On The Road Again
UK TRIP 2001
It's Sod's Law isn't it? Phil and I talked last night and arranged a meeting time. I was to catch the train at 9:37 which takes about 45 minutes to get from Manchester Picadilly station to Liverpool Lime St. Alan said I could catch the bus on his street about 8:45 and he drew me a little map to find the train station once I got off the bus at the main bus terminal in the city center. It was late. And naturally when I got off the bus, the heavens opened and I got wet. I hurried along and found the train station.
Oh Hell! the ticket machines were either out of order or I didn't have enough change and there was a queue at the ticket windows. I got the day return ticket but the platform was way the back of beyond, up and over a walkway. I came down to the platform to see a train, my watch indicating it was about 38 seconds before departure so I hopped on and found a seat, and tried to rearrange my damp hair, purse, bag with the gifts that I had brought for Phil.
About 10 minutes after the train pulled away, the conductor came around and inspected my ticket. He frowned. Oh don't tell me I'm on the wrong train!!! Well.. he started, you *can* get to Liverpool from here but you'll have to change at Wigan! I'm stunned. Wigan???!!! That's not all, apparently I also have to change train STATIONS! But.. but.. oh yeah. There are lots of trains that pass by that platform and later on when I checked my notebook I had written down that the train should be green and say something about a Central line on it. Which this one wasn't and didn't. *SIGH* I sat there stressed, wet, and chilled. If there's one thing I HATE is being late when there's someone waiting for me at the other end!!! I'm not really an advocate of mobile phones, not really having much use for one myself but this was one time I wished both I *and* Philip had one, which he doesn't either.
I had about 20 minutes to run across the road in Wigan to the other station. I tried calling but of course he had already left for Lime Street. The damp clothing wasn't the only thing causing steam to rise off my body! Nobody's fault of course, not even mine really. I was at the platform, the time was correct and there was a train ready to leave. There was no reason to ask someone if it was the right train and if I had, sod's law again would have come into play and it would have been the right train and by stopping to ask, it probably would have left without me. That actually would have been preferable as trains to Liverpool were 3 or 4 an hour and I wouldn't have been that late arriving at the other end. Live and learn.
This little detour made me 45 minutes late though I knew Phil wouldn't leave the station without me. He didn't and I was so glad to see him and he wasn't too concerned at all. I knew this would become a joke later and for sure, it did. Especially when someone later asked me if I had seen the Pier in Wigan. How was I supposed to know "Wigan Pier' was a fictitious town described in the book "The Road to Wigan Pier'? Thank God I didn't take time to have a look around the town and start asking locals where the pier was!
I was tired, grumpy, damp, stressed and hungry. The first thing I needed to do was get fed and watered so we landed in a café near the train station for a sandwich and cup of tea. We exchanged our goodies while we got caught up on our news and decided what our plan of action would be. I've never been to Liverpool, a large port city that has been the gateway to thousands of emigrants over the years, many of whom landed by sea in Halifax on their first stop to their new home in Canada. The waterfront in Liverpool has been restored into a large tourist complex called Albert Dock. We headed there first and our attention was taken by a city tour that you can take in an old WWII amphibian vehicle that drives you around the city then splashes down in the waters around the docks. It doesn't go out on to the Mersey River which was a blessing today because though it was raining in Manchester when I left, it was clear and sunny in Liverpool but with very high gusty winds. The waters of the gray Mersey River were very choppy.
We bought our tickets for the Liverpool Duck tour which didn't leave for about 30 minutes and had a browse through the souvenir shops in the Dock complex. Liverpool is the home of the Beatles so there's lots of souvenirs relating to the Fab Four. I like the Beatles well enough I suppose but I'm not a particular Beatles fan though Chris has been making many attempts to convert me! I was more interested in seeing the city itself, the buildings, the atmosphere. I didn't know what all we would have time to do but I hoped maybe we would have the time to see the Walker Art Gallery.
The Duck tour takes about ¾ hour to drive around the city, with an audio broadcast of the history of the city and interesting points. The city center is fairly compact between the Docks and the Cathedral and the architecture of Liverpool is really beautiful. There was a lot of bomb damage here during WWII and in Manchester but it seems like a lot of the buildings still survived. Arriving back at the Dock for the water journey, the co-captain took the microphone for some live commentary. He was very good and had an ironic and droll sense of humour. I could see Philip doing that sort of job too. The Liverpudlians are very cheeky and witty.
