Thursday, 26 November 2015

Postcards from Liverpool

I don't really know what I was expecting from Liverpool, but this was not it.

There was something about it that reminded me of New York. Perhaps it was the sheer, vertical audacity of the architecture, perhaps it was the tightly packed city streets suddenly giving way to open water, perhaps it was the sense that there were so many things to do and nowhere near enough hours to fill.

We woke up on the second morning of our Liverpudlian adventure with a to-do list as long as our arms. First on the list was go for brunch at Moose Coffee but the wait was an hour-long by the time we got there so we wandered onwards towards the river. 

We walked quickly through the morning. Lauren studied her undergraduate degree here and knows the city like the back of her hand. Vicky, Michele and I still had a long drive back to Exeter ahead of us so we pretty much had a whistle-stop tour of some of the sights we hadn't yet taken in.

It's an incredibly grand city. Apparently much of it was built during the height of the slave trade, in which Liverpool played a large part. We visited the slavery museum later in the day and learnt that roughly 10% of all slaves exported to America left from these very docks.

It was incredibly humbling to know and it made us appreciate the city in a slightly different way.

One of the exhibitions in the slavery museum was centred around the modern day slave trade that still thrives around the world. It's something we tend to think of as a historical event however it's truly alive in all corners of the globe. Most things we buy as modern consumers will probably be linked to slavery in some way or another. I haven't been able to buy clothes since visiting as I know that most high street chains will be connected in some way - even if it isn't the factories producing the clothes, the production of the textiles themselves may have used slave labour. I'm planning on buying as ethically as possible from now on - which has translated into me not buying anything haha.

There's a concentrated hub of museums and galleries down by the docks. As much as I am beginning to appreciate Exeter and all of its small-town charm, it felt good to be back in a proper city again. There was just so much to do and see, we could hardly choose what to slot into our sparse four-hour schedule.

Food was definitely a priority though. We went to the cafe in the maritime museum for brunch and enjoyed a rather brilliant view alongside our tea.

The food was tasty and incredibly filling but not the most picture perfect so I've left it out! I had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast - the eggs were quite dry and were almost more like a deconstructed omelette than the creamy scrambled eggs that I'm used to making but I still enjoyed it!

We all went for the fruity, citrusy earl grey tea which was a delight both to taste and to watch as it brewed.

The time disappeared remarkably quickly. We headed back to the main shopping area to have a mooch around and contemplate our Christmas shopping (this was about a month ago so we were getting a head start!) I'd been craving a naughty something from Hotel Chocolat since spotting their cafe the day before but sods law, it was closed due to a power failure! I think the universe is trying to tell me that I have had enough of the cocoa goodness for now...

Before we had to make a dash back to the car, I stopped back at the Walker gallery to pick up the exhibition catalogue for the Reality exhibition. I'd been thinking about it all weekend so it was definitely a justified purchase! Not that I've looked at it since bringing it home...

They've been filming Fantastic Beasts in Liverpool so we did a spot of Eddie Redmayne hunting but failed to find him.

And then that was it!

We hopped back on the metro and headed back to Lauren's to pick up our bags and jump in the car.

Liverpool, it was an absolute pleasure and I will most definitely be back.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A weekend in Liverpool

So why did nobody tell me how great Liverpool is? I definitely think that this is one city that isn't given anywhere near the amount of credit it deserves! It's an incredibly exciting and vibrant place and one that practically begs you to take photos of it so settle in for a nice, long picture post!

A few weeks ago, Vicky and Michele and I drove up there one Friday evening to see our old housemates, Lauren and Frankie. We drove all the way from Exeter - it was a pretty epic road trip in the end, especially as Vicky's car radio is a little bit broken and likes to jump all over the place so we were alternating between a nice bit of Friday night Radio 1 and Classic FM. 

By the time we got to Lauren's, it was pretty late. We'd arranged the trip as a surprise for Frankie who has since gone to Australia for a year of travelling/finding herself/post-uni gap yah. She was definitely surprised but no overwhelmed tears were shed to our disappointment.

We snuggled up on the sofas for a catch up over frizzante and chocolate cake before heading to bed and sleeping the journey off.

But the next morning was our full day in Liverpool! 

 We started off in the aquarium inside the Liverpool World Museum. Seeing as the weather was fairly grey and miserable in the morning, we planned out a tour of all the brilliant free museums around the city.
Vicky is an aspiring marine biologist and as such, finds everything to do with the natural world absolutely fascinating. The two of us managed to take twice as long to go through the aquarium and natural history sections as all of the others.

