Looking around Liverpool

So ferry, cross the Mersey,
‘Cause this land’s the place I love
And here I’ll stay.

Gerry & the Pacemakers

Woke up early with a start this morning, and my first reaction was “Wow!” when I saw the lights of Liverpool reflecting on the still water of the River Mersey in the cool light of dawn.  I simply had to get up and take a picture of this famous waterfront, the time of 6.05am showing on the clockface on the famous Royal Liver Building, an instant preserved forever on a photograph.  The start of an exciting, fresh new day.

After going back to bed for an hour or so, we got up went up for breakfast in the Oceanview Café, selecting a table right by the window so we could look out.  We didn’t have any excursions planned today, but we’d already decided we wanted to explore a couple of Liverpool’s most famous icons, the Mersey Ferry and the Cavern Club.

After a decent breakfast we went up on deck and had a good look around. It was with a sense of déjà vu as we were berthed in the same place as we had been on the Borealis less than a month ago.

When we returned to 7227 I found I had a missed call on my phone, from my cousin Alan who lives in Comber, Northern Ireland and with whom we were hoping to meet up when we arrive in Belfast on 2nd September.  I called him back, and it was with much regret that he informed me that, because of the steep rise in the number of Covid cases in Northern Ireland, he and his wife Margaret (especially Margaret, who will be 83 in October and has health issues) felt very uncomfortable meeting up with us, so he thought it best if we gave it a miss this time.  We were both very disappointed at this news, but I can fully understand it – it’s just not worth the risk.

Afterwards we gathered together our money, phones, cagoules, seapass etc and made our way down to the gangplank to go ashore.  As we disembarked the ship and walked down the ramp to the cruise terminal, we reflected that the last time we’d done this on 6th August it was pouring down with rain.  Today, there was no rain, but it was cloudy and certainly cool enough for us to need a jacket.

Inside the cruise terminal we asked one of the friendly helpful staff where we had to go to get the ferry, and they directed us to the booking office where we purchased tickets for the 50-minute guided river tour.  We were just in nice time for the 11.00am sailing, and didn’t have to queue long before we were able to board the very colourful ferry, named Snowdrop.

As we went up the steps to the top deck for the best vantage point, we were able to get some great photos of the Silhouette as the ferry slowly made her way from the dockside to the (inevitable) strains of Gerry and the Pacemakers singing Ferry Cross The Mersey.  😊

We really enjoyed the river crossing.  The commentary told us which famous buildings and sights we were passing, such as the “Three Graces”, that is, the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard building and the Port of Liverpool building. We also saw the distinctive Beetham West Tower, the Docker’s Clock and the former tobacco warehouses.

The “Three Graces”

As we glided along, we discovered that the Snowdrop was known as the Mersey “Dazzle” Ferry and had been painted in a design created by Sir Peter Blake, whose most famous design was the sleeve art for the Beatles Sergeant Pepper album.

As the ferry crossed the river to the Woodside Terminal in Birkenhead, we could have disembarked here and had a look around before catching the next ferry in an hour’s time. However, we decided to remain on board, while the clatter of passengers’ feet leaving and joining the ferry echoed on the metal gangplank.  Soon we were on our way again, and we passed Birkenhead Town Hall as well as the well-known Cammell Laird shipyard.

It was a great little interlude, and something else we can say say we’ve done – got the ferry across the Mersey!  😊

Back on dry land we left the terminal building and walked through the streets, which were celebrating Beatles Week for the Bank Holiday Monday. We saw the famous statues which been dressed in specially designed hats inspired by their songs as part of a project by Sky Arts.

Milliner Stephen Jones, who grew up in the city, created the pieces for the Fab Four statues on Pier Head, taking inspiration from Yellow Submarine for Sir Ringo Starr, Penny Lane for Sir Paul McCartney, Help! for John Lennon and Here Comes The Sun for George Harrison.

We then had a look on Google Maps to see where we could find the Cavern Club, and it directed us to Mathew Street which was about a 10 minute walk away.  In fact, there is a whole area called the Cavern Quarter, which features Beatle-themed pubs, bars and restaurants, all of which contain loads of memorabilia of 1960s music.  Many buskers performed along the route, all inevitably singing their versions of Beatles songs.

We found the entrance to the famous club where the Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein, and each paid the five pounds cover charge before making our way downstairs to the dimly lit bars.  The Cavern Club was much larger than we had imagined and, in fact, contains several bars, each of which featured a live band.  It wasn’t too crowded; we had timed it perfectly before the lunchtime rush.  We ordered a couple of pints of John Smith’s, expensive at £4.40 each.  Then we settled down on a stool near a high table which gave us a good view of the band which was on stage; a guy coming round gave everyone a timetable listing which bands would be performing and when.

