I’m sure you can easily guess the one similarity between the two of them.
Liverpool was the first city that I put into my Eurotrip itinerary, even before London and Paris. It has its own special, irreplaceable spot in my heart, for it is the birthplace of my favorite band and football club.
Thanks to my father’s strong influence, I grew up either listening to The Beatles or watching Liverpool FC’s matches on television. My dad owned The Beatles’ entire albums and I used to spend my weekends playing them over and over again while completing my school homeworks. I could memorize the lyrics to 80% of their songs, even songs from their later albums that sounded as if they were composed when Lennon and the gang were high. To date, I can modestly say that I still remember the lyrics to 40% of their songs and I can definitely recognize any songs of The Beatles from a mile’s away.
Liverpool FC has always been more of a love and hate relationship. I hate them thoroughly for their lack of winning mentality, but I love them for I’d shared thousands of hours of good times with my dad nearly every weekend watching them kick balls. At one point in time, my bedroom at home used to be filled with posters of the team and its players. I could memorize half of the team’s birth dates and other personal details. I lived and breathed them every day, day-dreamed about them when I was supposed to be listening to my teacher in class, and gossiped about them with friends during lunch breaks. Such was my puberty years. If I had gone to Liverpool then, I would have screamed hysterically non stop like a teenager on a boy band’s concert.
So you can imagine visiting Liverpool during my Eurotrip was akin to a pilgrimage to the past. Even one of the first comments my dad made when I told my parents of my Eurotrip plan was “So you’re going to Liverpool, eh?” It would be a sin to go to Europe without dropping by this city.
My 3-hour train ride from London to Liverpool was rather melancholic. I was into my third day alone in a foreign continent and the loneliness had begun to creep in. I stupidly put on my earphones and started listening to my MP3 collection, which made it even worse as the songs reminded me so much of my friends and loved ones back home.
The first thing I did after checking in to my hotel was to ask for directions to the Anfield. Liverpool as a city was actually rather drab and shabby. Everything looked grey, graffiti on the walls everywhere, the citizens didn’t seem to recognize the concept of rubbish bins. As the bus driver drove us past some of the residential neighborhoods on the way to Anfield, I could imagine the football players growing up in one of those working class houses, kicking balls in the backyard and the streets. It totally fit what I’d been reading from some of their autobiographies.
The Paisley Gate. The only thing stopping me from kneeling down and start worshiping was the fear of causing a scene and becoming the center of attention. I know I sounded like a drama queen, but the hairs on the back of my neck literally stood up as I passed through the gate.
Liverpool was playing home against Blackburn that weekend and I had hunted for a ticket since 2 months before. No luck, unfortunately. I had to settle for just a tour around the stadium and the club museum. Damn, I wish I could have visited the players’ changing room and touched that infamous ceiling above the staircase to the dugout. I would have died a happy woman. I heard certain stadium tours could include the tour to the players’ changing room too. I should figure this out in case I’d be dropping by Anfield again in future 😉
The majority of the displays inside the club museum was dedicated to either King Kenny or to Istanbul on 25th May 2005. Once again, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I went through some of the players’ and Rafa’s paraphernalia from that night that were displayed inside the glass casings. The boots that Alonso wore when he kicked the penalty, the briefcase Rafa took to the dugout, fans’ banners hung on the walls of Ataturk Stadium, the Champions League ball used that night, and last but not least, the trophy.
Rafa said, “We have a clear idea, a big picture, of how to improve this club and we are working in different ways to do that. As a manager, you are important sometimes and you make mistakes. But the most important people are your staff and your players. Never call me the special one!”
I had to clutch my stomach stifling a laugh when I read this. Take that, Mourinho!
Walking around the museum really brought back years of fond childhood memories. I think this was the museum that I spent the second longest time touring throughout my entire Eurotrip. The first was obviously The Louvre.
I moved on to the actual stadium afterwards. Sadly, visitors were not even allowed to touch the grass. As we sat on one section of the stadium, the tour guide pointed out to us The Kop and where the Hillsborough tragedy took place. I stood just an inch away from the very same patch of grass that the likes of Gerrard and Carragher trampled on every week. So near yet so far.
I was in daze when I finally hauled myself out of Anfield. The rest of the evening was rather uneventful. I checked out the famous Albert Dock, grabbed a quick dinner and went back to the hotel.
It was The Beatles’ turn the next day. I joined the Magical Mystery Tour bus where a very engaging tour guide with a thick Scouse accent took us to some of The Beatles’ historical places. If my husband were there, he would have needed a translator to understand what the guide was saying 😛
The bus took us to where John, Paul, Ringo, and George grew up as kids, their childhood houses and where some of them lived as adults later on. Most of these houses were already occupied by different people by then but I could imagine them having to put up with die-hard fans stalking their houses and snapping pictures.
And as the music from The Beatles blast through the stereo, we cruised past the Penny Lane and other places that were the source of inspiration for their songs. In between our stops, the guide shared with us plenty of interesting stories about the Fab Four. Information that I didn’t even know before. For example, Lennon’s inspiration for the Strawberry Fields Forever song was actually a garden inside a Salvation Army house where he used to play as a child. And surprise surprise, it had nothing to do with strawberries at all.
The tour ended at Mathew St, where the Cavern Club is located. Any Beatles’ fans would be able to tell you the significance of this place. The band made hundreds of appearances here in the early 60s and the pub was essentially the venue that kicked start the band’s popularity in the UK. This was also where Brian Epstein, fondly known as the Fifth Beatle, first heard the band perform and subsequently became their manager. Thanks to Epstein, The Beatles became who they are today.
I sent two postcards home to my dad and brother from Liverpool; one of The Beatles and another of Liverpool FC. My walk back to the Lime St station felt heavy, having spent the past 2 days walking down memory lane. I cried a little during my train ride back to London.
My brief visit to Liverpool had been all about reliving memories of my childhood and early adolescence. Yet at the same time, I was facing two months of European travel ahead of me then. Two months that were bound to create lots of new fond memories. And these are memories that I was sure to take away for the rest of my life.