For one whole year, I was woken up at least once a night by people screeching ‘Hey Jude’ below my bedroom window: it was 2007, and I was a first-year student living in halls in Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter.
Our flat was typical of student accommodation: two wipe-clean laminated ‘sofas’, curtains so thin you could have spit through them, and a carpet so coarse it would skin your legs if you knelt on it. Every night, a group of second-year students would spill out of the nearby Font Bar and struggle to hit the high notes of the Beatles classic. It should have been hell. But it wasn’t.
In the years following my uni days, I regrettably found little time to visit my student city. Being from Manchester meant that most of my time back up north was spent visiting my family, and visits to Liverpool fell by the wayside.
It was with heart-bursting joy, therefore, that I jumped at the chance to accompany Gef on a whirlwind tour of Liverpool via ferry, a sentimental trip down memory lane to see what effect a decade-past had had on a city so fond in my memory.
I meet Gef in the Costa Coffee at the Sea Terminal. His eyes are crusted with sleep, his rain mac is on inside out, and he’s sipping an espresso in a zombie-like state. It’s 7am, and he gives a perfunctory grunt as I sit down next to him: clearly he’s not a morning mongoose. The rest of our party arrive in a trickle, and it seems we didn’t get the memo about the day’s dress code: on one end of the spectrum someone’s wearing a bucket hat and no bra, and on the other end we’ve got a Louis Vuitton hold-all and some Alexander McQueen sneakers. I can tell it’s going to be an interesting day from the offset.
Could we have travelled to Liverpool by plane? Of course we could, but there’s something so unifying in its informality about getting the boat. Sitting at an eight-seater enabled us to get the party started long before we arrived, and afforded an opportunity to move about freely if we needed some early morning rest bite.
There was something exciting about taking the ferry so early in the morning, it set the pace for the rest of the day and was arguably one of the highlights. Our time at sea passed in a team-bonding blur of Uno, pints, and Titanic re-enactments off the back of the ferry while taking in those epic sea views. By the time we docked in Liverpool, it felt like we’d already seized the day. Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, you’ll be hard to top.
The Docks area of Liverpool has changed dramatically since I was at uni. To be honest, I can count my visits there as a student on one hand, such was its underdevelopment at the time. But within just under three hours of us arriving, we’d already taken in three attractions, owed in part to the convenience of the ferry arriving in the heart of the city. Liverpool John Lennon, eat your heart out.
British Music Experience
The British Music Experience, Cunard Building, Liverpool L3 1DS, www.britishmusicexperience.com
The British Music Experience tells the story of British music through costumes, instruments, and memorabilia from the Beatles through to Bowie. There’s an interactive section at the end where you can learn to Vogue in a makeshift dance studio, or have a crack at Sound of the Underground in a recording booth. Just call me Cheryl.
There’s a section dedicated entirely to the Spice Girls, where Geri Halliwell’s infamous Union Jack dress is on display, but up close it was disappointing to learn it was a Roberto Cavalli diamante redesign for the Spice Girls reunion, not the original of 1997 BRIT awards fame. That put a bit of a dampener on my day, but hey ho, onwards and upwards.
The Tate Liverpool, Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4BB
A short five-minute walk from the BME is the Tate Liverpool. I was pretty excited about the Tate as New York artist Keith Haring has an exhibition on at the moment and he’s one of my all-time faves. I should have known, but you had to pay extra to get into this part of the Tate, and ultimately, I decided that the £12.50 entry fee would be better spent elsewhere. I overheard someone say it was good, however, so that’ll do for me.
Keith Haring aside, the exhibitions included in the free-entry are well worth a look themselves. Berlin-based artist Sol Calero’s work takes the form of large-scale installations which explore themes of identity and representation, and her 2019 commission, El Autobús, is inspired by travelling Latin America, where richly decorated buses are popular means of transport.
A full-size bus within the Tate is hard to miss, even aside from its placement right by the entrance. The experience highlights the clash between expectations and reality, which is explored through an audio-visual installation which takes visitors on a journey through an imagined land, offering an alternative to the western perspective of the world.
The Liver Building
The Liver Building, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1HU
The Liver Building opened its doors to the public in May of this year, and the attraction features a 360° view from the top of the west tower. A tour guide pops and clicks her way through the building’s history, and it’s genuinely super interesting. Before the roof terrace, however, we were treated to perhaps one of the most emotional pieces of film I’ve encountered this year.
Sitting on pews behind the clock in the west tower, a 9 minute, 270° audio-visual experience is projected on the walls of the Grade I-listed tower and explores the significance of the building and how Liverpool has evolved in the 108-years since the Liver Building was built. I wasn’t prepared for the impact this would have. It’s both awe-inspiring and humbling, particularly the reconstruction of fighter jets flying over Liverpool during the war.
It transpires that I’m now one of those people who annoyingly applaud at impromptu moments, but I’ll keep you updated if I’ve turned into one of those idiots who celebrate when the plane lands.
91 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HF
After a jam packed morning, Gef’s paws needed a little rest, so we hopped in a cab to the heart of the city: Bold Street.
Maray (so-called as a phonetic realisation of the Marais district of Paris) is a matchbox of a restaurant, where diners sit back-to-back with complete disregard for each other’s personal space, but the quality of the food forsakes any desire to complain.
While their small plate fare showcases flavours of the Middle East, there’s a distinct Scandinavian influence, and most dishes cost £6 or less: if you’re not one for sharing food, then you maybe want to sidestep this place.
The menu was faultless, and with such delicate plates being served (both in terms of size and flavour) it could have been a disaster in the wrong hands. Stand out dishes were the full head of cauliflower doused in tahini, yoghurt, and harissa, as well as the cured salmon dressed in labneh and lemon gel and anointed with blackberry.
Keeping it Ghetto
Ghetto Golf, Stanhope Street, Cains Brewery, Liverpool L8 5XJ
After a packed morning of culture, it was deemed appropriate that we should probably end our day trip with something a little more high octane: Ghetto Golf.
The team at Ghetto Golf have transformed an old warehouse into a twisted 18-hole crazy golf experience, and after a morning of soul-enriching activities, it was great to whack a golf ball around a course of dead dolls and dirty laundry.
Every inch of the place is covered in graffiti, and customers have added their own heartfelt tributes amongst the art, my particular favourite being the wholesome ‘your dad listens to Natasha Bedingfield in the bath’. What a stinging insult.
Being a Monday, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which is why I didn’t care that I was swigging Prosecco straight from the carafe. What you going to do about it?
After this, we all split up. Someone needed to get some bits in Liverpool ONE, and it transpired that it was a good idea we’d gotten the ferry as their no-luggage fees were a godsend, given that a ‘few bits’ actually translated to ‘an entire new wardrobe.’
The ferry journey back home was the perfect end to the perfect day: a couple more games of (slightly rowdier) Uno and a recap on the highlights of the day.
Gef’s big day out certainly brightened up what was destined to be an otherwise dreary Monday, and we were in unanimous agreement to make it a regular thing, next time possibly over a weekend. The thing with any big city is that you could easily spend an entire week up to your eyeballs in culture and still not have even made a dent on any of the attractions. Time was of the essence, and the Steam Packet Company enabled us to pack more in to a sojourn pushed for time.
Liverpool…you were just as super as I remember.