It was a late summer afternoon, toward the end of the school holidays, the kids were beginning to bicker due to boredom, a sure sign that it was time to get them out for half an hour. After going through the usual suspects of the park and the cinema, we decided to take them on the Liverpool City Sightseeing Tour Bus.
Having lived in and around the city all of our lives, we realised that we had never explored Liverpool as a tourist. We had done a similar thing in Barcelona once and thought that was fantastic. The ability to hop on and off the bus all day at the major attractions of the city was brilliant but surely the Liverpool Tour couldn’t compare? With a little bit of scepticism and limited expectations, we set off into the city.
The tour bus departs from Canada Boulevard at the Pier Head, right in front of the ‘Three Graces’ (the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building). It was 4:45pm, and we were aiming to get onto the last tour of that day, due to depart at 5pm. When we arrived, a bus was already in place and so we got on. Greeted politely by the driver, we were told that we would be getting on another bus due in ten minutes. In the meantime we could wait on this one.
To our amazement while we were waiting, the bus driver began to impart a number of facts about Canada Boulevard and the buildings that sit at the Pier Head.
- The Liver Birds that sit on the Royal Liver Building are both 18ft high and have a wingspan of 12ft;
- The Cunard Building was based on a design that was entered for an architects competition to design the Liverpool Cathedral;
- The Maple Trees recently planted to commemorate the city’s historical ties with Canada are a more hardy variety to replace the original ones that died.
It became evident very quickly that although many people live in cities all of their lives, few are likely to know much about where they are living.
The new bus arrived right on cue and we quickly transferred to it’s open top upper deck. Luckily for us it was a sunny end to the day but we all wondered whether it would be quite so pleasant in November.
The bus set off and the one thing that struck me straight away was that the commentary was broadcast through speakers in English and there were’t any headphones. The European Capital of Culture 2008 being awarded to Liverpool has definitely increased the volume of foreign visitors to the city and I couldn’t help thinking, would I have thought that the Barcelona tour was fantastic had it only broadcast it’s commentary in Spanish? Without headphones, wind and road noise definitely impacted on our ability to hear the commentary.
The bus proceeded up Chapel Street with St Nicholas Church on the right hand side. Reference was made to a statue in the garden of the church of a child holding up an aeroplane, commemorating the bombing of the city during the Second World War. We must have passed that church thousands of times and had never seen the statue before, let alone known what it was for.
On the top of the bus, we were now seeing the city from above ground. Liverpool has the most listed buildings of any UK city outside London. However, the most interesting architectural detail is toward the top of the buildings and how often do you look up when you are walking along the street? It was amazing to see some of the detail in the old buildings that is unlikely to be replicated again in future developments.
Moving up Tithebarn Street past the fabulous Mercury Court building on the left, we turned right to view one of the highlights of the tour for the kids; an amazing piece of modern art called Turning the Place Over, opposite Moorfields station. Created by sculptor Richard Wilson, a large circular hole has been cut from the front of a derelict building and is then rotated through all dimensions on a mechanical pivot. There until the end of 2008 this spectacular sight is a must see for any visitor to Liverpool.
From there we moved onto Dale Street, site of the Town Hall with it ornate masonry symbolising the city’s involvement with the slave trade – and then on to Castle Street, which unbeknown to us was originally the site of a castle during King John’s era.
On through the shopping district, home to the impressive Liverpool One development, up to the Cavern Quarter with it’s Beatle Memorabilia. Ask anyone about Liverpool and their first reaction will probably be the Beatles or Football. We knew there was a lot more to the city but not as much as we were learning from being a tourist. The tunnels under the River Mersey, the Museums, the Universities and the Cathedrals all provided interesting facts we hadn’t known before.
The final leg of the journey took us past Chinatown, Cains Brewery and the famous Albert Dock with it’s shops, bars and attractions. It was 55 minutes later when we arrived back on Canada Boulevard and thought it was an hour extremely well spent. The kids enjoyed it and it helped us to understand why Liverpool is a worthwhile destination for any tourist.
Details of the Liverpool City Sightseeing Tour
Departs daily from Canada Boulevard, Pier Head, Liverpool. 10am-4pm (5pm Summer). Open 31st March – 27th December. Tickets valid for 24 hours so you can hop on and hop off at various stops en-route. Booking available at www.city-sightseeing.com.
Thinking of visiting Liverpool?
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