The place was packed with memorabilia; guitars and drumsticks used by the actual Beatles, album sleeves, autographed photos of world-famous musicians and even politicians; it seemed that anyone who was anyone had paid a visit to the Cavern Club at some time.  It was practically a museum to the music of the 1960s and was very interesting indeed, and the live music was great.

As it was now lunchtime, we looked at the burger menu that was on the table, but at £12.95 for a cheeseburger we decided to give it a miss and go back to the Silhouette for lunch.  We therefore climbed the stairs and emerged from the club into the daylight, and took a leisurely walk back to the ship, pausing to look in shop windows on the way.

It was after one o’clock when we once again boarded the Silhouette and, after dumping our bags in cabin 7227 we went along to the Oceanview Café for some lunch.  One again I enjoyed a chicken Caesar salad washed down with a glass of wine, and I was very good and didn’t have any dessert this time.  😊

At 4.00pm we went up to the Sky Lounge to take part in the trivia; there was no sign of James this time so it was just Trevor and me on our own.  We didn’t win, only scoring about 12/20; I actually think the questions are quite hard on this cruise and some of them are clearly aimed at an American audience, which baffled quite a lot of the Brits.

We enjoyed a couple of drinks afterwards before returning to 7227 where we just sat and relaxed and spent some time out on the balcony looking at the Liverpool waterfront before settling down for a half-hour power nap.

Afterwards we went out onto the balcony where we saw that the Silhouette had cast off and was underway, slowly moving away from the dockside and getting ready to turn around.  We could see that the ferry we had been on this morning, the Snowdrop, was standing by waiting for the Silhouette to move out of the way, and we could hear the poignant strains of the Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli singing Con te Partirò (Time to say Goodbye).

The Silhouette leaves Liverpool, while the Mersey Ferry stands by

We watched as the Silhouette slowly moved to the centre of the river and turned 180 degrees, before heading towards the mouth of the Mersey and the Irish Sea, where we were due to spend the next couple of days.

It was then time to go to dinner, and we made our way to the Grand Cuvée restaurant on Deck 4, where we were greeted effusively once again by the smiling waiter, sommelier and other staff.

The meal was delicious as ever. I enjoyed a mixed salad to start with, followed by a scrumptious seafood spaghetti dish containing clams, shrimps, squid and pieces of lobster. This was washed down with a chilled dry rosé wine and finished off with cheeseboard, coffee and a glass of port.

We had time afterwards to go up to the Sky Lounge where we were able to get a seat before the place filled up in time to see tonight’s game show, which was called “Friendly Feud” which is based on Family Feud in the USA and Family Fortunes in the UK.  The host asked for volunteers and I put up my hand.  Once there were two teams of four, the host revealed that the game topic would be ‘Cruising’ and the game began.  We had questions such as “Name something you do on a cruise that you don’t do at home” and “Name a noise you might make involuntarily” (which resulted in several hilariously honest answers) and “Name a shipboard game/activity”.  It was all good fun and our team won!  Each team member received a prize of a Celebrity Cruises pack of cards.  😊

This took us nicely in time for tonight’s featured entertainment in the theatre, which was called Legends of Music and featured the saxophonist Danny Smart as well as the excellent Silhouette orchestra.  It’s a pity that we wouldn’t be able to see any of the superb production shows that Celebrity is renowned for, but we could understand completely the need to be extremely vigilant regarding any risk of Covid-19.  In any case, the entertainment has been very good so far.

After the show we did what we usually do – went to the sad and near-empty Quasar to do the progressive trivia with James (which we didn’t win) then off to the Sky Lounge, in which a version of “Name That Tune” was in progress and it was difficult to find a seat/table.  We therefore ended up perched on barstool where we played just for fun, with James joining in – he is brilliant when it comes to any questions on musicals.  One bloke, playing on his own, scored full marks along with another guy and they each had to participate in a hilarious tie-breaker, where the DJ played the first 30 seconds of a popular song, and each contestant then had to sing the rest, the audience then having to vote for the winner by cheers/applause.

James then spotted some people he knew and excused himself to go and join them, while Mark and Sally, a couple from York who we had got talking to last night, came over and joined us.

We enjoyed plenty of cocktails, wine, laughter and conversation. At one stage I drained my glass of wine ready to call it a night, but before we even had a chance to say goodnight the barman placed another couple of drinks in front of us with lightning speed.  This kept on happening as the Sky Lounge slowly emptied out, and it ended up where Mark, Sally, Trevor and I were the last to leave.  Glancing at the time, I couldn’t believe it was 2.00am.  😊 We’d had an excellent day, and we made our way back to stateroom 7227 where we opened the balcony door slightly and got washed and changed into PJs ready to settle down for the night.  I was asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.  We had a pleasant relaxing sea-day to look forward to tomorrow, and we slept soundly.

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