Road Trip (North): Liverpool part 2

Previous post: Road Trip (North): Liverpool part 1

So after planning our route for the day, we headed straight down into Mathew Street to see the club where The Beatles first played back on 21 February 1961.

Possibly the most successful band of all time, The Beatles played 292 appearances at The Cavern Club between 1961 and 1963 and it was at the club that they were discovered by Brian Epstein. Their last appearance was on 3 August 1963, a month after they recorded "She Loves You". Brian Epstein had promised they would return one day to play at the club but then Beatlemania exploded all over England and there was no way a tiny little club like The Cavern could have accommodated them anymore. And it is tiny - heck, I don't even know if the whole of Mathew Street could have coped with the phenomenon that was The Beatles.

The Cavern Club Liverpool (2)   The Cavern Club Liverpool (3)
The Cavern Club Liverpool (4)   The Cavern Club Liverpool (5)

The Cavern Club today has been designed to resemble the original club as closely as possible and it still functions as a live music venue. The bar staff absolutely did not even bat an eyelid as we walked in with our cameras and took some pictures. That's okay - I've stopped for drinks there before so I know I haven't always just been a camera-wielding flash-tourist.

The Beatles aren't the only famous band to have played at The Cavern or to have hailed from Liverpool so I took the opportunity to snap the Wall of Fame and a nice young man that was sitting there. (That is Mister Emm for those who don't know).

The Cavern is attached to the boutique arcade, Cavern Walks. They have a Vivienne Westwood store there and they had a sale on. Unfortunately, spending £350 on a cardigan is not my idea of a bargain so we moved on swiftly. It is worth walking through Cavern Walks to get a picture of the Fab Four in action though.

Next it was time for a visit to the pier head. Just as well as it was shaping up to be a stunning day. I'll have to update about that on the weekend though - it is definitely time for bed!

Road Trip (North): Liverpool part 1

I can't believe it has been a week since I last updated and I apologise for that. I've been sick with an incredibly sore throat and an irritating cough that doesn't let me get much sleep. 'Fed up' and 'exhausted' are the terms that would best describe me right now. The worst part is that this is all caused by the remaining dregs of the flu virus and nothing can be done for it except to treat the symptoms. My Dad is suffering from the same thing and wasn't even able to watch the match at the pub today! Big shout out to my Dad then and I hope we both get better soon.

On 27 December we went to my favourite city on the whole planet - Liverpool. From the time I was about 18 months old until just before my 9th birthday, we lived in St Helens which is a town situated right inbetween Manchester and Liverpool. We moved to South Africa in 1982 and I cannot begin to describe how much I missed 'home'. The city of Liverpool reached mythical proportions in my mind as I dreamed time and time again of returning to England. There was always the danger of a Great Gatsbyesque experience and that when I eventually did return in 1989, it would somehow disappoint. But it didn't.

I wish I was back in Liverpool, Liverpool Town where I was born.
There ain't no trees, no scented breeze, no fields of waving corn
But there's lots of girls with peroxide curls and the black-and-
tan flows free,
With six in a bed by the old pierhead and it's Liverpool Town for me.

- From "I Wish I Was Back in Liverpool" by Stan Kelly and recorded by the Dubliners

It's incredibly hard for me to put into words what it is about Liverpool that I love so much. There is something for everyone there with the history of the Beatles, museums, galleries, music, pubs, the heavy shelling in WW2, the pierhead and the stories of Irish immigrants, trade and commerce and the incredible strength to carry on. For me personally, Liverpool was the town that my Dad and I walked around time and time again as we visited all of the pubs and got to know each other again as adults. Hopefully some of the photos in these next couple of posts will communicate my love for this city and explain my glee at it being a nice sunny day that day.

As you come out of Lime Street Station, you see St George's Hall, one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in Europe. (I was told that it was the biggest but I can't find a link for that online). St George's Hall is part of the World Heritage Site at Liverpool and it is a Grade I listed building. As a former property manager, perhaps I find this more interesting than most people!

The hall has just been restored and was reopened in 2007. Apparently it is amazing inside but we didn't see anything to suggest that it was actually open to the public that day.

Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture 2008 and the city really caters towards tourists. There are sign posts and map boards everywhere and a street vendor gave us a tourist map for free! Liverpool has also really changed since last I was there and it was difficult to decide what to show my in-laws. In the end we decide on taking the Beatles tour and then heading down to the pierhead and the Albert Dock. We came back up through the brand new Liverpool One district before going home but unfortunately did not make it to St Luke's Church this time. St Luke's is a bombed out shell of a church that still stands in the centre of Liverpool - maybe I can go back in the summer and do a bit of a WW2 tour.

