SIX GO MAD IN…LIVERPOOL

FENCES, FOOTBALL AND THE FAB FOUR

Over the past few years the Liverpool’s historic waterfront has undergone a dramatic makeover to become a one-stop paradise for culture lovers, foodies and families alike.
But it wasn’t always like that. Liverpool was once a thriving port handling nearly half of the world’s trade. When trade dried up, the docks fell derelict and the city suffered hugely.
I grew up near there – Scousers nicknamed those living in the surrounding countryside like me ‘Woolybacks’ – and remember the sadness of seeing shops boarded up, streets deserted and buildings falling to ruin.  But a huge regeneration project has transformed the old docks into an eye-catching and dynamic hub, rebranded as Liverpool Waterfront.Grand state-of-the-art buildings such as the Museum of Liverpool stand side-by-side with traditional landmarks like the Grade 1 listed Royal Liver Building, its two iconic Liver Birds perched on top casting a protective eye over everyone.
Old warehouses like the red brick Albert Dock have been tastefully converted into classy restaurants, shops, bars, galleries and museums. You can still catch a ferry across the Mersey – immortalised in the Gerry and the Pacemakers song – but you can also savour the sights from 60 metres up on the Wheel Of Liverpool.  And if shopping’s your bag you can drop into nearby Liverpool One, a huge open-air network of high street and one-off stores.

My mum Beryl was born and bred in the city and used to work in its shipping offices during busier times. Recently I took her back with my own children to the old Pier Head, as Scousers (and Woolybacks!) knew it, to show her the changes.
‘I didn’t think anything could bring Liverpool back to life like this,’ she said. ‘But this is brilliant. It’s brought two eras together.’If you reckon there’s little more to Liverpool than football, the Fab Four and – bearing in mind the date – Aintree Racecourse, think again.

 

FREE FUN
The fantastic Museum Of Liverpool – England’s most visited museum outside of London – charts its industry, architecture, music, culture and sport.  My mum loved seeing the first Ford Anglia made at the famous Halewood car plant while the kids were kept amused by interactive gadgets like telephones with recorded messages, computer-based quizzes and the karaoke booth featuring Yellow Submarine and others.
WORTH PAYING FOR                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was expecting The Beatles Story to be tacky but this shrine to the Fab Four is great value and packed with pictures and information which kept us all engrossed.  Rosie, Freddie and Max enjoyed sitting in the pretend plane ready to take off on a Beatles’ tour while mum, Harvey and I were awe-struck by the actual white baby grand piano featured in John Lennon’s Imagine video.  Included in the ticket price is the amusing Fab 4D experience nearby, a quirky animation accompanied by Beatles songs – watch out for the moving chairs and water sprays (adult £14.95, child £9).
Don’t miss a trip on the Wheel Of Liverpool for breath-taking views and fun commentary.  Did you know that Liverpool’s music heroes have had more No 1 hits than anyone else ever and that the imposing Anglican Cathedral is the largest in Britain? (adult £9, child £6.50, family 2+2 £25).
WHERE TO EAT
Adults and kids alike will love trendy Gusto for its fabulous Italian food, great service and lovely views over Albert Dock.  My younger two tried the make-your-own pizza and had a chef’s hat, pizza base and choice of toppings delivered to the table for them to prepare.  The deal includes a dessert – try Gusto’s signature ice cream shake in flavours like mint Aero or peanut M&Ms.  My saffron risotto with white crab salad melted in my mouth.  Don’t miss the dough petals with garlic butter starter either – a divine twist on the classic.
GOT TO DO
You can’t visit without taking a ferry across the Mersey. Daily 50-minute round cruises with commentary take you over to the Wirral and back for incredible views of one of Britain’s most amazing skylines.  You can see the city’s two iconic cathedrals (as well as the Anglican, there’s the more modern Catholic Cathedral, nicknamed Paddy’s Wigwam), the famous Liver Birds and the old Post Office Tower plus the Wheel and Museum of Liverpool (online prices: adult £9, child £5.50, family 2+3 £24.50, all return).
For even better value, you can get a free return trip across the Mersey if you buy a one-day, all-areas Saveaway ticket which also gives you off-peak travel on trains and buses in Merseyside.  Adults £5.20, children 18 and under £2.70.
WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?
GO TO IT:  Direct trains run to Liverpool from London Euston, Rugby, Stafford, Crewe, Runcorn and Manchester Piccadilly (www.virgintrains.com 08719 774222).
STAY:  Holiday Inn Express: Liverpool–Albert Dock is in a cool location with views over the river and waterfront.  A bright and airy family room with breakfast for two adults and two children costs from £72.75.
RESEARCH IT: Find events and more things to do at www.liverpoolwaterfront.org.

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