A city boasting the majestic grandeur Britain is always proud to display, but at the same time it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The ethnic diversity of those who walk its streets sees cultures from all parts of the globe stand side by side, as do the culinary choices and entertainments on display, but its distinctive identity is never compromised. The local way of speaking is so unique that it is a source of derision in towns such as St. Helens which can be reached in a half-hour train ride, but it has achieved such worldwide fame that many who have never even visited consider themselves to do a mean impression of it. Such is the combination of homeliness and worldliness that sets Liverpool apart from any other place: it will always belong to the Scousers, but the rest of the world is more than welcome to join the party.
As evening falls…
And quite a party it can be, raucous laughter and a liberal attitude to dress sense bringing a buzz to the streets before the sun has even started its descent. A quick glance to either side is enough to make it clear that no shortage of nightlife tastes are catered for, with live music venues specialising in jazz, soul, blues and so much more rubbing shoulders with Irish bars, cocktail bars and booming clubs. As far as restaurants are concerned, it’s a case of you name it, they’ve probably got it. The very central Bond Street alone contains a wide enough array of eateries to enable one’s taste buds to tour the world, a restaurant named ‘Leaf’ being a particularly good find. With a modern and characterful décor, a level of efficiency that belies its busy clamour and a menu containing dishes as diverse as Lebanese stew, burgers and chips and a range of craft beers, conservative and adventurous eaters alike will find something to delight their stomachs with. Another restaurant worthy of a mention is the Italian cuisine-serving Veeno, whose lunchtime deal of delicious focaccia sandwiches accompanied by a free glass of Sicilian wine will be hard to beat.
The aforementioned eclecticism in opportunities to enjoy a late drink or two includes an unforgettable Hawaiian-themed bar, serving cocktails with pun-derived names such as Rye Cooler, Rum Finished Business and Basil Faulty. Like Leaf, Aloha Bar on Colquitt Street can be found in Liverpool’s conveniently compact centre, its brightly decorated interior bringing light to the hours after dark. To the soundtrack of rock and pop artists such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Jimi Hendrix (they may not really have anything to do with Hawaii, but who cares when they go well with the atmosphere?), bar-goers can enjoy some relaxed sips from an elaborate sea-related drinking vessel or eschew their seats in favour of a dance.
Such is the exuberance of Liverpool’s willingness to party that people from the periphery of county Merseyside speak of ‘The Last Train’ as if it is worthy of more fame than would typically be afforded a public transport vehicle. The initial struggle to find a seat on the Manchester-bound Last Train soon reveals why those residing in the likes of St. Helens talk about it in such reverent terms. In some cities, going home by public transport just before it hits the hay for the night is an acknowledgement that it’s going to be a quiet one, with frugality and the desire for an early night prevailing over any wilder intentions. Not so Liverpool. In Liverpool, The Last Train boasts possibly the noisiest and most fun-loving vibrancy of all the local venues, with Merseysiders and Mancunians singing their hearts out all the way to their respective hometowns. Those who are in need of such a train home may not be true Scousers, but the infectious enthusiasm that pervades the city’s nightlife means that spending a few hours there is more than enough to get anyone in Scouse mood. If a definitive example of how Liverpool doesn’t take itself too seriously were ever needed, leaving it on The Last Train would easily suffice.
Earlier in the day…
Not every party town lies in beer can-induced waste the next day, lazily waiting around for the next night’s shenanigans to kick off. When the stags and hens retreat to their daytime shelters, the culture vultures come out to explore Liverpool’s fascinating blend of historical and modern sights. A place of prayer known simply as ‘the bombed-out church’ will take first-time viewers by surprise, its initial appearance as one approaches from Bold Street resembling nothing other than a normal religious building. It’s only when one sees it from the side that it becomes apparent that the majority of the church lacks a roof, with the space between its walls being completely empty ever since some World War II planes dropped some damaging substances on it.
Albert Dock is arguably the city’s finest port of call for pedestrian sightseers, not only for the beauty of the waterfront but also due to the array of café’s, restaurants and museums on offer. The latter variety’s most prized gem would probably be the four-storey building housing both the Maritime Museum and Slavery Museum, both of which can be entered free of charge. The existence of The Slavery Museum is a worthy feature of Liverpool’s modesty, with its acknowledgement that not all of its port’s history is to be admired, and gives insightful accounts as to how the importation of slaves led to the city’s multiculturalism and its distinctive accent (the back-of-the-mouth sounds that follow the letter ‘k’ having African roots). In addition to its detailed historic exhibits, the museum also makes admirable and heart-warming efforts in the wider world to bring an end to the forced labour still in practice.
Downstairs from the stories of human monstrosity are exhibits of some very impressive human engineering and construction, the Maritime Museum’s many models and engines being sure to intrigue ship-lovers. Its displays on the Lusitania and the Titanic, both extremely ill-fated due to German World War One U-boats and an iceberg respectively, are fascinating even if the numerous reiterations of ‘The Titanic is a Liverpool ship’ seem like a somewhat lame attempt to grab the limelight away from Belfast (in whose shipyards The Titanic was built).
On the whole…
The quantity of museums in Liverpool is simply too great for them to all be explored within the duration of a day-trip, thus leaving the Museum of Liverpool, Tate Modern art gallery and the World Museum to be visited on a later occasion. Likewise, many new adventures await in the multitude of restaurants and bars dotted along its streets, while the surface has only been scratched as far as my gazing at its old buildings is concerned. Catering for sea-dogs and culture vultures by day and stags, hens and all other kinds of party animal by night, all creatures great and small will find something to delight them in Liverpool!