We were back in Liverpool this weekend. We left the 35C/95F heat of the Swiss summer behind and landed in a cool but sunny Liverpool.
As I stood looking out my window, I was struck again by how vibrant this city is, full of energy and music and irrepressible people.
We decided to treat ourselves to a lunch at the London Carriage Works restaurant, near the Philharmonic Hall. The restaurant is emblematic of the changes this area has seen over the past thirty years.
The outside is a refurbished version of what was a posh coach and carriage builders back in 1865 who’s Venetian Palazzo look was meant to impress and still does.
The inside is open and modern with elaborate glass panels designed to make the most of the light that floods the room.
The food and the service were excellent. They provided that mix of quality content with relaxed and friendly delivery that is typical of the new style in Liverpool.
We walked up to Hope Street, which has the odd distinction of having Liverpool’s two cathedrals at either end, towards the extraordinary Catholic cathedral, built from concrete, glass and an unconventional imagination in the 1960’s
Although I love the boldness of this building, it hasn’t always been well received locally. It’s circular shape and tall crown have earned it nicknames from “God’s Spaceship” through to “Paddy’s Wigwam”. Yet the longer it sits there, the more it seems to fit as a prayer at the end of Hope Street.
We walked down to the Walker Art Gallery, a place that we’ve been visiting since childhood and which has always been the home to Victorian paintings on a grand scale.
hIt’s a proud Victorian building itself with Doric pillars and a portico at the top of lots of steps but inside it is quite welcoming, with a cafe in the centre of what was once the grand foyer by the sweeping staircase.
It’s still free to visit the gallery. The art is worth seeing, although it’s been rearranged since the last time I was there and some of the pieces now seem almost piled on top of one another, perhaps because there is so much to see.
We were there to see the Mucha “In Quest Of Beauty” exhibition that is touring the UK.
I had an Athena print of Mucha’s “L’ etoile de matin” on my wall in my room when I was at University. It holds lots of memories for me.
This was my first opportunity to see Mucha’s work up close. I loved many of the pieces. He captures faces, especially the eyes and what’s sitting behind them, masterfully. Some of the pieces were not shown at the best by being hung against pale walls but the exhibition told me things I didn’t know and showed me pieces I hadn’t seen before.
This weekend was also a music weekend in Liverpool and Liverpool One, a huge pedestrian shopping area built over what used to be the fleshpots of Paradise Street, was dotted with pianos that anyone could play.
We heard everything from chopsticks, through classical and jazz to the inevitable Ed Sheeran, all performed with a contagious sense of fun that really celebrates music.
Finally, we caught the train under the river to go and visit friends in Wallasey, the town we grew up in, who were holding a sixtieth birthday party, also filled with song and live music.
The trains in Liverpool have been through good times and bad. James Street Station has been refurbished recently and I think the mixture of old and new that has been struck is a good example of what Liverpool has become over recent decades. It’s cool but functional and a little unexpected.