Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strolling down Penny Lane cross the Mersey

It seems that at this time of the year Blackpool and indeed the whole coastal strip along here lives under the blanket of a sea mist. This morning it is quite thick and akin to smog. With the tide w-a-a-y out, it even smells like a smog of sorts. We head 59 miles south to Liverpool. The air quality here almost rivals that of Beiing when we were there in December. At one point, you can see across the Mersey River - just! There is no hope of discerning any landmarks or even the general layout of the suburb of Birkenhead because of the heavy mist come smog.

We don't get down here until after 11 am. I wanted to do a cruise on the river and the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. We look at the timetable for the Mersey River ferries and realise that there is no way we can get down to the dock that it leaves from, complete the route and be back in time to take the tour at 2:30. So we opt for the tour.

That then gives us an opportunity to take a look at the Merseyside Maritime Museum that houses not only maritime history (as you would expect) but also a broader history of the City of Liverpool and also the International Slavery Museum as Liverpool was the capital of slave trading for some time. The museum is spread over 4 floors and is a composition of static displays, audio visual presentations and hands on discovery activities. There are a number of school groups there while we are moving through and it seems that the children are engrossed - at least they are not too noisy! Very interesting and the Slavery exhibits certainly bring a shameful past out in the open. The point is made quite strongly that slavery in many forms still exists today.

And the swans on the water are so serene. Looking at the way the male swan was holding his wings as he pursued his female partner (who was swimming away ver smartly!) you can see how they are linked to romance - his wings actually form a heart shape!!!

We head back to the Tourist Information Centre to meet the guide for the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour just after 2 pm and grab a quick drink at the Starbucks Cafe in the Beatles store next door. Neil (our guide) arrives and gathers his charges around him before walking us down a block to board the bus. There were only 5 of us waiting at the VIC, but by the time the bus departs at 2:30 pm we have been joined by a whole swag of other people including the brash young American performers of a Disney show (Mickey does Liverpool or something equally banal) and the bus is almost full.

Neil is an excellent guide - full of wit and repartee. He does a quick check of those aboard to determine nationalities - supposedly so he can con a holiday out of the warmer climes - and "Gee, darn, looks like we are going to Australia again - for the seventh time in a row", he jokes with driver Lee. But they seem to get a buzz at the end of the tour when we present them with our little card and an invitation to look us up if ever they get to Qld for real!

Neil acted in one of the later Beatles docu-movies and makes sure we know it. His knowledge of Beatles trivia and in-depth history accompanied by his jokes and light hearted banter keep the pace high as we tour through the suburbs of Liverpool to see homes that the fab four lived in, places they studied at and played at. We are given opportunities to leave the bus to get photos at iconic spots such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields as well as some of the childhood homes.

During times when we are travelling between locations he plays snippets of Beatles songs and a couple of us sing along - but bugger, there is not one song played through to the end. Thank god my iPod has quite a few of the Beatles songs as I need to sing some more after today!!! At the end of the afternoon they leave us in Liverpool City Centre outside the new themed Hard Days Night Hotel that is a shrine to Liverpools favourite sons. Around the corner from here is the Cavern Club that has a celebrity wall listing all the bands and famous singers who have ever played there - and believe me, the list that covers the entire outside wall of the building is impressive.

We also got a pretty comprehensive snapshot of the history of Liverpool and its place in the world including the fact that there are some 37,000 odd university students in Liverpool - and they all seemed to be in the park enjoying the sun this afternoon - reminding us a little of the university city of Salamanca in Spain.

So, missed out on a cruise on the river - but life's like that - win some, lose some.
Finally a stroll back down to Albert Dock via the new Liverpool One shopping complex that is akin to Darling Harbour in Sydney before we join the peak hour traffic out of the city.

And tonight, the 'Best Indian' meal at Hassan's in Cheltenham is under threat when we dine at the Jali Restaurant on the Promenade in Blackpool.

Murg Tikka (House speciality traditional chicken kebab cooked in the tandoor) Michael
Gosht Ke Shammi (Lamb mince cooked over a slow fire with lentils, shaped into cakes, deep-fried and served hot) Maria
Pappadums Masala style (served with finely chopped tomato, cucumber, red onio and coriander) accompanied by Tamarind sauce, Mint and chili Raita, Mango chutney
Gosht Lababdar (Juicy, succulent lamb chunks cooked to perfection with fresh home-ground spices in a mildly spiced sauce) Michael
I opt for a house speciality - the Pan Flash Bazaar that uses a traditional ‘kiosk’ style of cooking from India. Simply choose a selection of items from the lists below plus a delicious sauce to accompany, and one of our chefs will do the rest. No matter what you choose, everything will be freshly pan cooked, helping retain the natural goodness of the ingredients.
1. Select 2 of: Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Baby corn, Peas, Chickpeas, Potatoes, Aubergine, Spinach, Paneer, Brocolli, Bell Peppers, Carrot
2. Select 1 of: Chicken, Lamb Cubes, Prawns, Eggs, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Mince, Salmon
3. Select your curry sauce: Rogan Sauce (meaty sauce with rogan spices), Makhani Sauce (tomato and cream sauce), Kadai Stir fry (hot stir fried vegetables), Shahi Curry (rich cashew nut sauce with aromatic spices), Green Curry (spinach and coriander flavoured sauce), Korma Sauce (classic mild sauce, yoghurt, cashew nuts & cardamon)
4. Choose from steamed basmati rice or bread from the Tandoor as an accompaniment.

Naan (Leavened bread from the tandoor Plain) Michael
Roti (A North Indian delicacy of plain unleavened bread cooked in the tandoor) Maria

Gajar Ka Halwa (Traditional Indian dessert made with grated carrots, milk mawa, and sugar) Michael
Mixed Fruit Pancakes (Small pancakes filled with fruit puree and drizzled with Creme Anglaise) Maria

The meal was truly superb with wonderfully balanced spices and a fantastic use of fresh coriander. Coupled with the silver service from the hostess and waiters it was a really memorable meal.

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