Magical history tours

Samantha Mayling has a ticket to ride to Liverpool.

The last time I was in Liverpool, I visited Anfield for a match during the 1996 European football championships.

The city has changed enormously since then – and this year it has been celebrating the 10th anniversary of being the European Capital of Culture.

Football fever was evident when I visited this summer, as the World Cup was in full swing.

But it was not Liverpool’s fine footie heritage that I enjoyed this time – it was the ancient history of imperial China and the 20thCentury story of rock and roll.

First on my itinerary was The Beatles Story in the Unesco World Heritage site around the waterfront.

Dedicated to the Fab Four, it recreates famous sites associated with John, Paul, Ringo and George – from their early days in Berlin and the Cavern to the heyday of Beatlemania, then their time in India and solo careers.

There are recreations in which you can imagine life in the 1960s – the offices of the Mersey Beat magazine or a music shop – while audio headsets offer extra opportunities for information, images and sound.

I next strolled to the World Museum for the Terracotta Warriors, which have been the venue’s most popular exhibition, and a must-see for any visitor to the city (see page 28-29 of July issue of TravelGBI for more).

Iconic Liver Building

Then it was back to the waterfront to visit the British Music Experience in the Cunard Building – next to the iconic Liver Building and opposite the statue of the Beatles.

Opened in March 2017, it tells the story of British rock and pop through costumes, instruments and memorabilia, including costumes worn by Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, Spice Girls, Adam Ant and Duran Duran.

It’s guaranteed to generate pangs of nostalgia and uncontrollable toe-tapping.

Visitors can also try playing guitar or drums, or singing along to classic tracks.

There was just time to nip over the road to the Mersey ferry for a sightseeing ‘River Explorer Cruise’ – accompanied by the hit song Ferry Across the Mersey and commentary about landmarks.

If I’d had more time, I could have disembarked at Spaceport to find out more about space and Star Wars, or nipped to the U-boat Story to explore a Second World War German submarine.

It was a whirlwind tour of Liverpool’s highlights but the city centre is very compact and easy to navigate, so I packed plenty into just a few short hours.

The Beatles’ ‘Daytripper’ had a one-way ticket but sadly mine was a return fare so I had to depart – but hopefully I will return for more magical mystery tours soon. We can work it out.

Where to stay

As I was in Liverpool for a conference, I spent two nights at the Novotel, which is popular with groups and overseas visitors.

Unusually for a city-centre property, it boasts a swimming pool, which was a welcome treat after a hot day of sightseeing.

It also has the Rope Walks bar and restaurant – named after long, straight streets of the 19th century which allowed rope manufacturers to lay out their ropes.

It was decorated with heavy ropes and Victorian-style décor, but the food was certainly not ropey.

Being in Liverpool, I ordered the ‘scouse’ from the menu – a delicious meat stew with pickled red cabbage and bread.

Traditionally a meal for sailors, it has given its name to the locals.

The hotel had all the comforts of an international chain, but it was great to see nods to the city’s heritage and cuisine as well.