We decided to walk around and follow some of the route the tour took, for a closer look at some of the buildings and tourist attractions. There are three huge buildings on the waterfront, the most famous being the Royal Liver Building, an insurance company. This was build around 1907. The corners are topped with 2 18 foot "Liver' birds based probably on cormorants. The other two buildings are the Cunard building and the Port of Liverpool and together they are known as the Three Graces. We went inland away from the waterfront past the Victoria memorial that is on the spot where Liverpool Castle used to stand.
All RIGHT! This is just TOO perfect! We discovered an old inn, now a pub, with a 1726 date on the building and it was called Ye Hole in Ye Wall. (WAHEY!! It's got a Web Site!) The street is called Hackin's Hey and is one of the oldest streets in Liverpool. No question about it, I HAD to have a drink in a pub with a name like that so in we went. Low ceilings, lots of wood and comfortable chairs. It looked old and felt old aside from a television behind the bar and a radio on but the atmosphere wasn't one of a tarted up pub decorated in an old-looking style for the tourists. This seemed like the genuine article. The irony of it all was that the pub is built on the spot where an old Quaker meeting house once stood!
Off we go again to admire the buildings, always looking up to see the detailing on them which sometimes isn't evident unless you look above you at the windows and eaves. We go down Matthew Street, a narrow cobbled pedestrian street that is strewn with Beatles' shops, statues and posters. The Cavern Club that stands today is not the original where they played which was on the opposite side of the lane, (note: correction, have since been informed that the old Cavern Club was on the same side as the new "fake" one. The Cavern Pub is across by the wall of bricks) marked by a wall of fame consisting of bricks with names of hundreds of artists that played in the Cavern Club over its nearly 40 year history. That was something I did find interesting and took a photo of that.
There is also a life sized (I think) statue of John Lennon leaning against a post. One must succumb to the temptation of posing in a similar vein beside it for a photo! My one concession to the Beatles mania. There's also a monument of sorts that depicts "Mother Liverpool' holding three cherubs while a fourth flies off to one side with the motto " John Lives' above it. I suspect another angel will soon have to join it as George Harrison is very, very ill with cancer as I write this. (George Harrison died December 7, 2001) We didn't go for a drink down in the Cavern Club and I didn't bother shopping for Beatles souvenirs nor did I take a photo of the lonely looking sculpture of Eleanor Rigby on a bench around the corner.
There is another cluster of large stately buildings around a square reminiscent of Trafalgar Square, with a fountain and column in the center topped with a statue, this one representing the Duke of Wellington. There is the mid Victorian (1854) St. George's Hall which is definitely worth a look into and another pillared building, circa 1860, with a sweeping staircase houses the Liverpool Museum. There's the circular Picton library and reading room dating from 1879 and the Walker Art Gallery in a building constructed in 1887. It's clouded over so the granite buildings look particularly imposing. The wind is blowing the water from the fountain off in one direction and we can feel the cold spray even though we avoid walking downwind of it. There really isn't' time to go look inside all the buildings nor spend time browsing the gallery this trip. It will have to be saved for another time, now that I know the lay of the land.
It's been a long time since that light lunch we ate at 11: 30 so Phil took me to a Chinese restaurant on Hanover Street, the Golden Phoenix where we took advantage of a 3 course fixed price "lunch' that they stopped serving at 5 p.m. every day. We got there just under the wire. Chinese beer ("Tiger') is pretty good!
After our meal we walked up to the huge Anglican Cathedral, the largest of it's kind in the world and 5th largest cathedral of any denomination. This cathedral was built over most of the 20th C. and was only finished about 20 years ago. Unfortunately it was after 6 when we got there and closed to the public. The stained glass, judging from what I could tell from the outside, looked like it would be very intricate. Save that for another time too I guess. The Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool is known locally as "Paddy's Wigwam' and looks like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz's pointy hat. I like my cathedrals to look like cathedrals, not a movie prop!
We stopped to admire the new arch on the street that leads into Liverpool's small Chinatown district. Liverpool actually had a larger Chinatown for many years, with immigrants there working at the port but it's shrunk in size and there is now a larger Chinatown centered in Manchester. We walked along an elegant row of Georgian houses on Rodney Street on our way back to the train station. It's getting dark now and I hadn't been planning to stay on to sample any of the night life. The next time I go over I'll take another day and go to Liverpool again and maybe stay overnight. That way I can see the Walker gallery, the cathedral and perhaps check out a club or two. I made sure Phil directed me to the right train this time and with hugs and kisses I took my leave. I'll see you, too, on the weekend.
