Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Dublin to Liverpool

On board the Ulysses
In a day which was mostly about travelling, there were still some nice moments and then a really surprising ending.

This was among our earliest starts, with a 7am departure requiring a 6:15am breakfast and a 5:30am call from the covers. The time was all dictated by the ferry timetable to take us back from Ireland to Wales and on to England. Once on the ferry, most took the opportunity of catching up on reading, conversation, the free Wi-Fi or the sleep they had been robbed of earlier. The crossing was smooth on the largest ferry in the world. There was a big open deck available for taking in fresh air.

The longest place name in Wales
A short jaunt through the very north of Wales included the little town which claims the longest place name in the world, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. Roughly translated it means "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave." Kiwis will always lay claim that a hill in the Shakeys has a longer moniker and in Thailand, the Thai version of Bangkok goes on longer than a Republican convention but the Welsh probably have the fairest claim to the title. The word was longer than we spent there.

... for the purpose of this exercise 
In Chester, on the River Dee, we walked the Roman wall started in 70AD and largely finished by the Normans 900 years later, to protect the city. That still makes it over 1200 years old. As we walked along the wall, an artist was drawing and selling his wares. We fell in love with a sketch of a Dalek and grabbed it for son Sam. The town centre has cobblestone streets and most of the buildings are either Georgian or Tudor in design. The white surfaces and black stripes of the Tudor buildings are very attractive. We ate lunch, did a little unintentional shopping of T-shirts and books and listened and chatted with buskers.

The last leg was a short stint into Liverpool and a chance to quickly freshen up for a locally guided tour of the city. To be honest, it was the last thing either of us wanted to do but we had paid for it as an option. When we found out the first stop on the tour was Liverpool Cathedral, we both groaned. We've seen enough cathedrals to last several lifetimes.

The largest Anglican Cathedral in the world, this is a massive building. Built on the typical cathedral floor plan of a crossing of the long central part of the building and shorter cross sections so that from above it looks like the cross Christ was crucified on, this has, instead, two cross sections. There is also side room bigger than most parish churches, a huge bell tower climbing enormously into the sky and no fixed seating in the entire building. The stain glass windows are remarkable. Its so large that sections can be partitioned off and user groups won't disturb each other. Other denominations even hold services in it! For mine, this was by far a more beautiful building than the hotchpotch of architectural styles that is Notre Dame in Paris.

The corner stone was laid by King Edwards VII in 1904 to the design of the then 25 year old Giles Gilbert Scott, who was so young that more experienced architects were appointed to oversee his work. He got the job on the basis of the huge visionary concept he proposed but only one previous successful design ... the red telephone box which sits still, unchanged, on English streets. Scott was knighted for his work but didn't live to see the final completion of the building which wasn't until more than 70 years after that first stone was laid.

A second surprise was the rejuvenated dock areas which have been turned from wrecked buildings of a former glory into smart urban areas and places of great urban renewal. As we drove along the river, Sue and I did, in fact, see the ferry crossing the Mersey.

The third surprise was time in the famous Cavern Club - the place where the Beatles played publicly for the first time in the early sixties. In essence, it hasn't changed much, although these days its more museum than venue, although live music can always be heard. We walked in on Jimmy Coburn, who looks, sounds, speaks and sings so much like John Lennon of 1964 that it freaked us out. Outside, on the wall of the larger venue which handles all of the big audience shows, the bricks in the wall along the side of the building have had the names of performers who have played the Cavern chiseled into them.

Back at our hotel, the Adelphi, we stepped back in time to a point when charm and style mattered. Run down and now below the standard which saw all of the best stay here, it still has a magnificent sitting room, indoor pool and rooms of great style.

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