Liverpool Calling

One of the things that I like best about slow travel is the ability to take some time to stop and think for yourself. I much prefer slow travel (ferries, coaches, trains etc) to planes, in part because there is so much more freedom in what you do. If you are on a train journey and you see something interesting, it is likely that you will be able to stop and get off sooner or later.

On a ferry you can wander around and enjoy all of the exciting bits of the ship, and you can go out onto the deck and enjoy the elements, even if they happen to be a little fierce. Compare this to a plane, where everyone is packed in like sardines and you’re stuck in your seat start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, low cost air travel is right for some, but slow travel is the best choice for me.

Ferry, Cross The Mersey

Whilst I didn’t quite manage the world famous Ferry Cross the Mersey, my ferry from Dublin did take me part way up the Mersey to Bootle, which is a few kilometres outside of Liverpool city centre. Coming into a city via the river is always impressive, because you get to see both remarkable feats of architecture and gritty, real areas which may not normally make it into the tourist guide books.

Our ferry arrived into the city just as the sun was beginning to go down, so the effects were particularly striking. Although I would have loved to have been able to travel further up the Mersey by ferry, it was fairly easy for us to get from the ferry port to our accommodation. Bearing in mind, my comrades had made this journey in the opposite direction and already knew the hostel and the transport system.

Beatles Overload

When most people in Ireland think of Liverpool they think of two things; Liverpool Football Club and The Beatles. If you are coming to the city for either of those two things, then you will not be disappointed. Almost every street you go down will have something to do with at least one of the “Fab Four” or your “favourite” Liverpool players. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good tune, but it is almost impossible to escape! Yes, the city should be proud of this aspect of its heritage, but Liverpool, there is so much more to you!

My travelling companions had already done the Magical Mystery Tour and visited the Beatles Museum, and were keen to visit some of the cities other top sights.

Maritime Heritage

Having enjoyed our ferry ride in so much the previous day I suggested that we head over to the Maritime Museum to find out more about other aspects of the city’s heritage. According to the exhibition, around 40% of the world’s trade was passing through Liverpool, meaning that the city must have been an important asset to the United Kingdom. The ports were even recognised by Hitler as a strategic target during World War Two. This fact makes it even more striking that the whole North West of England was basically forgotten by the British government during the latter half of the Twentieth Century.

On a (slightly) more light-hearted note, the Seized! Exhibition at the museum was a really interesting look at some of the things which had been found by border guards, which people were attempting to smuggle in or out of the country. The whole thing started a very lively debate later on whilst we were sitting in a coffee shop about how we would smuggle something if we really needed to. It turned out that Mitre’s parents were often forced to smuggle things during the Communist era in Poland, so he was able to regale us with a series of hilarious tales which thankfully all worked out well in the end.

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My Adventures on a Shoestring

I have always had quite a nomadic lifestyle, so it was no surprise to my friends and family when I suggested that I was thinking about jacking in my boring old job and taking a round the world trip. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I will miss the Emerald Isle something awful, but I’ve been “exploring” Ireland for 20 years now and need something as comparison.

All by Myself…

Having taken the plunge, I discovered that none of my friends were willing to make the same giant leap. Some of them were willing to commit to a week or two here or there, but no one I knew well enough was ready to give up their settled life for a year long whirlwind adventure. I figured that if I’m brave enough to quit my job to travel into the unknown, then I must be brave enough to go it alone. So that is why I’m stilling here at Dublin ferry port all alone waiting for the next ferry to Liverpool. Well, not quite alone…

The Adventure Begins

It’s a long way from home to Dublin ferry port, and I wanted to start my journey feeling refreshed, so I decided to spend my last few days in Ireland doing a bit of sightseeing and “relaxing” in Dublin. As this is a budget trip, I booked myself into a budget room in a (nameless) budget hostel in the Temple Bar area. Whilst the accommodation left a lot to be desired, the company was nothing short of excellent.

Dublin is a trap for people from all around the world who want to experience a little Irish hospitality and enjoy a pint of Guinness. Having been to Dublin a few times before, I had the advantage over most of the visitors because I knew a little about how to enjoy myself in Dublin for less money. Temple Bar is a great area, but it can be a little bit expensive if you do not know where you are heading to, so most visitors to the city do not budget accordingly. Some of the top pubs in the centre of the area can end up charging a wee fortune for a pint of the black stuff, so beware. However, it turns out that having a little local knowledge goes a long, long way, especially if you want to make friends in a budget hostel!

Unlike the stereotype of most Irish people, I’m not much of a drinker, but I still managed to enjoy the high spirits of others, especially when they are enjoying a few Irish traditions. Whether you are into classical music or hip hop, I find a bit of Celtic folk music is a great unifier, and my attempts to spend my last night in the country relaxing were (rhythmically) stomped into the ground.

Onwards Journey

And so, whilst enjoying my first solo hostelling experience and a little Irish culture I happened to find a few like minded spirits who were planning on setting off in the same direction as me. I met a Spanish girl (Manuela) and a Polish guy (Mitre) who had come to Dublin via Liverpool and loved Liverpool so much that they wanted to go back and stay there a while again. And that is how I came to be sitting with them at the ferry port waiting for the next boat out of Ireland. Although their previous visit to Liverpool was only brief, I’m hoping that they will be able to return the favour and share a little bit of their local knowledge of the city with me. And so the adventure begins…

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