On the journey back I made friends with a small blonde four year old girl who was traveling to Bradford with her father. Her name was Etty. Her father seemed to be more interested in sharing his tins of ale with someone he knew or maybe just met down the car further and Etty was left to her own devices. He would call up now and then to see if she was ok. She was curious about my journal, seeing me writing and came over and we chatted. I let her "write' in the back of it while we discussed our journeys. Her father was an avid Everton football team supporter and had her trained well. Once or twice he'd call down to her, "Etty! What's ManU (Manchester United)?' and she'd correctly reply as required "shite, Dad' ! We enjoyed each other's company until Manchester Picadilly where I got off the train and took a cab back to Alan's because I couldn't be sure I'd recognize where to get off the bus in the dark.
Alan and I discussed the events of the day and watched a little Classic Corrie before bed around midnight.
I had an easy morning today and didn't leave the flat until after 11. Got off the bus at St. Peter's Square which is where you will find the Tourist Information Center. Weather is sunny for the moment though it always seems to cloud over by the afternoon. There is a lovely central library here, a large round building with lovely stained glass in the entrance lobby. The Manchester Town Hall is beside it though that's the back of the building. I followed the lane between the main Town Hall building and the civic buildings beside it, adjoined by an overhead walkway and came out into sunny Albert Square. The Town Hall was built in 1877 and has a large clock tower looming over the square. There's a smaller replica of London's Albert Memorial here.
I went inside Town Hall, visitors are allowed on the ground floor. The ceiling is low and vaulted like the inside of a cathedral and there was a Police history exhibit with old photos and posters. There are lots of sculptures, statues, busts and friezes decorating the walls and an information desk there if you have any questions.
I went back out behind the Town Hall into the little Peace Park to peruse my map and figure out a route. Alan had been to the tourist information center and had a stack of brochures at home with maps and attractions. I turned back towards Castlefield along Peter Street. Just past Deansgate, where Peter Street turns into Quay Street (and only a few blocks from Granada Studios where Coronation Street is filmed) is a pub owned by a Corrie star, Liz Dawn who plays Vera Duckworth. It's called The Old Grapes and I thought, well it's lunchtime and if I'm lucky I might get to see one or two of the actors. It's always possible they may nip over from the studio at lunchtime? No such luck but then I really didn't figure! The walls inside are covered with photos of Ms. Dawn and various celebrities and Corrie cast members. There's no doubt who owns that pub and by the time I left it was quite busy.
I walked a little further and did some window shopping on Deansgate which is one of the main thoroughfares in Manchester. Down King Street West which is a posh shopping area as I soon found out. I knew there was a clothing store there that carried large sizes. You had to ring the bell for entry. They said it was just for security purposes. I now realize it's also for exclusivity purposes! The prices were fairly high but not exorbitant and I did buy an outfit. I coveted this black leather jacket they had there which had panels of an animal print on it but it was very expensive and even if I wore it, I would have no place to pack my other coat.
I came along to Manchester Cathedral at the far end of Deansgate and entered through the side door as instructed. It was cool inside the church, the light filtering thought the wonderfully intricate stained glass windows. The cathedral dates from the 15th C. though some parts were rebuilt and restored after the war because of bomb damage and again, all the stained glass is post war. One chapel is dedicated to the rebuilding and the glass window here is called the Fire Window and looks like orange and yellow flames.
You would think that one cathedral interior would look pretty much like the next and in some ways they do but I've been in a lot and I still find each seems to have it's own atmosphere, it's own personality. Some are sparsely decorated, some elaborately so, some have evident loving touches. Some are so inviting that you want to sit and enjoy and some are more businesslike which is sort of how I found this one to be. Some of my favourites are Glasgow's St. Mungo's which I found enchanting (but with a name like that how could it not be unique!) and Edinburgh's St. Giles. York Minster is just downright awe inspiring even though it's not overly elaborate inside. The sheer size of it is overwhelming!
But I digress. The largest Marks and Spencer store is just behind the Cathedral in an area called the Shambles which has a few old buildings but is the site of a lot of construction. The old M&S was destroyed about 5 years ago from an IRA bomb. It took the worst of the blast so although neighbouring buildings were damaged, they weren't devastated. It's been rebuilt and is bright, modern and huge! It's connected to the Arndale Shopping Mall by an overhead walkway. Just behind it are two very old pubs, one called the Duke of Wellington.
There's an interesting story to these buildings that Alan told me about later. These buildings have been relocated twice. Once when the Arndale was built. They dug down around the foundations and lifted them and moved them to the other side of the old M&S store. After the bomb went off, they weren't damaged very much but the construction that was planned for the area forced another move to their present location. This time the buildings were taken down brick by brick and rebuilt.
