Of Beatles and Scousers

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, November 18, 2006

When I checked into Liverpool's International Inn, it was not only the first time I had to pay for accommodation in more than a month, it would also be the last time I'd have to pay for it. And my final hostel stay would allow me to rediscover both the good and the bad of the life. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I arrived in Liverpool, just about everything was up in the air. I didn't know how long I'd be staying, I didn't know where I'd be going next -- all I knew was I had to be in London by Thursday. I didn't even know where I was staying. I only found the International after wandering aimlessly for an hour in search of a bookstore, since I no longer had a travel guide. By the time I checked in I didn't have much time for anything besides taking a stroll -- without my backpack now -- around the city.

Liverpool is like its own cultural pocket in the middle of England. You hear a lot from the English about 'Southern Fairies' and 'Northern Monkeys,' but Scousers are like a breed all their own. The English accent practically changes from town to town, but nothing can quite match the Liverpudlian one. A thick accent is practically indecipherable. At one point a guy stopped me while I was walking down the street and started prattling on about, could he borrow my phone, his car was towed and he needed to call the impound or a taxi or something. Or at least that's what I thought it was. It's like when you're shaky in a foreign language and you just try to pick out as many familiar words as possible, make assumptions to fill in the blanks, and hope for the best. The Scousers even have a different look, from their style to their overall appearance. More than any other city I've been, anywhere in the world, you could tell just by the people where you were compared to other parts of a country.

My first full day, and what at the time was figuring to be my only full day, in the city I headed to Albert Dock. Conveniently, that's where everything I wanted to see is located. I started, because this is Liverpool after all, with the Beatles museum. I didn't do a full Beatles tour because all the various locations are too spread out (and away from the city centre) to do by foot, and they seemed expensive and not nearly as fun by yourself. So I figured the museum would suffice. Overall, it was a very good presentation. It deals a lot with the creation of the band, from Paul meeting John, and then convincing him to let George in. There was a lot of stuff I didn't know, which is the least to expect to get in return for paying admission. A lot of the info on the music I had learned in my History of Rock class, but it did leave me wanting more on how the various songs came to be. From the Beatles I walked across the dock to the Maritime Museum, which was surprisingly good. I'm sure my outlook was brightened in part because admission was free, and free is always good. The sections on customs and smuggling were good and the part on the WWII Battle for the Atlantic was not only well done, it was also much more balanced than you'd ever expect from something done by the English.

As for the rest of my time in Liverpool, that's where we saw the good and the bad of International Inn. The plan, as developed shortly after leaving the Maritime Museum, was to go down to Birmingham the next morning. Those plans didn't last the night when the people I was supposed to meet (the crazy kids from my Dublin hostel) had to cancel. Fortunately, the bus ticket only cost me 1 pound, so I wasn't overly stressed about that. What I was stressed about was where I would now be going. I desperately tried calling people in London but couldn't find any takers. Eventually, I decided to take the convoluted and (for those who know me) unexpected step of trying to track down Beth's number. To do this would require calling Sophie to get Gemma's number and call her to get Beth's. The whole process took over 24 hours, so the moral of the story was, I'd be spending another day in Liverpool. The problem was, the hostel was boring, and I didn't reach this conclusion until after I'd spent most of the day doing nothing but waiting around the hostel (to leave while waiting would've meant having to pay obnoxious storage fees for my bags). Finally, I was drawn out by Laura, a fun Irish girl who was cool in just about every aspect except for the fact she was a Red Sox fan, and Melinda, an older Australian who decided to travel after getting diagnosed with cancer. It was her idea to head to the pub by 5, and it was her pace that would make this a dangerous proposition.

What little of the Liverpool nightlife scene I saw I enjoyed, which was a good thing, because otherwise the night would've been a total disaster. There was an Irish guy in my room who could best be described as "hostel sketchy." He wasn't necessarily a bad person, but the sort of person who becomes the bane of your existence when you're forced to share close quarters with him. He was, however, the least of my worries. I had managed to pass out around 1, but at 3:30 a couple of drunk Welsh guys stumbled into the room, one of which was sleeping on the bunk bed directly above me. For devotees of this blog, the story of my Coffs Harbor experience might sound familiar, when I was stuck in a room with a snorer so bad, he was not only notorious hostel-wide, but your thoughts turn to the frighteningly twisted when you attempt to come up with something to compare it to. These guys were out-of-control loud and I started going through my playbook of how to deal with snorers that I'd honed to perfection over the course of a year of hostel living. At first, I simply tried to listen to music and hoped that would drown it out enough and allow me to slip back to sleep. But the Gorillaz didn't stand a chance against these drunk gorillas. When that didn't do the trick, I had to take more extreme measure, first trying to shake the bed. Nothing. I tried punching the bed frame to see if that would shake him, or at least make him turn over. Nothing. I tried pushing up the mattress. Still nothing. Now this had been going on for the best part of an hour and a half and I was getting desperate. For my final attempt, I got out of bed, calmly took a step up the bunk and smacked him across the face with my pillow. Twice. This is when I realized I was dealing with something not quite human. I eventually conceded defeat and went to sleep on a couch in the TV room.

The next evening I was back in Chester with Beth and her roommates Michelle, Gemma and Helen, who wasn't around the first stop. Helen was an absolute trip. Over dinner, she asked questions about America that were so mind-blowingly stupid that had an American done that about any other country there'd be rants and raves about ignorant Americans. We'll leave it with the highlight of the evening. Meet the President of the United States: George Best. And the next morning I was boarding a bus to London, my last intercity journey for the whole trip.
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