Well, all of those exciting travels will have to wait for during the week as I am about to fall asleep right now!!

Road Trip (North): Warwick Castle part 2

Read part 1 of our adventures in: Warwick Castle

This was taken just before my mum-in-law and I gave the men the slip.  Men can get so testy on road trips!

Back to the tour then:

Medieval Living

Okay.  I know I had flu but I'm struggling to find out why there was a Henry VIII exhibit at the castle even though he never had any history there.  I think the purpose of the castle is to show you how people lived through the ages so this part of the exhibit gives a beautiful glimpse into medieval privileged living.

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Chapel, Great Hall and State Rooms

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The castle went into a state of disrepair in the late sixteenth century and the name of Warwick itself became extinct as the last Earl of Warwick, Ambrose Dudley, died in 1589.  In 1604 the castle was given to Sir Fulke Greville by King James I.  Greville converted the castle into a country house and some of the opulence and beauty of that time is reflected in these rooms. 

Royal Weekend Party

This last bit was lovely because it was so tangible.  The story revolves around an event in 1898 where Daisy, Countess of Warwick hosted a weekend party at which the Prince of Wales and Winston Churchill were guests.

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And finally, I don't often post pictures of myself because I am shamelessly vain but here is a self-portrait:

Road Trip (North): Warwick Castle part 1

We had a lovely Christmas and spent the day with our South African friends Sara and Donovan and Keira. Donovan's Mum was visiting from South Africa and together with Stephen's parents and my brother, it was a lovely, festive Christmas Day. Having lived in England until I was almost 9, I find that a snowy, cold Christmas makes much more sense to me than a day of lounging by the swimming pool in the sun and eating cold cuts for lunch.

On Boxing Day, we headed up to Rainhill for the northern leg of our road trip. Our first stop along the way was Warwick Castle. Warwick Castle is an amazing establishment and easily my favourite of the tourist attractions we got to see over December.

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle that was built in 1068 and bought by the Tussauds Group in 1978. The castle is broken up into several sections where you can view scenes of what castle life might have looked like in the various eras. I had known nothing about the castle before we visited and was finding it hard to drum up enthusiasm for anything at the stage, given my flu. Well, I landed up really enjoying myself in spite of all my ailments!!! My mum-in-law and I managed to 'accidentally' lose Stephen and his dad and we investigated most of the eastern side of the castle that we could (the Ghost Tower was closed that day). It was brilliant and I would really recommend it. I definitely need to back sometime and finish off the rest of the castle too.

The sun was playing hide and seek that day and we were really struggling to get some decent photos. Click on these to see larger pics:

Warwick Castle (5)  Warwick Castle (11)  Warwick Castle (6)

 The Dungeon

Warwick Castle Dungeons Warwick Castle Dungeons (2) Warwick Castle Dungeons (3)

I find dungeons fascinating in that they display the infinite capacity of humankind to extract great pain and suffering upon their peers. This dungeon dates back to the fourteenth century. Basically, prisoners were brought into the dungeons and left to rot. The last pictures represents a grate over a simple hole in the ground where a prisoner would be left to rot in his own waste.

Kingmaker 1471

English history is just fascinating! In fact, once I have completed the numerous new year's resolutions I set for this year, I think I will set my mind to English history in 2010.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was known as the Kingmaker because he fought to restore Henry VI to the throne. This section shows the household preparing for Richard's final battle in 1471 as they made weapons and clothed the army.

Warwick Castle - The Kingmaker Exhibition  Warwick Castle - The Kingmaker Exhibition (3)

Warwick Castle - The Kingmaker Exhibition (4)  Warwick Castle - The Kingmaker Exhibition (2)

Well, that's all for now I'm afraid. I'm still in bed and tomorrow is my first day back at work (yay!). I am generally a grateful person but nothing makes you more appreciative of your good health than spending a full six days in bed with flu and an ear, nose and throat infection!

Visit: Road Trip (North): Warwick Castle part 2.

Holiday: Johannesburg 2006

Wednesday 20 December 2006:

At sparrow's fart, Ste and I trotted off to Carol O'Leary, an animal behaviourist in Fourways. It was a really good meeting and she was able to point out to us that Molly often struggles to settle down and she was quite a highly strung dog. She explained the whole thing about dogs being pack animals and how they are chancers - they will always test you and take a chance, no matter how well trained they are. The bad news is that Josey is probably still going to try eat my kittens (haar haar haar - she wishes she were fast enough); but the excellent news is that we have now been suitably trained and the dogs aren't continually fighting for our attention. We've become a lot stricter and our dogs don't lie on the sofas any more (scandal) but Molly is quite a serene little thing now and I can see the difference in her. Josey's position as top dog has been respected, and in fact all dogs are now fed alone. They also eat their food now instead of attempting to play us. Verdict: we did the right thing, and our dogs are much more settled for it.

