My husband was born in Liverpool three years into World War Two, grew up in Bootle down by the docks and, yes, his religion was Catholic. He would take the iconic green double-decker bus into Liverpool to attend St. Francis Xavier's College, and spent the 6th Form, the last two years of his secondary school education, studying (a little) and girl-watching (a lot) in the Picton Reading room (now refurbished) at the Central Library, one of the many beautiful but almost black Victorian buildings that graced the city centre.
Returning in 2006, after a more than twenty-year absence, he found Liverpool designated as
European City of Culture for 2008 and preparing to welcome the world. He was "gob smacked" to discover that the grimy Victorian buildings of his adolescence had been sandblasted and were splendidly clean, architectural gems, and that Liverpool's historic but neglected waterfront around the Albert Dock had been transformed in the 1980s into a vibrant mixture of shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, offices, apartments and museums.
Today the Albert Dock is the most popular free tourist attraction in the Northwest of England. To the north of the Albert Dock is the Pier Head from which ferries across the
River Mersey (albeit much less than in my childhood) still depart and which was once the last glimpse of European soil for millions of migrants heading to the
"New World." This part of the waterfront is still dominated by the "Three Graces", imposing Edwardian buildings (no longer begrimed): the Port of Liverpool Building, the Cunard Building and the Royal Liver Building which is topped by Liverpool's symbol, the legendary Liver Bird.
The Albert Dock, the largest single collection of Grade 1 listed buildings in the UK, is home to Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum (all free) and The Beatles Story that are housed in some of the impressively refurbished five-storey warehouses. A short walk away is the recently opened Museum of Liverpool on the adjacent waterfront area still known as Mann Island.
The only museum on the waterfront we did not visit this time was Tate Liverpool although I have frequented it in the past. Home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the North of England, it is one of the most visited galleries outside of London. Entrance is free and admission prices for special exhibits are published on the Tate Liverpool website. In recent years, I have enjoyed the Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso retrospectives. The museum welcomes the exhibit Chagall: Modern Master from 8 June - 6 October 2013.
Finally, fascinating transatlantic links to the American Civil War, courtesy of the Liverpool Museums! Who would have thought that to avoid being tried as pirates in a Union court, the officers and crew of the
CSS Shenandoah, the last Confederate ship to surrender, would sail into Liverpool on November 6 1865 and be paroled by the British government? Britain, of course, had been officially neutral during the war, but Liverpool had strong political and financial reasons to support and supply the Confederacy. Blockades of the Southern ports by the Union Navy caused a "cotton famine" that had serious repercussions for the port of Liverpool and mills of Lancashire. Hardly surprising, therefore, that Confederate blockade-runners and naval cruisers were secretly built in the Merseyside shipyards.
Albert Dock pics courtesy of Google Images|