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Monday
Apr302012

Liverpool

We were heading back home on the evening boat today so afar breakfast we packed and checked out of the Crowne Plaza. We headed out to Woolton Village in the suburbs of Liverpool to visit the small Liverpool Cheese Company shop. After finding a free car park nearby we went tot he shop and let the owner choose a selection of strong cheese for us. I also bought a selection of micro brewery beers.

St Luke's Church, Liverpool
Photo: St Luke's Church, Liverpool (Click to enlarge)

Heading back into Liverpool centre we parked at the John Lewis Q Park and walked off up through town to have lunch at the Philharmonic Dining Rooms. The weather was far better than yesterday and it was nice to just stroll in the sunshine. We stopped off on the way to look that the remains of St Luke's Church, which was damaged by German incendiary bombs during the second world war and never repaired. It is known locally as just the "bombed out church" and despite being just the shell of the building remaining it seems to have discovered a new life in the area as a social gathering place, holding various events in its ground. I was also amused to see that it has its own website and Twitter account.

The pyramid tomb of William McKenzie, Liverpool
Photo: The pyramid tomb of William McKenzie, Liverpool (Click to enlarge)

We also stopped off on Rodney Street, Liverpool's version of London's Harley Street, to take a closer look at the tomb of William McKenzie. His tomb is very unusual in that it's the shape of a pyramid. Local tour bus guides will tell you that he's interred sitting upright in his tomb to save the devil getting his soul after losing it  to him in a gambling debt.

Grade 1 Listed Toilets @ The Phil, Liverpool
Photo: Grade 1 Listed Toilets @ The Phil, Liverpool (Click to enlarge)

Lunch at the Phil was excellent, just how a good pub lunch should be. How I wish this pub was back home on the Isle of Man. After a leisurely meal we wandered slowly back to John Lewis where we spent a while getting ideas for out new home that we hope to be moving in to shortly.

Sunday
Apr292012

Liverpool Pub Tour

We had a far better nights sleep in this quieter room and I woke feeling a lot better this morning. The only downside was that it was raining and looked like it would rain all day. During breakfast I couldn't help but notice a couple of girls outside having a cigarette while still dressed in their pajamas.

Smoking outside in pajamas
Photo: Smoking outside in pajamas (Click to enlarge)

After breakfast we wrapped up and headed out to the Exchange Square behind the Town Hall. I'd seen this on John Sargent's recent BBC series "Britain's First Photo Album"  We knew it was close to our hotel so we made the short walk to the square in the pouring rain. On one side of the square was Martin's bank; my father had worked here during his previous career in banking.

The constant rain was making taking photographs difficults and as I was afraid of the camera getting wet, so after a few futile attempt to take some photos we gave up.

Again we decided to go separate ways for the day; my wife going shopping again and I decided to check out a few pubs that I wanted to see.

My first pub of the day was the Fly in the Loaf, a pub I hadn't heard of before, but it looks very good with a friendly barman and a decent selection of guest beers. It was surprisingly  quiet inside, with only a couple of other people inside, but then it was still only Sunday morning.

Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool
Photo: Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool (Click to enlarge)

I next headed up to the Philharmonic Dining Rooms on Hope Street. Known simply as the "Phil", John Lennon once complained that "The price of fame is not being able to go to the Phil for a quiet pint." It was fairly quiet when I was there so I was able to enjoy a couple more pints while having a look around this fantastic pub - I wish it was my local.

Next in my list was the nearby Ye Cracke, another one of John Lennon's earlier days pubs.  It's fair to say this wasn't quite what I expected and with the murals on the wall I almost felt like I was in Northern Ireland back in the bad days of "the troubles".  

The Roscoe Head pub, Liverpooll
Photo: The Roscoe Head pub, Liverpooll (Click to enlarge)

The othe pub I had on my list was the Roscoe Head, one of the Magnificent Seven pubs that have appeared in every issue of the Good Beer Gude since it started.  This was another unusual experience as the small pub only seemed to have two small rooms and in felt like I was having a drink in someone's house. As far as I could tell the other drinkers there that day were also doing a pub tour and weren't locals.

On my way back to the hotel I had a severe attack of the munchies and a sausage roll from Gregs didn't cure it so I found myself "going large" on a lamb flatbread at Burger King. Oh the shame!

Saturday
Apr282012

Liverpool

As I suspected, I had a rubbish night's sleep. It wasn't helped by my wife wanting to be up early for breakfast so she could then head off in the car to Cheshire Oaks. I felt like a zombie at breakfast and instead of my planned solo photo walk and pub tour I crawled back in to bed in the vain hope of getting some sleep.

i was still wide awake when my wife returned at around 13:00 so I went down to reception to see if I could change rooms for our remaining two nights. I wasn't at all hopeful as the hotel seemed very busy and there was a wedding that evening but I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a room on the third floor. The receptionist warned us that it wouldn't have as good a view but I was beyond caring about the view at that point.   

The room was at the back of the hotel, overlooking the road, and was noticeably cooler and quieter. Hopefully I'd get a decent nights sleep for the remaining two nights of our trip.