Later on that day I went for a very much needed massage and pedicure at Virgin Spa in Randburg. If you play it right, their treatments can really be reasonable. The masseur is really skilled and I actually had small bruises the next day in the small of the back. I know that doesn't sound good, but I'm one of those that needs a very hard massage.

Thursday 21 December 2006:

Second day of holiday, and once again we were up at 5am or something ridiculous. The reason was that my cousin Michael was arriving from England. He arrived just after a plane from Brazil landed (never seen so many people taken off for searching). We settled him in, and then we went off to Nelson Mandela Square for lunch. We went to the Butcher Shop which I seemed to be going to a lot at that time. Thank the lord the Christmas eating season is over.

Stephen and Michael at the Butcher ShopThe Statue of Nelson Mandela at Nelson Mandea Square

Friday 22 December 2006:

We got up early and went for a breakfast at Wimpy. Michael was pleasantly surprised to discover that our Wimpy is nothing like the ones overseas. We had bacon, eggs and sausages, and then we trotted off to The Lion Park. I could honestly go to the Lion Park five times a year - it is so awesome and exhilarating. We drove in and did our usual circle around the main reserve, where all sorts of antelopes and other animals stay. One of the highlights of this experience was getting this shot.

Magnificent Gemsbok

This is a gemsbok. He was a lone male and you can see from his broken horn that he has been fighting for territory. I absolutely love the grey fur of gemsboks, I think they look absolutely majestic. In any event, I was about one to two metres away from this lovely young man and the picture was shot through an open window. There were lots and lots of impala out on this day, but they were just too far away to get a decent picture. It's a pity, as impala are one of my favourite antelope. Who am I kidding? I have severe Bambi Complex. I love all of them.

Gorgeous Cheetah

This picture was taken before we went into the big cat enclosure, so once again it was through an open window. This is a young cheetah and I imagine it was a male if he separated himself from the rest of his family who were lying in the shade. Obviously, the picture was taken from inside of my car - I'm not thick enough to get out for a closer picture - there are animals that climb to the very top of trees for a little shade and comfort. There are five lion enclosures at the Lion Park, and so once we'd driven around the reserve, we headed off to the lions. One of the things I love most about the Lion Park, is that the lions are really beautiful and well kept. Drought and fighting for resources can often lead to scraggly and emaciated lions in the wild and anyway... you'll never get this close to lions in the wild (and I don't mean through David Attenborough either):

White Lionness

This is a white lioness. White lions are more rare than normal lions and their appearance is a rare genetic anomaly. I think they are absolutely amazing and my heart fills with joy when I see them. Judging from the age of this lioness (I estimate 5 years), this is probably one of the lions I held as a cub when I was on my honeymoon in 2002. Amazing. Oh, and this little girl is yawning not roaring, although you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise if your car is parked next to a yawning lion!

Lion Park JohannesburgThe King of the Lion Park Johannesburg

This absolutely majestic male is obviously an alpha male. He is a little bit older and is quite confident and self-assured. We were pleased to actually see a lion standing and walking as it was an absolute scorcher of a day. This male is in a wonderful condition, his mane looks like it has been washed and combed out (I promise it hasn't) and his body and fur is in a beautiful state. I wanted to take him home with me, but Michael wouldn't get out of the car. (Edit: these pictures have not been enlarged - I really was this close to the lion, but it was taken through a window of course!)

Lion cubs at 14 weeks

And of course, Mandy's favourite. I got to stroke the lion cubs and chat to them for a while. The lion park finally figured out that the cubs don't like thirty million tourists holding them a day, so while I'm sad that I wasn't able to pick them up, I am more then happy that they'll get some peace and quiet now. Don't you love their spots? Apparently the Rhino and Lion Park has cheetah cubs, so I want to go there really soon. I've not mauled played with cheetah cubs before. Meeps! Look at their white lion webcam!!! *faints* These things must be five or six months old. So pretty.

Saturday 23 December 2006:

Michael and I got up early on Saturday morning and trotted off to Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind. Maropeng is a discovery centre, which takes you through the birth of the world and of humankind. The most interesting things I learned was that all of humankind today descends from the Australopithecus africanus that hailed from Southern Africa. We are in fact not descendant from Neanderthal man at all. Neanderthal man occupied what would today be Europe, Asia and the polar regions, I think. At some stage, Australopithecus africanus (or descendants thereof) moved north and met up with the Neanderthals. Despite them both being hominid creatures, the two species were unable to procreate. Over time, the Australopithecus africanus became dominant and the Neanderthals became extinct. Very interesting in light of certain racist doctrines, which say that interracial procreation is not natural. If it weren't natural, it wouldn't be possible. No pictures I'm afraid - they weren't allowed inside and it was too damn hot outside to stand taking pictures.

