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    "TOUR REPORT 2009"
    By Coni Rodgers & Barb Hernandez
    Photography by: Coni, Barb and Rene Emondt

    Roll up, Roll up for our Mystery Tour! On Sunday August 23, our group met up at JFK airport in NYC, where our host Charles passed out our goodie bags, name badge laminates, and joined us as we checked in for our overnight flight to London. What a delight it was to see all the Beatle shirt-clad. Tomas brought his guitar and we did some singing at the gate. Some of us were lucky enough to get some sleep on the plane, but I wasn't one of them.

          We arrived at Heathrow Airport Monday morning, where we were greeted by our tour guide Rene (please note, there are 2 Rene's, 2 Vicki's and 2 Barb's in our little group) and our bus for the day. Since almost everyone on the trip this year is a first-timer, we spend the day taking a full panoramic coach tour of the historic London sites to start our vacation. We got to see the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and many others. We spent time at Buckingham Palace and Tower of London and Big Ben Ben (and the rosy red cheeks of the liittle children - sorry couldn't resist). Throughout the day, Dave Carrow, tour assistant, held contests and drawings for cool prizes.

          After the sightseeing, we checked into our hotel and met up with the other members of our group who did not fly over from NYC with us. About half of us fought our jet-lag a little longer and headed over to Bill Wyman's "Sticky Fingers" restaurant for dinner before collapsing into bed for the night. Great food and great fun!

          Later still, we had a group sing-along in one of the hotel's conference rooms with Tomas, Dan, Debbie, Paula, Lynda, Dave, Rene from Seattle, John and I. It was a blast!

          Tomorrow never know, but we know that tomorrow will be a very busy day as we start our tour of Beatles sites.

          On our second day in London, we boarded the Tube and headed out to the start of what turned out to be a 9-hour walking tour (most years it's 3 hrs). Along the way we saw many great sites. We met in the hotel lobby at 9:00am to begin our tour. We all were given a full-day ticket for the Underground, or Tube as they call it. We made our way on the tube to Baker Street (a photo op) and then on we walked until we reached it - ABBEY ROAD!

          I have dreamed of Abbey Road since I was a teenager, and here we were! We all had a blast just crossing the street back and forth, and signing the wall outside the studio. We were like a bunch of giddy little kids, crossing, taking pictures, crossing again, more pictures, etc. We were there for a very long, long time - it was the BEST! Then, we all snuck onto the stairs at Abbey Road Studio and we managed to get a few group pictures on the front steps.

          We paused by Beit Chodesh, the synagogue where Brian Epstein's memorial had been held. We wondered if the Beatles wore yarmulkes there.

          Next, we stopped by Paul's home at 7 Cavendish and got some photos there. Paul still owns this home. While there, a delivery came, the gate opened, we took some good pictures and then those gates closed fast!

          We visited St. John Wood's Church where Paul and Linda were married. Some paused to light candles there in memory of Linda. We walked to Allsop Place and saw the building that the Magical Mystery Bus departed from in the movie. We passed by Madame Tussaud's, where the Beatles - in wax - are dressed in 1964 suits. We stopped at the Beatles Shop, where I bought my limited edition Ringo watch!

          After lunch, and on to #34 Boston Place - Magic Alex. Next stop Marylebone Station, used in "A Hard Day's Night" where the Beatles ran through to catch their train - on track 1. Then to Alistair Taylor's House (he was The Beatles' "Mr. fix it" man). We went to #34 Montague Square, where Ringo had lived, and Paul as well. Jimi Hendrix and John & Yoko were busted there! Next, we stopped at the former Apple Boutique building, which once had a huge mural painted on it. And then on to Jane Asher's family home. Jane's mom taught George Martin how to play piano in that home and Paul wrote "I Want to Hold Your Hand" there! We also stopped at 20 Manchester Square, which was the head office for EMI and site of the Beatles photo on the stairs for "Please Please Me."

