This morning Scotty and I got up at 5:30AM in order to catch a train to Liverpool where we had an appointment with the UK Border Agency to get our biometrics for our visas. We had to reapply for visas in January and had had to wait until an appointment was available to get this last piece of the puzzle put into place. The first appointment they had available was for today…in Liverpool. So we boarded our 6:52AM train and made our way down to the “2008 Capital of European Culture.” I’d heard very mixed things about Liverpool and didn’t have any sort of great expectations. And Liverpool didn’t fail to disappoint in being a city that doesn’t seem to have a lot to offer. It is the perfect example of a phenomenon here in the UK that never fails to amaze me. The UK is jam, packed, crammed with beautiful old buildings. The Georgian beauties, Victorian classics, ancient stone cottages, old stone walls, these are the things that make the UK what it is…the things that draw visitors from all corners of the globe. Yet, many British seem hellbent on destroying these very things that make their country so unique. And Liverpool, in its recent attempts to “revitalize” has done just this. Liverpool used to be one of the top shipping ports in the world. From the Middle Ages on this was a port-of-entry for products from the middle east, Asia, Africa, and, later on, the Americas. It was through here that hundreds of thousands of people came to the UK seeking a better life for themselves. This place is saturated with history and the stories of the men and women who made Britain great. Now, it’s a bit of a mess. Granted, I may be extremely biased as Scotty and I had a pretty frustrating experience at the Border Agency office. We showed up about an hour early for our appointment and decided to see if we could get it over with. We made our way through the metal detectors at the entrance (where they made us remove the batteries from our cell phones, confiscated my camera and Scotty’s water bottle) and checked in. We entered the waiting room, which was fairly busy, and sat for about a half-an-hour when our number was called. It was only then that we were informed that their biometrics system was down and they would be unable to process anything today and we were going to have to reschedule. So…basically we’d spent $190.00 on train fare, spent 3-4 hours on the train each way, and were stuck for the rest of the day in Liverpool, for nothing. Grrr. Now we have to go to Glasgow on April 29th (yes we have to wait another 6-7 weeks to get our passports back) to try this again.
Now, Scotty and I, not knowing how long this was going to take when we booked our tickets, decided to get tickets for the early evening, thus allowing us some time to look around Liverpool before returning to Edinburgh. But now we had the whole day in front of us. Not being rabid Beatles fans we weren’t really interested in making our way out of the city center to stand on Penny Lane or Abbey Road and “The Beatles Experience” and “Beatles’ Story” museums just weren’t up our alley. I had read some good things about the Merseyside Maritime Museum and thought that Scotty would enjoy it. So we made our way over there. We passed this:
Now…I’m not a complete neaderthal when it comes to architecture. I can appreciate the forward-thinking design of the above building and see where there was an investment of time and creativity. The issue I have with such developments is the fact that beautiful, irreplaceable buildings are torn down in historic areas to make room for them, and this new design doesn’t take into account it’s surroundings. These buildings would probably look really cool somewhere else – a new city bloc in Germany or Japan. Somewhere where they fit in and enhance their surroundings. And that is exactly what I get frustrated with here in the UK. There is no thought taken for cohesion. Far too often Georgian sits next to 1960s communist bloc next to 1990s tinted glass abstraction, next to neoclassical. And the result is jarring. And that’s what Liverpool is all about. We have too much of that in Edinburgh, ie. Princes Street, but Liverpool takes the cake. You have the above development next to this:
Obviously these buildings need some TLC – they’re filthy and could stand a good scrubbing – but they have character. They also make up a “World Heritage Site” that is part a large part of Liverpool’s claim to a European Culture Capital City. Once the new development is done, it’s going to look something like this:
And the irony of the whole thing is the developers have the audacity to make the following claim – in understated Queen’s English – but audacious none-the-less:
So…now that’s I’ve gone on yet another blog-rant, here’s your chance to chime in. I’m doing my first-ever poll and would love to see what you think.
Following that we ended up at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which will overlook the Mann Island Project, and is another development that wisely used existing buildings and retrofitted them for restaurants, museums, shops, and flats. I’ll stop ranting now.
The museum is chock full of cool ship models – featuring some of the most famous ships that departed from Liverpool: the Titanic, the Lusitania, and others.
Following our tour of the museum, we wandered around Liverpool trying to decide what to do with all this time on our hands. We ended up in the Cavern District which is where the Beatles first played and began their quest for worldwide fame.
At this point – we’d walked all over the city and had run out of things we wanted to do. Our train wasn’t supposed to leave until after 7:30 and we still had a few hours to kill. We’d walked past a Wagamama’s (one of the most exciting points of our visit) and thought about sticking around and getting dinner. But on a whim we went back to the train station to see if they’d let us on an earlier train (yes, even the promise of delicious Wagammama’s food wasn’t enough to keep us there a few more hours) and were told there was a train leaving in about five minutes! We boarded and left Liverpool in the dust – probably never to return. I don’t mean to be too hard on the city – it’s a shame that a city that used to be such a vibrant, bustling place has taken such a downward turn – but Liverpool wasn’t really the sort of place that Scotty and I enjoy. Let’s just say that it made us very grateful that he’s at the University of Edinburgh, and not one of the schools in Liverpool.