Sunday 24 December 2006:

Once again, Michael and I trotted off early and this time we went to Constitution Hill on the boundary between Braamfontein and Hillbrow. I think I'm going to cheat a little, and copy and paste what this place is about: "Constitution Hill is the new home of the Constitutional Court, the protector of our basic rights and freedoms. Constitution Hill is also the site of Johannesburg’s notorious Old Fort Prison Complex, commonly known as Number Four, where thousands of ordinary people were brutally punished before the dawn of democracy in 1994. Many of South Africa’s leading political activists, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, were detained here."

I cannot begin to explain how awesome this place is. You get to walk through the cells and the complex of what was once one of the most over-crowded and squalid prisons in South Africa. Hundreds of activists were held without a trial and many were imprisoned under evil, inhumane and arbitrary laws. We were in quite a hurry, so I only managed two photos:

Coming into the Constitutional Court Complex, JohannebsurgSculpture, Constitutional Court Complex

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were held at Ste's parents house. It was nice to see the whole family, and I managed to avoid being in any photos :0). Boxing Day was held at my house. We had our usual brunch and were all passed out by 2pm. The thing I miss MOST about holidays is my daily afternoon nap.

Wednesday 27 December 2006:

Once again, we headed off early and met up at the Apartheid Museum with Caryl, Boris, Sara, Donovan, Keira, Michael, Stephen and I. The Apartheid Museum is a phenomenal place and is a comprehensive and astonishing collection of over 40 years of Apartheid. Unfortunately, photos are not permitted inside the museum, but these are the pictures we took approaching the entrance:

A Walking Tour of Oxford

On 23 December, we took a walking tour around Oxford with a very knowledgeable guide called Maureen. The tours start at the Oxford Tourist Information Centre in Broad Street and take you around a couple of the colleges (depending which are open) and take about 90 minutes.

Oxford is home to Oxford University which is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The university itself is made up of 38 independent colleges and can trace its roots back to the 12th century.

This was my second visit to Oxford (the first visit was in 2005 to visit the lovely Tender Hooligan). I have to say though, it most definitely won't be my last visit. There is just so much history there that my poor, flu-addled brain could not absorb during the walking tour and I also want to go back and trace my steps through Lyra's Oxford. Mostly, I just want to visit the aforementioned hooligan again!

Jesus College OxfordJesus College Oxford

Future visits aside, here are the highlights from this visit.

The Chapel, Jesus College Oxford

The Chapel, Jesus College, Oxford

We started off at Jesus College which was founded by Elizabeth I in 1571. The most famous Jesus alumnus was T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and perhaps the most interesting alumnus Pixley ka Isaka Seme, founder of the ANC.


Exeter College (2)Exeter College

The next college we visited was Exeter College. This college definitely had more exciting alumni including J.R.R. Tolkien and (gasp) Philip Pullman!

The Gardens of Exeter HallThe Gardens of Exeter Hall, Oxford

Exeter College had the most beautiful gardens and from those gardens we saw the building that featured in the Harry Potter films as the divination class. Last time we came to Oxford we went to Christ Church College and saw the dining hall and stairs from Harry Potter.

Where the divination class was filmedWhere the Divination Class in Harry Potter was filmed
Exeter College, Oxford

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries at about this point and for the first (and only) time on our road trip I did not have spares handy! Definitely another reason to go back to Oxford some time soon!

Radcliffe Cinema OxfordRadcliffe Cinema, Oxford

I loved this lovely old building! It was built between 1737 and 1749 and used to house the Radcliffe Science Library. These days it is part of the Bodleian Library and holds books from the English, history and theology collections.

The Radcliffe Cinema OxfordRadcliffe Cinema, Oxford

After our visit I felt such a strong desire to study in a wonderful place like Oxford. The one thing that attracted me was the style of study. In South Africa, our primary mode of study was attending lectures in massive lecture halls with 400 or more other students. We were given generic reading packs to study and a choice of four or six essays to submit each term. Our guide explained to us that the teaching at Oxford is far more individual and based on a tutor / student relationship. It gives meaning to the term "reading for a degree". Could that really be? That sounds ideal to me - a far better experience than my days at Wits! *Sigh* Who am kidding? Studying makes me miserable. I am not sure I'd want to study another degree!