Before leaving, we popped upstairs to take a look at the planetarium and see if we could squeeze a quick show in. There was one due to start in about 15 minutes but it was aimed at toddlers which we thought we could overlook until we saw the posters and realised that it probably wasn't going to be the immersive space experience we were after!
So we took ourselves off to see the Reality exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery.
Now, I may have mentioned previously that art isn't always my thing. Nay, I would even go so far as to say that sometimes, I actively despise art. Visiting MoMA this year was fun for the first two hours and then my head started to go funny and by the end of it I felt personally affronted by Yoko Ono (more on that in about six months which is probably the earliest time you can expect any posts on New York!) I quite often find modern art to be exclusive and pretentious (controversial...) and have had many debates/raging arguments with Michele on this subject. But I am still an absolute sucker for a gorgeous painting with luscious colours.

Photos weren't allowed in the exhibition which is such a shame but here are some pictures from the exhibition book and from around the web because I loved them so much I just couldn't not share them!
Alan Macdonald is an absolute genius.

This kind of art is right up my street with a huge nod to realism mixed in with a very decent dose of quirk. I bought the exhibition catalogue because I couldn't bear the idea of forgetting so many of the paintings. When I was doing my art GCSE, we were given an incredibly boring still life of a guitar leaning against a window with a view of concrete blocks of flats in the background to work with, using oil pastels. I promptly fabricated an alien invasion occurring behind the guitar and window pane - my art teacher was a little bemused, if only I'd known about Macdonald's work and I could have claimed that I was inspired!

Afterwards I took a little wander around some of the permanent collections where photography is allowed woo!
^Heart = broken

The detail and almost photographic portrayal of everyday life in this one was absolutely fascinating to stand and look at for a while.
^Another of my favourite kind of weird-as-fuck painting.

Having made the most of Liverpool's free wares, we went off to spend some money.
Lauren is a huge fan of Bakchich, a Lebanese street food restaurant. Their milkshakes are incredible with flavours such as halva and pistacchio, rosewater and strawberry and pomegranate and orange blossom. I plumped for a carrot juice which (and this is going to sound weird) tasted much more carrot like than I'd imagined. It was really really good but it really did taste like carrots turned into juice. Which I know is what carrot juice is supposed to be but... you know. (Or maybe you don't! I hardly do!)
We worked our way through a couple of platters and a selection of sharing dishes and oh my goodness, it was so delicious. Michele and I were practically fighting each other off as we competed for the last scraps of everything on our vegetarian platter.
Next up was the grand church tour, apparently.

We started off with this old beauty, the church of St. Luke, that was bombed out during the second World War and still stands today as an eerily beautiful reminder of the past.
Our next stop was the modern Catholic church.
It's an incredibly interesting, modern structure. It (quite obviously) doesn't follow the traditional church layout (most churches have cross-shaped floor plans - I didn't know that until a couple of years ago!) Instead, the circular design fosters a sense of cohesion and harmony that I found really relaxing and almost spiritual despite not having any religious leanings.
Happily, by the time we emerged, the sun had come out to play, making the city even more gorgeous in the process.
Yet we weren't ready to relax in the sun quite yet. Our next stop was Liverpool Cathedral.
The cathedral is absolutely huge. Yes, this post may be the largest collection of stating-the-obvious quotes ever written, but it's a very imposing building. You can see it looming large above you as you approach and once inside, you're almost enveloped in shadows, broken up every now and then by shafts of light falling down in columns from the windows.
By now our legs were getting tired and our thoughts were turning to dinner. Lauren had booked us a table at Il Forno and although we had a few more hours still, we were feeling increasingly lazy. So we slowly started walking back towards the centre via Chinatown and what appeared to be hipster paradise.
We then managed to spend at least an hour stroking books in Waterstones (I got the shopping jitters with heart palpitations and the full works but still managed to leave without buying anything which is impressive for me considering my relationship with that shop). I added at least another ten books to my To Read list which is depressingly long - sometimes I think that the saddest thing in life is that I won't be able to read every book I want to. Which makes me think I should really go and get into bed with a book now (although I'm reading The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins and although it's not that scary, it's not the most ideal read for living alone!)
After tearing ourselves away from the books, we made our way back to Lauren's to get ready for the evening, enjoying the changing lights of Liverpool as we went.
Our long day of wandering and exploring was finished off with award winning pizza, Italian cocktails and conversation with old friends. What could be better?
(The oven was scaring Vicky).

Smashed pea and ricotta bruschetta:
Quattro formaggi pizza (we would expect no less from Lauren, the cheese fiend).
I managed to do what I always do - eat lots, spend lots, leave feeling almost regrettably full... but not quite.

We practically waddled back to the train and went home to put our feet up (and admittedly eat more chocolate!)

Tune in again for more Liverpudlian adventures!