I walked through the mall but really wasn't up for shopping. There is a market under one side of it and an outdoor fruit and veg market nearby as well and I found myself back at Picadilly Gardens where the bus terminal is, not far from the train station. Decided it was a good a time as any to head back. Managed to get off at the right stop and then I managed to get Alan's key jammed in the door once I got inside the flat. I thought he had said to lock the door from the inside but the skeleton style key wouldn't come back out though I had no trouble getting in initially. When he got back from work he had to take the whole fixture off the door. The teeth of the key must have caught and bent because when he finally pulled it out, one of the teeth was sheared right off!!! More of that sod's law!
We are off tonight for a pub quiz with John, Nikki and Annie. We walked as it was a nice night down a lovely neighbourhood here in Chorlton, Beech Street, and through an old graveyard to get to the pub which seemed to me to be a bit out of the way. The Bowling Green was the name of the pub. The pub quiz was great fun and we took none of it seriously, giggling over possible answers and trying to identify photos of celebrities. After the quiz we had a last drink and got into Monty Python recitations, totally ignoring the raised eyebrows and odd looks we were getting from the other punters and we didn't stay up too late once we got back after closing time.
One of the brochures Alan had was for a Hat and Millinery museum in Southport and I had initially thought that would satisfy my love of unusual museums but then I did remember that I had wanted to visit Ordsall Hall in Salford. This is a very old manor, some of it dating back to medieval and Tudor times that one of my friends had told me about. I tried to call her as she lives handy it but had to leave a message. With no way to get hold of her for a coffee visit, I set out anyway.
Sod's Law YET again! It looked as if a bus would go right by the door of the manor so I went over to the terminal under the Arndale center to wait. And wait. Luckily where this stop was, was under shelter because it was raining and windy on and off. And wait. The bus seemed to be a once an hour affair but it never came at its appointed time. Finally an inspector came by and said the bus was stuck somewhere in traffic. Oh that just figures! I didn't have any more patience with this so strode off and took a taxi. That's what happens when you have limited patience. The Tramlink would have taken me within a 3 minute walk and taken 10 minutes to get there! That's how I got back to central Manchester later in the afternoon!
*sigh* The taxi driver didn't even know that the manor existed though he found the street efficiently enough at least.
Ordsall Hall's earliest parts date to the late 14th C. It was owned for the first few hundred years by the Radclyffe family. There are only a few rooms open to the public but entrance is free. They cater mainly to school groups and there was a class of children there when I arrived, learning how to do such courtly things as bowing and curtseying across the long oak table in the great hall! There was a tall man dressed in Elizabethan costume, complete with white neck ruff instructing them with a twinkle in his eye.
I went through the Great Hall and into a smaller chamber behind that which was empty. This is the oldest of the rooms and is the Star Chamber, named so because of the gilded lead stars affixed to the blackened beamed ceiling. It's also known as the Lord's Chamber or Great Chamber and it's where the lord of the manor would have done his business though it's also a bedroom. The furniture, bed, desk, chairs are all authentic from various eras between the 15th to 17th C. Parts of the wall are some examples of the oldest surviving wattle and daub walls in England, dating from 1340. There is another room in Italianate design upstairs but it isn't open to the public. There is an Elizabethan lady's dress on a form and a small suit of armour on display. There are swords and an old rifle and the 14th C fireplace still has scars from where swords were sharpened as men gathered in front of the fire.
The costumed guide came in and chatted with me for awhile. It was he that told me all this history. The Great Hall was sparsely furnished, had a fire pit in the middle of the room beside the great oak table and the walls and ceiling are white washed plaster and dark half beams in an elaborate pattern that is mirrored on the outside of the manor in places.
Upstairs there is an exhibit about similar surviving houses
from that era and some lovely Jacobean furniture on display. There are
three large glass enclosures with displays of Victorian laundry implements,
a Victorian school room and a Victorian toy collection. There is also a
little picture gallery of photos and prints from the last 30-40 years by
local artists and downstairs there is also a Victorian kitchen set up.
There is a small area with gifts though most of them are geared to children.
I did pick up a couple of postcards.
The sun is out, for a bit anyway and the rain has stopped. I walked to the Tramlink stop. Pity I couldn't get hold of Katrina as I found out later she lives on the street just next to the Manor. There was a small Tesco's grocery store near the Arndale center and since I had promised I would cook tonight, I went in to find my supplies. I had to make a stop in the Boots chemist as well for a couple of items. Luckily Alan has an electric cooker, not a gas one so nothing burned and nothing blew up! With the way my luck has been running this week, that was a very real concern! Laundry tonight, some television and internet time and off to bed. Alan is off work the next two days and we're heading to the old spa town of Buxton tomorrow to meet up with a chat room friend, Joanna.
On to Part 5, Buxton and the "ping" Weekend.
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