          We stopped by the Devonshire Arms Pub where the Beatles and Brian Epstein would go for drinks. We saw the HMV (His Master's Voice) Shop where Brian Epstein brought tapes to be made into records inexpensively. We then saw a house that all 4 Beatles had lived in at one time, circa 1963. Rene took us past Bonham's, an auction house for memorabilia. We also saw Sotheby's and one other auction house. We saw the BBC Radio House, and then on to another very famous site - 3 Saville Row!

          3 Saville Row is the site of Apple, and, of course, the rooftop where the Beatles played that last impromptu concert! We saw the Miranda Club, formerly Bag O Nails where Paul and Linda first met. We also stopped by the London Palladium and took some photos there. Rene showed us Trident Studios, where the mixing for the White Album took place. On to MPL, Paul McCartney's offices, and the nearby Radha Krishna Temple (George was a supporter).

          And the list goes on and on and. Rene did a great job leading the tour. Is there a place we didn't visit?

          After a fully exhaustive (and I mean exhaustive!) tour, we headed back to the hotel for a short time to prepare for our evening: the annual "Twist & Shout" dance party at the Hard Rock Café London. We started by visiting The Vault, where the most valuable items are housed, Including John Lennon's Army Jacket, the original lyrics for Instant Karma, the harpsichord used in All you Need is Love and Lucy in the Skies and more! Jimi was our guide. Then we shopped, we ate and danced. And danced some more! Dave had some contests and many of us won some neat gifts. The Hard Rock also gave us all gifts!

          It's amazing how we all got our second wind - I guess we're a bunch of party animals! We were joined there by the Mexican Beatles Fan Club, London's British Beatles Fan Club and we had two special guests as well - Leslie Cavendish, Beatles Hairdresser from 1967-1975, and Gordon Millings, son of Dougie Millings, The Beatles' tailor. We met a mom and her son from Russia. John and I (Barb) danced to "Back in the USSR" with them! A wonderful second day in London!

          Our third day in London featured our all-day bus trip of Beatles sites around London that we didn't see the day before. This morning we boarded a luxury coach with tables! Our fun day began with a visit to the the HMV Apollo Theatre, and the fire escape steps from "A Hard Day's Night." These are from the scene when the Beatles break out of the theatre right before the "Can't Buy Me Love" scene. We were all having a great time taking turns with pictures running of us up & down the fire escape. All of a sudden, a guy who works at the theatre comes out, and when he see a bus-load of Beatles fan, he goes back in and comes out with an old, original poster from "A Hard Day's Night" that was being used to board up a window in the theatre at one point. What a great find! We take a group picture on the fire escape with the poster, and several individual ones as well. What a magical moment!

          Speaking of "A Hard Day's Night," we recreated a manic scene from the film as we raced down the sidestreet next to Marlyeborne Station. Fortunately, none of us fell down the way George did in the famous scene.

          We saw the hospital where Ringo's 3 children were born and where Yoko had suffered a miscarriage.

          We then headed over to Cheswick House & Gardens where the "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" videos were filmed in 1966. We loved taking pictures in areas we recognized from the videos and photo shoots. Everyone took photos on the low tree limb where the Beatles had taken a promo shot. We also took photos by the statues from the video. We spent some time here enjoying the park and the many dogs that were being walked - turns out our group is a bunch of dog-lovers, too.

          The next stop was The Bull (formerly Crawdaddy's) where the Beatles first met the Rolling Stones.

          Another highlight was going down to Ailsa Avenue from "Help!" where the Beatles' houses were. In the movie, Ringo is in #5 (porch added since the movie), John was in #7, Paul in #9 and George in #11.Of course, we took many photos here. As if this weren't cool enough, the lady who actually lives in #9 opened her door and talked with us! She's a very sweet lady named Rosemary, and this had been her family home for years, even when they were filming. She said she didn't get to see the Beatles since she was at work when they filmed!

