This post comes a day late because at the end of the last, I anticipated that today would be slow. After a long week with lots of traveling, reading, discussion, walking, and little sleep to make up for it all, I decided to sleep in today. That is not to say that I did not go on another fun adventure, it was perhaps just more calm than the rest so far.
Yesterday was an absolute and unexpected treat. Earlier in the week, the Fulbright program informed us that we would be traveling to Liverpool for the day. In years past this trip served a purpose specific to the course, which used to be a course about cities in the UK, but this year it lasted as more of a fun day out because it had apparently been very fun in the past, and indeed it was yesterday.
The other Fulbrighters and I, after getting slightly lost in the Underground Tube station, frantically took the Northern Line up to Euston station and got ready to board a two hour train to Liverpool with our Fulbright mentors Jason and Marta. The train ride gave a glorious view of the English country side, and Jason informed us about the green ring around London – a preserved space to allow the country side to stay free of the industrial monster that London has become. The sights certainly benefitted from the ordinance because all at once, at some point we crossed through a particular line and there was nothing but green pastures. The train ride was filled with good conversation, mostly about differences between the US and UK.
I expect everyone who has heard of Liverpool has some kind of image in their mind of what it is like. I knew it was the cradle of the Beatles, and my image was somewhat fuzzy and foggy, in a very literal sense. I imagined cold concrete buildings and industrial smog everywhere – and though we arrived on a particularly beautiful day, everything about the city absolutely shattered my expectations. Liverpool is so much more than its reputation of having housed 4 particular musicians. My experience of the city was crescendoed throughout the day. We grabbed a quick lunch at the train station to be eaten on the roman inspired steps of their art museum. It was obvious right out of the train station that the city had once been a place of great influence, of power and money. Unfortunately, the part that was particularly clear was that this time of influence was long ago. Time seemed to gather and lay on the galant architecture and made it seem very distant. We made our way to the docks of the city, and I noticed that though the city was old and a remnant of itself, it had a hearty pulse. The streets moved casually, and there were people on every block, but the bustle and the hurry of London was very far away. The view of the river from the docks was spectacular and blinding. We took in the sights of this old part of town before a meeting that at the time I did not know many details of. I wandered into the Liverpool City Museum and learned about some of this port city’s rich history – its part in the establishment of the Slave trade, its construction and sending off of the Titanic, and the circumstances that lead to its eventual, and hard, downfall.
When it was time to gather for our meeting, I followed our group to the Town Hall, we discovered that our reception was apparently no small matter. I was very honored to see our group proudly displayed on a screen that documented the Town Hall’s major events for the day, and I was wholly shocked to know that our meeting was with the very city planner of Liverpool. He gave us a very detailed lecture about the history of the city for about an hour, and then the city planner himself showed us outside and toured us through the rest of the city.
This tour is the crescendo that I was referring to earlier. He took us past more ancient buildings, he showed us the most frequented Beatles Fans tourist spots, and then he pointed out an area of the city dubbed Liverpool one. It had a few shops and about a hundred people and he told us about how it was the prime example of how Liverpool was alive again. I was impressed because it definitely did bring significant life to the town. It wasn’t until a few moments when I passed through an A shaped alleyway into the actual Liverpool One what he was actually referring to: I found myself at the bottom of an artificial canyon, natural in design and modern in its facility. There were thousands on each floor all the way up to the top, where, because this was like an outdoor megamall, there was a park on the roof. My sense of elevation was gone because this structure gave no indication of whether it was a valley with a crevice, or a mountain with a crack. It was very fantastical in this way, and the sun shone on the many shops and restaurants, along with the piano players in the street. The city planner took us proudly through this area, and left us again along the water. It was our time to explore again, and we thanked him heartily for the privilege.
While most of the group split off to go see some of the museums, Alex and myself wanted to go see more of Liverpool One. We did eventually make it there to see the Sony Photography museum, the Lego store, and more architecture, but just as we left for it a moment of perfect timing brought us to see something that made my day even more perfect:
(The orange group at 1:25 in the second video is my favorite – was dancing right along so the video may be shaky)
As a long time marching band member and musician, this was an experience that I was hoping for but did not think I would get a chance to have. I’ve often wondered what the differences between parades and marching bands in the US and UK are, and although these were obviously informal performance groups and comparisons are hard to make, one thing that I can point out is that these people marched up and down unblocked streets alongside cars and buses with only a handful of policemen to watch. With the ‘health and safety’ stereotype that England has, I was very surprised to see that.
The day ended great food and a great view. We went to a Brazilian restaurant perched at the top of the market-crevice and scarfed our food in order to make our train back to London. I slept most of the way back, as did the rest of our group. It was then straight off to bed for all of us.
Today, as I said before was mostly uneventful. I rose late, I made my way to a Greggs for morning lunch, and then I spent about 5 hours walking down the Thames river. I made my way toward Borough Market, a spectacle like I’ve never seen before. I had forgotten my cash at my apartment and so was not able to take in the dozens of baked goods and sweets stands. The food there was very enticing, but I tore myself away to go take a short trip to the Tower of London and across the Tower Bridge. The Tower was very crowded today and tours are expensive so I was happy to take pictures of the location from the outside. I was hoping for a less hustled tourist experience today anyway, and I gladly did.
Tomorrow will likely be another slow day. I plan to wake late again because I know I will have rare opportunities to next week, and I’d like to visit a quaint cafe I read about online in the morning.