After we'd moved our stuff from room 432 to room 321 my wife insisted we go out for a walk around Liverpool. After deciding not to join the queue to see around HMS Dragon, a Type 45 destroyer moored at the nearby cruise terminal, we found ourselves wandering around the main shopping area again.

By mutual agreement it was decided that my wife would look around the shops and I would settle myself in for a few pints at the Beehive, a pub conveniently located between the main shopping street an Liverpool 1. Much to my delight they served Hobgoblin and Black Sheep, two of my favourite beers. I chose to sit outside and the handful of tables and chairs they have and spent the next hour chatting to a bloke who'd worked on building Noble's Hospital and went on to be an owner operator of an artic lorry doing runs across Europe and in to Italy.

I was also entertained by two very drunk but friendly lads from Manchester and the passing wannabe wags in skin tight leggings and heavy make up, some even with the hair in big curlers getting ready for a night out.

Shopping in curlers
Photo: Shopping in curlers (Click to enlarge)

After we met up again we explored a few of the cafes and restaurants in Liverpool 1, but they all seemed busy and full except for Gourmet Burger so we reluctantly decided to eat there. I don't know what it is about the Gourmet Burger in Liverpool 1, but the burger buns there are fairly inedible and remind me of the cardboard box that takeaway burgers often come in and are best discarded rather than eaten. With this in mind I ordered a mega burger so at least I still had a half decent meal after discarding the inedible bun. 

Friday
Apr272012

Liverpool

The Ben My Chree  is in dry dock for a couple of weeks for its bi annual service, so the Isle of Man Steam Packet have chartered a freighter to take the freight traffic to and from Heysham and their fastcraft Manannan is doing two daily returns for passenger traffic; to Heysham in the morning and to Liverpool in the afternoon. We were booked on the afternoon sailing to Liverpool for a long weekend break and it made a nice relaxing change not to have to get up early for the morning sailing. The downside of the afternoon sailing is that you have far less time left in the day by the time you arrive.

It was good to be back on the Manannan again and we settled in to our usual seats in the Executive Club lounge. My plans to catch up on some reading and podcasts went awry as usual, although I did manage to read some more of the Sony NEX-7 manual that I have in PDF format on my iPad.

HMS Dragon Type 45 Destroyer, Liverpool
Photo: HMS Dragon Type 45 Destroyer, Liverpool (Click to enlarge)

Our plan to park the car at the Crowne Plaza hotel next to where the Manannan docks and for me to then ruch int to town to try to collect the pre ordered NEX7 was changed to my wife dropping me in the car as near to the Jessops as possible and I'd try to get to the shop before it closed befoere meeting up with her in Liverpool 1.

Much to my surprise I did manage to make it to Jessops a few minutes before they closed to pick up the NEX-7, which meant that I could charge the battery and get the hang of the basic settings so I could hit the ground running with it in the morning. I also popped in to the Apple shop to buy another Airport Express to further extend and strengthen our home wireless network and also bought a new iPad rear shell case in the hope of eventually using my new iPad 3 instead of my trusty original iPad.  After meeting up with my wife we had our evening meal at Wagamama and headed off to our hotel to check in.

We hadn't booked and Executive room this time, but were allocated a room on the fourth (top) floor of the Crowne Plaze with a good view over the Mersey river. The only downsides were that the top floor was very warm and the aircon in the room only had two settings, on or off. When we eventually turned our aircon off I realised to my horror that our room must be very close to the hotels air conditioning plant as the noise level barely dropped at all and remained at around the same level as a transatlantic jet flight in economy.  

It looked like I was going to get bugger all sleep tonight...

Tuesday
Apr242012

Sony NEX-7

We're off to Liverpool for a long weekend break this weekend and as usual I've been trying to decide what camera(s) to take with us. I'd normally take a DSLR like my 5D Mk II and heavy 24-70 or 24-105 L series lens, but I've had a painful right elbow for several months that's made carrying a DSLR around all day more than a bit painful.

I have a number of compact cameras such as the Canon S90 / S95 / S100 and also the Fuji X100 and Fuji X10 that I love, but apart from the X100 they all lack a really good viewfinder. I'm not a fan of holding cameras out in front of me and squinting at the rear screen, especially if it's sunny, trying to figure out if it's framed and set up correctly.

In recent weeks I've been hearing more good things about Sony's NEX-7 on various blogs, podcasts and magazines. It's almost a "perfect storm" of everywhere I look, read or watch there's the Sony NEX-7 being praised with glowing reviews. The electronic view finder sounds extremely good and just what I've been looking for on a compact / CSC camera.

As I can't get one delivered in time for the weekend I've ordered one of Jessop's website to collect in store in Liverpool on Saturday. I'm planning a solo photo walk / pub tour of Liverpool with the aid of the latest MerseyAle publication I picked up at the recent beer festival. Their MerseyAle publicaion is also available online.

I've also downloaded the manual for the Sony NEX-7 in pdf format so I can hopefully read up on the controls and settings before I pick it up on Saturday.