greatly – sadly we didn’t get a picture of the sign. I would only recommend this route if you are planning to park at the Echo Arena near Albert Docks.
Parking is pricy in Liverpool. We got stung a few years back at Liverpool One, so now we park by the Echo Arena for £5 for 5 hours. This place is really handy for Albert Docks and it’s a 5 minute walk to Liverpool One. The Echo Arena looks really lovely from the outside, although I imagine it would be horrendous when packed with Justin Bieber fans screaming and fainting.
Albert Docks was busy with tourists and there was a massive queue outside The Beatles Story. We grabbed a bite to eat at Circo, which overlooks the dock. The place was busy and the food was perfectly fine. I just think they need a better range of soft drinks – they only had coke, lemonade or orange juice.
Albert Docks has gone to seed over the years. There are quite a few empty units looking for a purpose. I remember years ago the place was teaming with bars, shops and restaurants. I guess with new developments around the city, people are drawn to new places.
We popped along to the Tate Liverpool to see the Glam Exhibition. It was very good, but there was no sign to say you can’t take photos. We wouldn’t have tried to take one if we’d seen it, so we were told off by staff for trying.
The Museum of Liverpool is now open along just further along the waterfront and what a fantastic building it is. There is a touch of the Guggenheim about it with the circular staircase around a glass atrium. We climbed all the way to the top and we were rewarded with the media and music section. They allowed people to photograph exhibits in there. I found it amusing there was a karaoke booth in there with five year olds singing along to The Zutons / Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’. There was also an exhibition of the author Beryl Bainbridge’s paintings, which were surprisingly good and touching. The museum was packed full of families and it was a lovely venue which is definitely worth a visit.
The great thing about the Liverpool One development is that it seamlessly links the waterfront to the rest of the city. Before this development, it was a good five to ten minute hike into the city. I popped into John Lewis to pick up some lotions and potions from the cosmetics department. The staff looked scary with their heavy make-up and scouse brows, whilst I felt like some freak for not wearing any make-up. This John Lewis is much more designer-orientated than the one in the Trafford Centre, although this does not surprise me as I know the locals like to dress well.
We had a good wander round the shops. It was very busy around Liverpool One, but as we wandered further out it got a bit quieter and there were some empty shops. I have begun to expect this with the recession, however the regeneration of Liverpool still has done wonders to the place. My brother was shocked when he visited last year, as he hadn’t seen the place since the 90s and he thought it was a dump then. Now it’s the sort of place you could imagine spending a weekend there. The investment is paying off and Liverpool is beginning to shake off its scally image.
I’m not a fan of Mathew Street though. The legacy of The Beatles is tarnished here with bars trying to make a fast buck from the tourist industry. It’s such a shame that The Beatles are used as a cheap marketing tool. It gets to the point where I just roll my eyes and just want to get the heck out of there.
Liverpool is turning into a cracking city and it’s not often I say this but the planners got it right with Liverpool One. This development really joins up the city. Although I do think some effort needs to be made to the original shopping areas to bring them up to the Liverpool One standard. There are some gorgeous Victorian buildings in this city and a little TLC wouldn’t go amiss. This place has so much potential, however a fine balance needs to be made to respecting its past whilst embracing the future.