          Just a little ways down, we switch movies back to "A Hard Day's Night" as we headed over to the Turks Head Pub, where one of Ringo's solo scenes was filmed during his walkabout (it's where he plays darts). We stopped in for a few minutes, and the bartender put "A Hard Day's Night" on the screens for us so we can watch the scene that was filmed at the pub. Another magical moment!

          We headed over to Twickenham Film Studios, where all non-locations shots for "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" were filmed, as well as the first half of "Let it Be." We were lucky enough to actually get into Stage 1 for the first time ever - very cool! This may have been the most magical moment: The building was locked up, but Charles was able to get the nice lady who worked there to let us into Studio 1, where the movie scenes were recorded! It was a very empty room, but we just used our imaginations and enjoyed our time there.

          After we left Twickenham Studios, we followed in the footsteps of where Ringo walked along the river in "AHDN," and the pub in "Help!" where he fell into the pit with the tiger. We took our lunch break at the City Barge, but they were not prepared to handle a group of our size.

          After our bus tour, we returned to the hotel and had a free evening to do as we wished. Barb, John, Allison, Rita and I went to Harrods to do some shopping, followed by a lovely dinner at Zia Teresa's across the street at the recommendation of one of the store security guards. Since we were first-time guests, the owner treated us all to free desserts - sweet! Others went to the West End theater district to catch a play. Nobody stayed out too late because tomorrow we head to for Liverpool.

          Tomorrow can't come soon enough - this is the day we head to Liverpool! We loaded up the specious double-decker luxury coach, and headed over to pick up our friends from the Mexican Beatles Fan Club, who would be sharing our bus-ride to Liverpool. I took the seat on the top deck above the driver, so I had an excellent view of our drive. Along the way Charles played rare Beatles videos, we had sing-alongs and Dave held more contests and drawings for prizes!

          Outside of London, we stopped in Henley-on-Thames to visit George Harrison's estate, Friar Park (or "Crackerbox Palace" if you know the song). Several of us had planned on leaving flowers at the gate, but the flower shop by the hotel in London was not open before we left. We did get to meet a member of the Harrison family while there - Jack the dog came out the gates to greet us, along with a very nice security guard who was friendly and talkative. Barb brought home a fallen holly leaf (George was an avid gardener) to put in our scrapbook.

          After our visit to Friar Park, we were had a leisurely 2-hour lunch break to explore the village of Henley and eat lunch. Some found a rare record store and bought some treasures. I purchased a vinyl of "Abbey Road" (misaligned apple, UK release) and "Rubber Soul" - my two favorite albums.

          We saw the Angel Pub where George was a customer. Henley is a beautiful town - we can see why George loved it there. Other visited the nice outdoor flea market/bazaar.

          Back on the bus, we continued to watch some great Beatles videos and look forward to our arrival in Liverpool. We kept taking pictures of signs that mentioned Liverpool! We hit some traffic along the way, but once we arrived, we checked into the grand, regal (and a bit antiquated) Adelphi Hotel, which would be our home for the next six days. The Adelphi was also the nerve-center for International Beatles Week and the Beatles Convention. We received our packets with tickets for the various shows we would see and our wristbands that would give us access to The Cavern Club and other venues all week. John Lennon's sister Julia was in the lobby, and greeted some of our travelers. We took a brief break to drop off our luggage, and then we met back in the lobby for our first event in Liverpool - we all walked over to the Mathew St as a group to the world famous Cavern Club! I am thrilled to find out that the Cavern is now a no-smoking venue (yea!!). After you walk down the steps to the club, as soon as you enter the doors at the bottom, you feel the wall of heat. The Cavern Club has been rebuilt since the Beatles' days, but it is in the same spot. The stage is located on the opposite end from where it was back then. They also have a second stage now. The main act for the evening is Nube 9 (means Cloud 9), from Argentina. They performed most of the "Abbey Road" album, and they were absolutely wonderful. Aleph, the Mexican Beatle band who were on the bus with us, performed across the street at the Cavern Pub.

          We explored Mathew St. a bit and then had pizza at the Fab 4 Pizza place next to Lennon's Bar. A wonderful first night in Liverpool! The magic continued.

