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A BEATLES TOUR OF LIVERPOOL
by Ted Cookson
Published in June 2011
Paul McCartney's childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool, 36-second video clip
John Halliday, a McCartney lookalike and former custodian and guide at 20 Forthlin Road, 68-second video clip
George Harrison's childhood home at 12 Arnold Grove in Liverpool, 25-second video clip
"Beatles Magical Mystery Tour" guide Neil Brannan is interviewed by a Dutch video journalist, 165-second video clip
Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit that I have been a fan of The Beatles for nearly 45 years. As a teenager, my father used to yell at me to “turn that noise down,” while nowadays I recognize those same lovely Beatles melodies as elevator music in what seems like every corner of the globe.
On 9 February 1964 at nearly 13 years of age I recall being unimpressed by The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on the U. S. national television network CBS. As I look back at that early performance, though, I imagine the reason for my lack of interest was that no one watching TV that evening could possibly have appreciated the group’s music with all those young girls who were screaming their lungs out in the studio. However, by five years later, during my final year of high school, not only had I purchased most of The Beatles’ record albums, but I had also memorized practically all the lyrics. As one song finished playing, I could always begin humming the beginning bars of the next song even before it had begun. In short, I had become a big Beatles fan.
Now fast forward more than three decades into the future. By this time I had purchased those same albums as CDs in order to listen to them on my computer and on my iPod. In the early 2000s it was quite by chance that I happened to find myself in London with a spare day and decided to take what turned out to be a very enjoyable Beatles-themed walking tour. That fascinating London walk, led by the fact-filled Richard Porter, founder of the former London Beatles Fan Club and author of “Guide to The Beatles’ London,” included such sights as the Apple offices where the Fab Four’s rooftop session took place and Abbey Road Studios with the famous crosswalk nearby.
It was only after my fun London walking tour that I came up with the idea to make a Beatles pilgrimage to Liverpool, and finally I found a chance to do just that in 2010 between two meetings I was scheduled to attend in London.
Liverpool, the United Kingdom’s seventh-largest port in terms of tonnage, and, with a population of 435,000, England’s fourth-largest city, is certainly cashing in on Beatles-themed tourism today. A visitor could fly into Liverpool John Lennon Airport and stay at A Hard Day’s Night Hotel, a unique 4-star boutique property. However, it is more likely that one would take the train up from London, arriving in about 2 ½ hours, and stay at a hotel where the cheapest room was a bit less than A Hard Day’s Night Hotel’s GBP 130 minimum midweek rate for a double without breakfast in mid-June 2011.
Several super attractions are on offer to Beatles fans who visit Liverpool. The Beatles Story is an artifact-filled museum at the Albert Dock which details the group’s meteoric rise to fame. Admission includes entrance to an exhibition space a ten-minute walk or a brief shuttle ride away at the pier head in the Mersey Ferry Terminal..
The Cavern Club, the legendary cellar venue played by The Beatles in the early 1960s, is also worth a visit; especially since daytime admission is free. The club, which currently features some three dozen live entertainment acts a week, was demolished in 1973 and then reconstructed in the mid-1980s with many of the same bricks used in the original building. Opposite the Cavern Club is a statue of John Lennon which was unveiled by rocker Billy J. Kramer in 1997. Nearby on Mathew Street one can find a plentiful supply of Beatles souvenirs at A Hard Day’s Night Shop, which claims to have the world’s greatest range of rock and pop memorabilia.
The very worthwhile two-hour Magical Mystery Tour coach tours pass by the childhood homes of all four Beatles. The excellent tour guides reveal entertaining tidbits while pointing out such sites as Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. This tour is a no-brainer because, conveniently, it begins near The Beatles Story and concludes at the Cavern Club.
The National Trust operates two-hour small group tours by minibus which visit only John Lennon’s house, Mendips, and Paul McCartney’s home at 20 Forthlin Road. It is fascinating to see the interiors of the modest digs where these two famous songwriters grew up. On my tour I learned that John Lennon’s auntie sometimes slept in a small room off the kitchen because she had to rent out her own bedroom to student boarders in order to earn enough to pay the mortgage. I was also amazed to learn that the house that Paul McCartney lived in as a boy had a second loo out back! If one wants to enter inside these residences, there is no other way than by booking with the National Trust. The Lennon and McCartney homes are lived in by National Trust custodians who conduct this excellent tour.
For those with the time and interest, a visit to Liverpool could be rounded out with a ride on a ferry across the River Mersey. Rock and roll enthusiasts will remember “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” the 1964 tune made famous by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Mersey Ferries offer a range of river services, and visitors will find themselves at the pier head in the Mersey Ferry Terminal anyway when they visit The Beatles Story’s exhibition space.
These tours can and should be booked online well in advance of arrival both to save time when in Liverpool and to guarantee availability at the times desired. This is particularly true for the National Trust’s “The Beatles’ Childhood Homes” minibus tour.
For family members without an interest in rock and roll history, there is also plenty to take in. The Museum of Liverpool, telling the story of the city through diverse exhibits, will open in its stunning new landmark building on 19 July 2011. The city boasts half a dozen other free museums, including World Museum Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House. As was sung by Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in Liverpool “… a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”
Round trip airfare from Cairo to London begins at EGP 2,735 on British Midland which offers daily nonstop service. This compares with the lowest round trip airfare from Cairo to Liverpool which begins at EGP 3,575. KLM flies daily via Amsterdam.
London Walks: http://www.walks.com
Beatles enthusiast Richard Porter: http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Liverpool John Lennon Airport: http://www.liverpoolairport.com
A Hard Day’s Night Hotel: http://www.harddaysnighthotel.com
England rail schedules and fares: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk
The Beatles Story (museum): http://www.beatlesstory.com
The Cavern Club: http://www.cavernclub.org
A Hard Day’s Night Shop: http://www.harddaysnightshop.com/harddaysnightshop
Magical Mystery Tour (coach tour): http://www.beatlestour.org
National Trust “The Beatles’ Childhood Homes” minibus tour: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-mendips
Mersey Ferries: http://merseyferries.co.uk
Liverpool Museums: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol
ABOUT TED COOKSON: Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world! He has also visited 315 of the 320 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club). A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi. Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at: Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301. Fax 2359-1199. E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: www.eptours.com.
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