"I'm not an architect, I'm a scouser of a certain age with too much time on his hands. Like most volunteers." So said Brian, our excellent RIBA guide to commercial Liverpool. In the space of an hour he steered us around the monuments to 19th Century trade and showed us how deeply Liverpool had been involved in the American Civil War as well as WW2, where the Blitz went on for weeks. We saw the beautiful bombed out but restored Oriel Chambers, as well as Shrapnel wounds to handsome stone buildings.
Our week in Liverpool was characterised by friendly, excellent guides who clearly love their city. James O'Keefe took us expertly round the spectacular (local authority owned) St Georges Hall. A lady called Helen enthusiastically and expertly introduced us to the nostalgically beautiful Port Sunlight.
We visited the lovely Lady Lever's Art Gallery, containing an eclectic and beautiful collection of paintings, sculpture, ceramic and furniture, all collected for Lady Lever by her husband Lord Leverhulme.
We were guided round the huge George Gilbert Scott's Anglican Cathedral, and Frederick Gibbard's Catholic Cathedral (known affectionately as "Paddy's Wigwam", or the "Mersey Funnel"), and were able to visit the Lutyens Crypt.
Dodging the rain, we took the Ferry 'cross the Mersey, visited Hamilton Square and Birkenhead Park. And travelled the Mersey Tunnel back.
We walked through the World Heritage site of Albert Dock.
We went by coach to view Antony Gormley's iconic installation "Another Place" at Crosby Beach.
Some of us found time to go to concerts, cinema, theatre, shopping, and galleries, including the Tate and the Walker Art Gallery.
Our last evening was spent having dinner at "Bistro Pierre", where we encountered proper Scouse exuberance. Six Liverpool ladies were celebrating a birthday, and before long we were enthusiastically led in renditions of "Happy Birthday", "In my Liverpool Home" and "Ferry 'cross the Mersey". The magic had happened.
The journey to Merseyside on a coach is a long one, so we stopped both ways for lunch. Upton House, our NT stop on the way North had been a pleasant surprise, offering a lovely stately home, gorgeous gardens, and a very intriguing exhibition of Heals' posters. We broke the journey on our way home, at the splendid Coventry Cathedral.
Our thanks to Richard Robinson for the hugely time-consuming effort of arranging the visit and making sure everyone's needs were catered for. To Roger Hinton for sharing his knowledge especially of the Wirrall. To our Driver, Andrew for his patience, promptness and careful driving.
Thanks to Delia Forester for the review and to Alison Minns and David Fisher for photos. Photo of inside the Catholic Cathedral from Wikipedia.