A Magical Mystery Tour
Updated: Oct 6, 2018
I love The Beatles. That's probably an understatement, actually. I llooovvee The Beatles. I have a Beatles tattoo for god's sake. I got hooked on them when I was 15, and the "discovery" (hard to call it "discovering their music" when obviously I knew who they were before that) changed the course of my life. Through them, I also got into Bob Dylan and the 60s folk scene, which led to studying the political narrative that accompanied the music in those years. I very much credit my teenage obsession with The Beatles as the reason I followed the life path that I have.
It was my love for John, Paul, George (especially George), and Ringo that led me to use one of two long-weekends I had while living in Germany to visit Liverpool. I wanted to see the city where they came from. Please see my general Liverpool blog for an explanation of what I did the rest of the time in that wonderful city, for this blog is devoted specifically to my Beatles experiences.
My first morning in Liverpool, I high-tailed from my hostel to the Albert Docks, which house The Beatles Story, as well as several other great museums.
Even though it was late October aka not peak tourist season, and it was only 9:30am, the line to get into the museum was already relatively long by the time I arrived. I waited nearly 20 minutes to finally get through the door (this delay was because they staggered the entrances of visitors in order to not over-crowd the exhibits). The entrance fee is a bit steep, at £16.95 for adults (though I got a discount for my student ID at the time, down to £12.50). But alas, the Capitalism gods know when they can make a buck or ten.
As with any museum, the exhibits were geared towards the general public rather than experts, so as a super-fan who at that point had probably read every English-language book about the band, I didn't learn much. But that did not mean I enjoyed the museum any less. There was a lot on display that was amazing to see, including several of their instruments, outfits, hand-written lyrics and the like. From a story-telling perspective, the museum did a splendid job. The early days exhibits were in a room that looked like the Cavern Club, the bar they got their start in. There was an actual Yellow Submarine (of which the portholes had goldfish, which tickled me to no end). If you are even slightly a Beatles fan, or a music fan in general, I would recommend going, even with the cost of the tickets. Considering the rest of the museums in the city are, it evens out!
The next day, I struck out on the Magical Mystery Tour bus ride, which is easily the most touristy thing I have ever done. No regrets though, it was a fantastic two hours!
I arrived at the office, located near The Beatles Story. It was a chilly October day, and I was happy to get inside. A balding man, an older woman, and a girl about my age (21 at the time) were all working inside the kiosk and paid me very little attention until I awkwardly cleared my throat. As with The Beatles Story, they know that people will be willing to pay for this tour, so once again the ticket prices were a bit steep - £18.95, with no student discount option.
For as crowded as the museum had been, there were only six of us on the tour - a Japanese family, a British couple, and me. I was glad for the small crowds, as 1. I don't like big groups and 2. that meant more time to explore each site rather than having to wait on everyone to take their selfies.
The tour takes you to all four of their childhood homes, as well as past Strawberry Field orphanage, Penny Lane, the church where John and Paul met, and their former schools. True, I've never had a more cheesy moment that when we turned onto Penny Lane and they put the song on the radio. But you know what, it was cool to see the barber shop and the shelter in the middle of the roundabout while listening to lyrics about them.
The tour ends at The Cavern Club, where I had tried and failed to find the previous evening. I decided that, if I was in the mood for a drink later, I would return but based on what had happened the previous evening, I was a bit skittish of being out at night.
Once the tour ended and I bade farewell to our guide and the other five people, I began to re-explore the areas I had walked the day before, in a very good mood following a two-hour Beatles stimulation. As I sat on a bench and watched the world go by, a young man sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. His name was Joseph, and he was originally from Algeria but had been living in Liverpool for years while he was a student at a local university. We ended up getting dinner together. While eating, I mentioned that I had not yet seen the actual Cavern Club. We decided that I simply must go.
He was a Muslim so he just had a Coke, but I got myself a Bailey's. There was a band made up of older/middle aged men, but we were not paying much attention to them. Joseph was a delight to talk to (and not bad to look at either!). After we finished our drinks, we parted ways with the idea that we would meet back up a few hours later. However, as I am often want to do, once I got back to the hostel and onto my bed, I was settled in for the evening. I texted Joseph, told him it had been a lovely afternoon, but I was off to bed. He tried to talk me out of it, but nah fam, I was looking forward to a quiet night at that point.
I raved about Liverpool to my mother, which resulted in our own trip to the city four and a half years later. She is nearly as big of a Beatles fan as I am, and she is much more interested in the Titanic, so Liverpool seemed to be a place to take her on her first trip to England. We went to The Beatles Story, as well as the Magical Mystery Tour. The woman full on burst into tears at both the Penny Lane moment and when we stood outside of Paul McCartney's childhood home.
Our tour was more crowded than my first one had been, probably due to the time of year (late October versus early May). As I had been on the tour before, I was able to focus more on my mother's reactions to each stop. It was fun to see her joy at everything.
After we were deposited outside of The Cavern at the end of the tour, we made our way over to the Liverpool One shopping center for dinner. And then we made our way back to The Cavern Club. While I really wanted a My Sweet George for love purposes, in reality I despise vodka so instead went with Ringo's Rum Drum (I am very girly when it comes to hard liquor). My mother got the same, and we took our drinks to a table in order to soak up the atmosphere. While I had enjoyed Joseph's company years earlier, he had not contributed anything to the Beatles vibe of the place. My mother absolutely did. She was so thrilled to be there and so was I.
A young man was playing the stage, and was keeping with the tone of the place - acoustic version after acoustic version of various 1960s songs filtered through the arched rooms. I know a lot of people don't like it when bar musicians play covers, but that is easily the most fun I have ever had listening to someone on a bar stage. He had a great voice, though you could barely hear it over the singalong amongst the crowd that came with every song. It was such a fun evening, and an experience my mom and I reminisce about not infrequently. If 60s music is your thing, ignore how touristy it is and just go have fun.
To complete our immersion in all things Beatles that trip, we stayed both nights at the A Hard Day's Night hotel. Every room is slightly different, but all with the theme of, you guessed it, the Beatles. It was a lot nicer of a hotel than I was expecting, with a large, comfortable bed, a massive tv, and a ridiculously nice bathroom. It's restaurant was also quite nice, with a great breakfast. They also gave us a free drinks voucher at check-in, and the lounge was a great place to unwind after a day of touristing.