Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Above Us Only Sky

21 December 2011

Liverpool’s airport is John Lennon International, and it has a cool motto: “Above us only sky.” It’s not a huge airport, and KLM’s withdrawal will probably hurt a lot (though obviously if KLM were making money on the routes, they’d continue going there, so I now feel sad for my half-full plane).
Funny bit at immigration. The guy wanted to know if I was visiting friends or family or had been to Liverpool before. I answered no to each, and I could tell that this was beginning to set off alarms. Improvising, I said, “Paul McCartney’s in town.” He asks if he’s giving a concert, and I said that he was, at Echo Arena, and that’s why I was in Liverpool. At that point, he got visibly calmer.
“Well, you’ve got lots of friends here, then, you just haven’t met them yet. At the end of the day, you’ll all be singing the same songs.”
That’s the spirit!
Because I’d been more worried about other logistics and knew that the UK had working transit systems, I hadn’t even bothered to arrange transport: I was arriving around 5 pm on a weekday and trusted to the system. Worst case, I had cash for a cab.
The airport is south of the main part of Liverpool in a district called Speke, where George Harrison and Paul McCartney grew up. In fact, they often rode the # 81 bus together. George’s father was a bus driver on that line. Guess what the first bus I saw at the airport was? Yep, good old # 81. I’m not much of a trivia nut about these things, but I’d been reading up about the early Beatles history in Liverpool in preparation, so it just felt like that extra bit of welcoming context.
The right bus for me was # 500. While I was waiting for the bus, one of the staff asked where I was going, and I told him where. He gave me a tourist map, told me it was close to the Baltic Fleet pub (which it is), and that it’s the Campanile exit.
For £2.80, the bus took me and my luggage to that stop. I’m staying at the Hampton Inn, which is a couple of blocks south from the Albert Dock than the Hilton, but it’s half the money and includes free breakfast and free internet (and the Hilton does not). In fact, given the prices for breakfast and internet at UK hotels, it’s practically like getting the room for free.
The Campanile stop was a couple of blocks further south than the Hampton, so it looked like it wasn’t anywhere near the tourist sites like I was hoping, but it became obvious, once I walked toward the hotel, that I was closer than I’d thought.
Because I’m a Hilton Gold member, everything was ready when I got there, and my concert ticket had arrived and were in the hotel safe. After a moment of confusion when the clerk couldn’t find the envelope, he did and all was well. I was off to my room in no time, this time with a much more local map and a few restaurant suggestions. Sadly, the prime suggestion was Italian; a) I’m celiac so Italian’s rarely a good choice; b) I’m heading to Italy soon, so I’ll save my Italian dining for that part of the trip.
Hampton Inns tend to be fairly minimalist, but this one may be more minimalist than others. The room’s small, but not uncomfortably so, but there’s a complete dearth of drawers here. Still, there’s enough room for me, my luggage, and it has working internet. My only real complaint is that there’s very sheer sheers and venetian blinds, so there’s no way of getting a mix of privacy and the ability to see out. I like to be able to wake up to natural light and it’s just not possible in this room.
With the blinds open, my room has a view of Albert dock and the Echo Arena Big Wheel, a 60-meter Ferris wheel that can, on clear days, see to Wales. Thus far, there have been no clear days, but I’m hopeful that one of my remaining days turns out to be a good one for visibility. If so, I’ll go up on it during daylight hours.
First, though, it was time to forage for food. In this Merseyside area, there’s two main areas for dinner: the Albert Dock, which tends to have the trendier restaurants, and Liverpool One, which is a bus depot and shopping area. The first place I found where it looked like there was something reasonably affordable (given UK food prices) that I could eat was the Pump House Pub, which had the following advantages: 1) it’s a real pub! In England! 2) in a historic building; 3) food/price.
I put on my vest, coat, hat, gloves, jacket, and shawl and headed forth, and was miserable by the time I got there. It’s almost a kilometer of walking and, once you get to Albert Dock, it’s really rough stone road that’s just unlevel enough to be unkind to knees like mine. Plus, I was tired and sore from travel and wanted to go to bed, but I knew I’d be hungry at some impossible hour when I couldn’t get decent food at a price I’d be willing to pay. Besides, there’s no better way to train your body to a time zone than to feed it when it’s supposed to want to eat.
I had a burger, which was tasty but dry, and they had a gluten-free lemon flourless cake with a lemon and raspberry sauce. Topping the whole thing off was a gravy boat of double creme. Zomg, so good.
After that, I was pretty much done for that evening, so I went to bed. Sadly, I kept waking up every hour or two, my body completely confused by the time.
Coming up next: Tuesday, aka Concert Day

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