Liverpool Docks (Helen Moat)
Blog Words : Freewheeling | 16 March

Is Liverpool as good underwater?

If you want to check out Liverpool's famous sites, check the tides first suggests Helen Moat

The best laid plans of mice and men, as Robbie Burns once wrote. I wanted to show my German visitor Antony Gormley’s Another Place at Crosby, a seaside town just north of Liverpool, but I hadn’t taken the local tides into account.

Gormley, better known for his iconic Angel of the North, created 100 life-sized cast-iron statues and positioned them over a two mile stretch of sand between Waterloo and Bundellsands. On a previous visit with another German guest (coincidently), the life-sized statues, cast from the artist himself, were an incredible sight, positioned at various points on the strand. The figures stood with their backs to the shore, gazing out to sea. They had an ethereal, poetic and surreal quality and Paul, my German visitor, loved them.

Back then, we’d viewed the figures submerged in the water up to their necks, chests, waists, thighs, knees and angles, depending on how far out to sea they were, while others stood out of the water on the sand. I took Marcella there today, convinced she would love Another Place as much as Paul, her compatriot, had done, but not one single sculpture was visible. Every last Gormley was submerged under the water, the sea smashing against the promenade wall, the tide completely in.

I really recommend visiting Crosby, but make sure you check the tides before going there and arrive when the tide is out. Crosby is a good place to park up too, if you want to visit Liverpool. You can avoid all the city traffic and parking at the station is free. The train journey is a short hop to the city centre, and a fun way to approach the city. I love Liverpool - the place where the Beatles grew up and came of age. And the Beatles embody the vibrant spirit of the city, with its Irish working-class heritage: bold, cocky, and straight-talking.

You can take one of the Beatles Tours, visiting the ‘Fab Four’s’ stamping grounds, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, or take a trip to Mendips and Forthlin Road, Lennon and McCarthy’s modest childhood homes faithfully reproduced by the National Trust. If, however, you prefer to do things under your own steam – and for free - closer to the city centre is Matthew Street and The Cavern where the Beatles first played. You can enjoy a drink in the pub, or even listen to some of the current local bands playing there. Outside is a fascinating music wall of fame. It seems anyone who’s anyone in the British music scene has played here. The individually named bricks include The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Arctic Monkeys, Travis, Adele, and Jessie J. James.

But Liverpool is much more than just the Beatles; it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a European City of Culture(2008). The Docks are a heady mix of grandiose Victorian merchant buildings and twenty-first century glass and concrete high-rise offices. The old wharfs around Albert Dock have been beautifully restored and are filled with wine bars, restaurants, and boutiques. We escaped the drizzle and headed into Tate Liverpool (free entry). Whatever you feel about the merits of modern art, the Tate Modern at Liverpool is never less than entertaining.

From the Docks, we wandered through the back streets to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. The imposing neo-Gothic church is the fifth largest in the world, and its sheer scale and forbidding structure is mind-blowing. Further up Hope Street, we paused to look at the A Case Study sculpture – what looks to be at first glance piles of abandoned luggage strewn across the pavements. Reading the labels honouring the great and good of Liverpool, I was beginning to appreciate just what a creative bunch the Liverpudlians are.

Reaching the top end of Hope Street, we saw the strangest sight – a huge concrete crown. This is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Liverpool –or Paddy’s Wigwam to the locals. While the Anglican Cathedral looks back to the great classical buildings of the past for inspiration, its Catholic sister cathedral is totally modern, futuristic even. Climbing the steep steps, we craned our necks to see this brutal concrete structure soar heavenward. What the cathedral lacks in classical beauty, it makes up for with sheer impact. Whether you find it ugly or inspiring, you certainly won’t be indifferent.  But no one can question the beauty of the cathedral’s interior. Inside, this 360 degree building feels womb-like, warm and all-encompassing, despite its massive circular space. The wood, the artistic detail in the Stations of the Cross and the large slices of brilliant color (cobalt-blue, marine-green, and burnt-sienna) radiating from the stained-glass windows are breathtakingly beautiful. I would go as far as to say that it’s my favourite modern cathedral after the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona.

We hopped on the train back to Crosby at nightfall. The Gormley figures may or may not have been visible in the darkness, but we didn’t go back to the beach to check. Marcella, my German visitor, will have to come back another time – Crosby and Liverpool are always worth a second visit.