- Candace Ahlfinger
48 Hours in Liverpool and Chester, England
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
We arrived at the docks of Liverpool via the Isle of Man Steam Ferry. The landing was smooth with beautiful views of the sunlit buildings from the harbor. My husband and I walked to the Aloft Hotel in the historic Royal Insurance Building, built in 1903, which Aloft bought and transformed into a hotel. The ground floor was impressive with high ceilings, lots of light, and a very friendly and helpful staff.
We walked back to the docks for dinner at the Cargo Restaurant. (If you’re not walkers, I would get a taxi.) We had great service and weren’t even able to finish our shared seafood platter of excellent fried calamari, sea bass, fried cod, and prawns.
We were in Liverpool for less than 24 hours, so we knew we couldn’t see everything. We decided to take the Beatles Magical Mystery tour (aka everything you ever wanted to know about the Beatles and more) bus at 10:00 with Dale as our guide. We walked to the Albert Dock to catch the tour. (If you haven’t noticed, we walked to the docks…a lot!) We had bought tickets online, so we simply had to check in when we arrived.
I have to admit it now, I didn’t have the nerve to say it while we were in Liverpool, but neither my husband nor I are Beatles fanatics. Yes, we love their music, but we didn’t know where they lived, their complete history, the foods they loved, etc. However, we did enjoy the tour which gave us great insight into the Beatles and their music, but also into the history of Liverpool which also affected the Beatles.
Liverpool’s was one of most blitzed cities in Europe because, until WWI it was one of top cities due to its transatlantic trade. Because of the bombings, the Beatles, who were born from 1940-1943, grew up in a bombed-out city that carried the scars from WWII. Liverpool’s music heritage also impacted the Beatles. The Merzy (river) beat movement and the Beatles’ place in Rock ‘N Roll history have made Liverpool a UNESCO City Of Music. (The first number 1 song out of Liverpool was “How much is the Doggie in the Window” by Litz Roza in 1953.)
The bus took us many places including Penny Lane where we were given the opportunity get off and take pictures after the guide warned us to be careful of the cycle-path traffic because they are psychopaths. The Penny Lane street signs are now painted on the walls because the free-standing ones were stolen so often. We saw the former smallest house in England—a photo op. The bus makes frequent Beatles’ related photo op stops which is great. We also were able to enter the Strawberry Fields which had just opened to the public 8 days before our tour.
Our tour also took us by the Liverpool Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Britain and the fifth largest in Europe. We were sorry that we did not have time to visit the interior.
After all the Beatles’ information, we had to have lunch at the Cavern Club Pub. We also had to have the dish of Liverpool, scouse, a traditional hearty stew made with beef or lamb and containing potatoes, carrots, and onions. Ours was served with pickled beetroot and wonderful bread. An excellent filling choice!
And then, less than 24 hours from the time we arrived in Liverpool, it was time to head towards Chester. We took a taxi to pick up our rental car and, 30 minutes later, we were in Chester.
Driving in the UK
A word about driving in the UK…my husband had driven when we had visited England and Scotland for two weeks, so this was my turn to drive. Thankfully, he got us out of the Liverpool traffic so I could start my experience in the countryside. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road isn’t that difficult, but make sure you get an automatic because shifting with your left hand makes the task much more difficult. Also, invest in GPS navigation whether through your phone or the car. This system saves time, energy, and, perhaps, marriages.
We arrived in Chester early enough to drop off our luggage at the Chester Stone Villa, get their great insight of what to see and where to eat, and to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was the impressive cathedral. Much is still unknown about the history of the cathedral, but stories abound about the site’s former uses, including a place in which the Druids and later the Celts worshiped.
Later the Romans built a temple here to Apollo, before adapting the site to Christianity upon their conversion. History does prove that a church existed here in the 9th century and, starting from 1057-1092 the church was rebuilt as a Benedictine monastery church by Leofric, who happened to be the husband of Lady Godiva. Starting in 1250, another church was built over the now old one. Wow, What a history! The cathedral is beautiful, and it also incorporates activities to enthrall children and adults alike such as the Lego recreation of the Cathedral that consists of over 350,000 Legos.
We next walked the Roman walls to get an overview of the city followed by a quick trip to see the Roman amphitheater and the Roman Gardens which are beautiful. The gardens weren’t actually built by the Romans, but the Roman architectural pieces found throughout the city were brought here and used to build a garden oasis at the foot of the walls. We had Turkish delicacies for dinner at Meze of adana, falafel, hummus and salad topped off with baklava, always a favorite of ours, and then walked back to the Stone Villa. The next morning we walked back through town to see the Chester Rows, elevated walkways that give access to second-floor retail spaces throughout most of Old Town Chester. No one knows why this architectural style developed although one theory is that more retailers wanted to be in the city center and were limited by the Roman walls so the only way to go was up! One special point of interest is the “Three Old Arches,” which are the oldest portion of the rows and perhaps the oldest existing storefront in England. These retail establishments feature small boutique and souvenir shops as well as international brands such as Primark.
Our 18-hour stay in Liverpool was not enough, but 18 hours in Chester was sufficient to see the highlights on a quick trip through the area.