Travel Report: The Liverpool Waterfront, England.
The Liverpool Waterfront.
May 2019. The sun had come out for my first afternoon in Liverpool. After our relaxing Ferry Cross the Mersey River Cruise, Steppers and I realised we were now in the perfect spot for some exploring across the waterfront itself.
First though, it was time to kick back with some beers at Pan Matou Asian Restaurant. This swanky eatery sits just above The Mersey Ferries office at Pier Head. With no interest in dining, we headed straight for the rooftop terrace to soak up more of that sweet sunshine.
The terrace offers decent views of the Mersey in one direction, while behind us there were choice angles of both The Royal Liver Building and The Port of Liver Building. Those beers certainly went down well, thus we soon felt ready to return to ground level and see what Liverpool’s famous waterfront had to offer.
Packed with award-winning museums, sculptures, art installations, war monuments and restored Victorian warehouses, Liverpool’s handsome waterfront boasts the UK’s largest number of Grade I listed buildings. All of which contributed to Liverpool being crowned European City of Culture back in 2008.
The Liverpool Waterfront.
Our first stop came at the larger than life Beatles Statue, literally just a dozen steps from the Mersey Ferries terminal. Created by the sculptor Andrew Edwards, they arrived in December 2015 to mark fifty years since The Fab Four played their last gig in the city.
According to the artist, his intention was to show the boys in a fully relaxed state, wandering the streets of Liverpool at a time before they’d become global megastars.
Moreover, he used the hit movie Hard Days Night to capture certain movements and positions. Indeed there are some wonderfully authentic details, such as Lennon’s 1950s winkle-pickers and Paul’s Kodak camera bag.
A short while later we came upon another statue. This one depicts Captain Frederic John Walker, a Royal Navy officer celebrated for his heroic work in the Second World War.
They say Walker sank more German U-boats than any other commander. This tied in nicely with our earlier visit to the U-Boat Story Museum, where we’d seen the grizzled remains of the fearsome German submarine U-534.
Tragically, it was a combination of overwork and exhaustion that ended Walker’s life suddenly in 1944. Having suffered a cerebral thrombosis, he died at the Naval Hospital in Southport aged 48. His statue joined The Liverpool Waterfront in 1998 in a ceremony led by Prince Philip.
Walker’s statue is just one of a dozen World War memorials at Pier Head. With all my years spent living in and travelling around China, I was fascinated to see this plaque dedicated to the Chinese seamen who served Britain in both World Wars.
What To See & Do, Liverpool.
The memorial also serves as an official apology for a huge injustice placed upon some of these men. I hadn’t been aware of the story, but many of the Chinese war heroes suffered forced repatriation after the government decided their numbers were too great. In some cases families were split up, with not so much as an explanation for wives wondering what had happened to their husbands.
Another memorial, just steps away, remembers the tragic sinking of S.S. Arandora. The British passenger ship was on its way to Canada when she was struck by a German U-boat. 805 people died in the attack, including a small number of German prisoners of war.
Making our way from Pier Head towards The Royal Albert Dock, Steppers and I made moved through the waterfront’s charming passage of love locks.
Couples come to leave the locks as a gesture of love, commitment and an unbreakable bond. The tradition dates back to World War I when the city’s girlfriends, wives and mothers believed a lock with their loved one’s name on it would protect them while they were away fighting.
Wherever you are on the waterfront, you simply cannot miss the sleek Museum of Liverpool, the UK’s largest newly-built National Museum in over 100 years.
Opened in 2011 at a cost of £72 million, its striking exterior is a tourist attraction in its own right. During my stay in Liverpool, I was lucky enough to spend several hours inside exploring the outstanding Double Fantasy – John & Yoko Exhibition.
The Liverpool Waterfront.
Have you heard about the Liverpool sculpture SuperLambBanana? It was created by the Japanese artist Taro Chiezo as a half lamb, half banana beast. This was Chiezo’s statement on the dangers of genetic engineering. Why a half-lamb, half banana? Because back in the day they were both common cargos at Liverpool’s docks.
Steppers and I didn’t get to see the original SuperLambBanana, but we did check out several replicas from a staggering 150 scattered around the city. This one is a tribute to numerous Liverpool rock bands, including Echo & The Bunnymen, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Mighty Wah!
Yet another Liverpool Waterfront sculpture is The Carters Working Horse Monument. It’s a tip of the hat to those heroic horses who once tirelessly carted goods to and from the docks to businesses all over the city. They also played a huge role in keeping Liverpool’s economy going during The Second World War.
I would imagine that most visitors to Liverpool have never even heard of Billy Fury. And yet this Liverpool born rock and roll singer equalled The Beatles’ record of 24 hit songs throughout the 1960s. With a carefully curated Elvis Presley look and a similarly hip-swivelling stage act, Fury became a much-loved son of Liverpool.
Sadly his life was cut short in 1983 at the age of forty two. Fury, whose real name was Ronald Wycherley, had returned home for a recording session when he collapsed from a heart attack. His Liverpool statue, unveiled in 2003, stands a short distance from The Tate.
The Royal Albert Dock.
At last Steppers and I reached The Royal Albert Dock, an exceptionally attractive complex of restored dock buildings. Opened in 1846, this was Britain’s first group of dock structures made purely from cast iron, brick and stone. Yup, no structural wood at all.
Prior to World War II , Albert Dock was home to the world’s first hydraulic cranes. Furthermore, it had the largest stores of brandy, cotton, tea, silk, tobacco and sugar in Europe. During The Second World War, the Royal Navy moved in and used the docks as a base for ships of The British Atlantic Fleet.
The docks sustained considerable damage from air raids during the war. Later, throughout the 50s and 60s, the area stagnated. Then, in 1972, Albert Dock closed and lay derelict for almost a decade.
A huge redevelopment project kicked off in 1981, which initially lasted three years. Expansion continued well into the late 90s and beyond, with the opening of restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and high-end apartments. In 2018 Queen Elizabeth wagged her magic finger and, ta dah, the word royal was added to its title. Grabbing a drink and/or a bite here is an essential part of any Liverpool stay. For a full overview of dining options, click here.
The Liverpool Waterfront.
If like me you’ve got an incurable sweet tooth, don’t miss Albert Dock’s Quay Confectionery. Most of their chocolate, fudge, biscuits and even tea come with a British/Beatles design. Sweet tooth or not, it’s worth stopping by simply to see the amazing Beatles mural in the window. Yes, it’s constructed entirely from jellybeans!
Next door, one can also pop into Liverpool Pictures, an independent art gallery. They have an extensive range of historical prints, as well as originals. These guys have been here since 1991 and pride themselves on championing artists either from Liverpool or now living in the area.
Finally, it was worth taking the short walk down to Hartley Quay for a look at one of Liverpool’s most traditional pubs. The Pumphouse, built in 1874, was the first hydraulic system to serve the docks.
They offer classic British dishes, while real ale dominates the drinks menu. A fine end to an amazing day discovering Liverpool’s unmissable waterfront.
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