Almost to the end now! The list is getting long:
Chapter 8: Let it be
The bus ride from London to Liverpool was five hours long. Five hours doesn’t seem like a particularly long time to travel, to me, because the bus ride to my college was six hours and I enjoyed it every time. I like looking out the window and letting my thoughts wander, having nothing I have to do and no one to answer to for a stretch of time. These long rides in Britain were especially nice because we stopped at rest areas and got out for twenty minutes, which we never did on the way to school. Yasamin and I usually listened to music or read; I listened to my audiobook, Nation, to avoid getting motion sick, and she read Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, which was appropriate because it’s about England.
When we arrived at the train station, Liverpool Lime Street, things got… complicated. While booking our hotels I had received an e-mail from Expedia confirming my upcoming travel to Haydock, UK. Haydock? What? Where is that, anyway? I double-checked the hotel reservations and realized that, in a fit of illiterate haste, I had booked one fourteen miles outside of Liverpool, in a small town called Haydock. The reservations were non-refundable.
Yasamin was a great sport about this, perhaps because I felt terrible and apologized profusely and repeatedly. We decided to just find out what happened when we got there. If necessary, we would check into another hotel and I would calmly let the money go.
At the ticket booth we asked how to get to Haydock. The closest stop was in St. Helens, a slightly larger town near Haydock, so we bought tickets and got on the train to St. Helens Junction. The trip was about twenty minutes and when we got off the train, we felt like we were in a ghost town. The platform was out in the middle of nowhere; it seemed abandoned, but there was one ticket agent who told us that we should have gone to St. Helens Central, not Junction.
Choosing to be amused and undeterred instead of frustrated, we used our return ticket to Liverpool and bought a new ticket to St. Helens Central, which was just beyond the Junction and looked much more alive and much less eerie. From St. Helens we took a taxi to the hotel, a Ramada Encore.
After all the time it took to get there, we were grateful to find that the hotel was normal and nice. We had a view across the parking lot of a pub that looked promising, so we headed over, joking about how long and arduous our walk was. At the pub, Lymewood Farm, we had American food for the first time in a couple of weeks: I had barbecue chicken and Yasamin had a bacon cheeseburger. I had not really missed American food, but it was fun to feel like it was something new and exciting.
The next morning I wrote an e-mail to my mom, telling her, “It hasn’t rained at all except that one time in Glasgow. I’m glad I didn’t try to bring my big umbrella for nothing!” One of my very favorite belongings is my umbrella, a hunter green GustBuster classic with a curved wooden handle. Because it is a cane-style umbrella instead of a folding compact, it was much too long to fit into my carry-on (I don’t check luggage) and I had to leave it at home.
Little did I know that this innocent line in an e-mail was foreshadowing.
We took the train back to Liverpool in the morning and started walking toward the docks, knowing that the Beatles museum was near Albert Dock. We found one of my favorite city things: a walking street, designed for people and closed to cars. I can’t help but feel that this is how streets are supposed to be. We had breakfast at Burger King, being rather desperate to eat and choosing the first place we found. Burger King and McDonald’s were better in England, but they were still fast food.
The museum, called The Beatles Story, was a trip through time and space, showing the journey of the band from childhood onward by recreating important places in their history, such as the street outside the Cavern Club, where we could hear music coming through a cellar door, and the recording studio at Abbey Road with its shelves of records including such genres as Instrumental, Country, and Presley. In a room full of televisions and mirrors showing screaming, crying, fainting fans we experienced Beatlemania; in a yellow submarine with psychadelic lights, live fish, and strange colorful cartoons we experienced their more experimental period. At the end of the journey was a white room with a piano dedicated to John’s “Imagine.”
There is a Cavern-style Starbucks in the museum, and we stayed there for a little while after we finished. I had caramel hot chocolate, the same thing I got when we went to Starbucks in San Diego, and Yasamin used the wireless internet on her phone. Then we went out and wandered along the docks for a while, walking or sitting on benches and looking at the clouds.
When it was time for dinner we headed for Mathew Street to find the Cavern, thinking that we would get something to eat in the area and listen to some live music, but it was much too crowded for our taste and the music was much too loud so we returned to the hotel. Since we had basically figured out where the buses went we chose to take the bus instead of a taxi from St. Helens to Haydock, and while we were walking, the sky decided that it had been quite kind enough and it was done with this sun nonsense. Within a couple minutes we were soaked through.
We took refuge in a KFC, dried ourselves off a little bit in the bathroom, and called a taxi. While we waited we watched the torrential downpour; with a smirk I remembered the e-mail I’d sent that morning. It was all right, though, because lightning began flickering in the sky a moment later, and I wouldn’t want to be carrying an umbrella in that.
At the hotel we changed and went down to the lobby to have some sandwiches for dinner. To go with our sandwiches we ordered the drink special, Bailey’s lattes, just because. They were good, but I would have preferred that it taste less like coffee. Leave it to me to order a latte and be disappointed that it tastes like coffee. Before we went to bed we turned on the TV just to see what was on, and we found that A Hard Day’s Night — my favorite Beatles movie — was playing. This was so appropriate that we had to watch it.
The next day we returned to Liverpool to visit the second half of the Beatles museum, but first we had an early lunch in a pub called Doctor Duncan’s. I had a ham steak called Gammon with pineapple, and we tried every kind of sauce in the basket on the table: mayonnaise, the mysterious and aptly-named “brown sauce,” vinegar, ketchup, and spicy English mustard, which was very good on the ham.
On our way to the museum we stopped by a Krispy Kreme cart and got fancy chocolatey doughnuts, which we ate while we walked. I can refuse many different types of sweets, but I have a difficult time refusing doughtnuts — and why would I want to?
The second part of the museum changes periodically; when we were there, it was an exhibit about John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, and his son, Julian. I didn’t even know that he had a wife before Yoko Ono, so most of the story was new to me. My favorite part was when Paul McCartney came to visit Cynthia and Julian after John left them, and while he was driving he wrote a song for Julian that went, “Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better…” Because Paul changed the name in the song, Julian had no idea that it was for him until much later. After we left the museum we went to see the European Peace Monument, which is a tribute to John and has instruments and birds entwined with a peace symbol.
It was our last night in Liverpool, so when we returned to the hotel we watched the movie I’d brought along, Across the Universe, a musical that uses all Beatles songs to tell a story. It was a fitting way to end the Beatles-fest that our Liverpool trip had been.
(Read Chapter 9!)
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