Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My favorite cities : Liverpool

I am sure that you all have a favorite city in the world. Might be your hometown, the one you married in, your grandparents’, your childhood’s, or wherever else. So, if you do, you clearly feel connected with this city and the meaning of “feeling like home”. For me, feeling like home involves three places in the world : Saint-Martial Viveyrols (Dordogne, France), London (UK) & Liverpool (UK). I like others places too such as Dingle (Co.Kerry, Ireland), Firenze (Italy), Paris (France), New York (USA) and Marseilles (France), but I don’t fit in them. I like being there, spending time there, visiting and enjoying my friends and just living there, but I don’t feel them. I don’t fall for them.

So, one of my true loving cities is Liverpool. When it comes to Liverpool, people use to associate two words : The Beatles & Football (soccer). For me, Liverpool is just a splendid place, a vibrant city and somewhere I belong.

It is obvious that Liverpool is special to my heart due to personal circumstances and to a certain person (and the love story affiliated with). But before that romantic link, Liverpool was already in my life. The first time I’d heard from it was when my grandfather and uncle were watching a football game with Liverpool F.C, late 70’s. The TV report before the game featured the city and the “The Beatles” area. I was surprised by such lovely places. It might have been darker and grey (due to the idea of Northern UK), but it was the brightest for me. I don’t know why but I loved this place at once and it’s never stopped so far.

Liverpool is conjuring up images of a famous maritime history, world-beating musical heritage, Premiership’s biggest football teams (Liverpool F.C & Everton) and two majestically different Cathedrals.  Its culture and heritage are multi. The city has a glorious past as a mercantile center and gateway to the New World. Nowadays, it is a key destination for art lovers, fans of the theatres and museum goers. There are numerous permanent art attractions. Here are my favorites places up there :

-          The Walker Art Gallery (as known as the National Gallery of the North) includes Hockney, Degas, Turner and Rembrandt paintings (1st floor).
-          World Museum Liverpool (formerly known as Liverpool Museum) has fascinating exhibitions, including World Cultures, the Bug House, an Aquarium, the Weston Discovery Centre and Clore Natural History Centre.
-          The spectacular new Museum of Liverpool is totally devoted to the history of a regional city, demonstrating Liverpool’s unique contribution to the world, also the largest newly-built national museum in Britain for more than a century.
-          The Merseyside Maritime Museum is a place to visit. Set sail and drop anchor for a fun day out at this museum which exposes varied collections that reflect the seafaring importance of the city as a gateway to the world. Based in the Albert Dock, this shipshape museum is beautiful and so interesting to attend to.
-          The Victoria Gallery & Museum is a piece of art in itself. Totally renovated, this gothic building houses the University of Liverppol’s amazing collection of fine art, silver, furniture, sculpture, ceramics, fossils and scientific equipment.
-          Back when Birkenhead was a pioneering industrial town, it was the first in Europe to adopt a street tramway which ceased operating in 1937 and revived in 1995. The travel on one of a series of historic vehicles is quite an amazing experience.

Of course, you need to tour the city following the path of The Beatles. You have to. It is an obligation whenever you visit Liverpool for the first time. It’s funny, amusing and quite familiar.

Apart from The Beatles, many bands perform every night and are quite exciting to discover. Local famous musicians are The Coral, The Rascals, Alexis Blue, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Sugababes, George Harrison & Atomic Kitten.

Then, the Liverpool Philharmonic (Liverpool Phil) is the oldest surviving professional symphony orchestra and the second concert-giving organization in the UK, founded by Liverpool music lovers in 1840 and has been the center of Liverpool’s cultural life ever since. It’s magic !

Not going to a football game should be a pity ! Choice is yours. You can either go to support Liverpool Football Club (The Reds), which is a legend and its famous and speechless stadium “Anfield”, or support Everton, in its Goodison Park stadium.

Whatever you decide to do, you have to walk through the Stanley Park (a very gorgeous one) which is in the middle between the both stadiums ! Nevertheless to say, that my heart belongs to The Reds since 1977.

Talking about parks, two others parks deserve a visit : Calderstones Park (along with Harthill Botanical Gardens with almost 4,000 species of plants on display) is named after the ancient megaliths situated in the park, supposedly older than Stonehenge ;

 and Sefton Park which is arguably the best known and most loved by inhabitants. The magnificent 200 acre Park looks like a natural landscape. In spring time, you can see thousand of golden daffodils around the lake draw residents from across the city and carpets of bluebells.

You also have to go to The Wirral Peninsula which is placed between the River Dee and the River Mersey, overlooking both the Welsh Hills and the Liverpool skyline. Wirral is the ideal location to get away from the area and well-know to get the finest restaurants and food producers in the Northwest. Visit the lighthouses and especially the Bidston and Hoylake ones.

You might want to have lunch and dinner and taste some famous cuisine. Tasting the fabled Scouse (a form of Lamb stew served with red cabbage or beetroot) or Southport’s renowned potted shrimps and the Wirral Peninsula’s asparagus is quite an obvious fact. One of the most popular restaurant housed at the 60 Hope Street, located in the Creative quarter, link between the two Cathedrals and home to the Royal Philharmonic Hall and the The Everyman Theater, close to the local Universities.  The meals are made from the freshest in-season ingredients from local suppliers and the menus inspired by the regional products.

Then, the accent is quite another particularity of the place.  Scouse is notable in some circumstances for a fast accented manner of speech with falling tones. Scouse was commonly link to the 19th people whom ate “Scouse” (stew) such as local Dockers, families and sailors, whom became known as “scousers”. Inhabitants of Liverpool are called Liverpudlians but are more often described as “Scousers”. People of outside of Merseyside who do not speak scouse are frequently referred to as “woolybacks” or “wools”.

I don’t know if I ever give you any interest to go and visit Liverpool, but you should travel up there. Liverpool is a surprising city despite of all people have heard or thought about it. It is obviously never what you are expecting it to be. 

Like or loathe it, I may add. 

I belong here !