          The next morning, we met in the lobby early for our trip John and Paul's childhood homes! Our first stop is Mendips, where John Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi from 1945-1963, located on Menlove Ave. Colin, the caretaker, tells us about the house, John and his family. We enter through the backdoor in the kitchen, because Aunt Mimi always insisted that John's guests come in through the kitchen. We listened to Colin tell about the house and John's history. Mendips has a small glass front porch where John & Paul used to go out and sing on - because it had a nice echo to it. I went out and sang "She Loves You" with Paula and Debbie on the porch. Many of us stood in there with the doors closed and practiced OUR singing!

          Our next stop is Forthlin Road, where Paul McCartney lived with his family from approximately 1955-1963. The caretaker, John, is quite funny, and even shares more than a bit of a resemblance to Paul. There was a piano in the living room and Barb asked John if she could play it. He said "I don't know, can you"? Barb was thrilled to be able to sit at that piano, in Paul's house, and play "Let it Be!" Our group sang along. I (Barb) have to say this is one of the highlights of the trip for me. Later on, Tomas sat down and played "In my Life" and we all sang along. The songs "Love Me Do" and "I Saw Her Standing There" were written in the Forthlin Road house, and hanging on the walls of the house are pictures taken by Paul's brother Michael, one of which includes John & Paul working on "I Saw Her Standing There."

          You will notice that there is a blue dot plaque on John's house saying that he lived here and the dates, but not one on Paul's - that is because to have a blue dot you must be deceased for 20 years or be 100 years old. Our bus-driver for the trip, Les, adds in some extras and points out Penny Lane and later Madryn Street, where Ringo was born. It turns out that Les was also the bus driver in the Beatles' "Free as a Bird" video, so we were driven by a celebrity. On his the bus, we passed by the neighborhood Ringo was born in, The Dingle. We saw his home at 9 Madryn St. and passed Admiral Grove where he moved later. We also passed by The Empress, where Ringo posed for the cover of his album, "Sentimental Journey." Next, we passed the Anglican Church where Paul FAILED his audition as a choir boy!

          Les dropped us off at a couple of different locations. I get off with a small group at Albert Dock, where we had for lunch and took a Ferry Cross the Mersey. It was getting cold and windy, so a few of us bought Liverpool hoodies. We rode the Ferry Across the Mersey (they actually play part of the song when you get on and off). We were able to sit outside on the deck for a while, but the weather kept changing. We had rain, sun, cold, wind and calm all within minutes of each other. And they say Chicago weather is weird! Anyhow, this was another childhood dream come true for me. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) where Paul and George went for high school. The Beatles Auction would be taking place here on Saturday, and we stopped in for catalogues.

          Our entertainment for the evening is at the O2 Academy (formerly Carling Academy), is a concert celebrating Apple, starring The Tearaways, original Apple recording artist & Beatles friend Jackie Lomax, plus the band Apple Jam. Alan White sat in with Apple Jam for part of their performance. Alan White is the drummer for Yes, and also played on John Lennon's "Imagine" album and George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass." Apple Jam was awesome.

          Some of us did some late-night partying, and a few of us caught Jimmy Pou's unplugged acoustic one-man show in the Hard Day's Night Hotel lobby. Jimmy is one of the great "Harrisons" who has played with "Beatlemania," "1964 The Tribute" and others. Over at the Cavern, the music was pulsating for the club's "All-Nighter," with bands playing on stage until 6am in the morning!

          After breakfast, most of the group made their way to LIPA for the auction. John and Coni and I walked to the Pier near Albert Dock to see The Spirit of Lennon White Feather Exhibit. This was put together by John Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, and son Julian. It was an excellent exhibit, there only thru December, so our timing was perfect. Very well done.

          Above is a picture of a John & Yoko dress-alike couple we kept running into.

          After the White Feather exhibit, we walked back to Albert Dock and went to The Beatles Story, a permanent museum of sorts that takes you from 1940 through the beginnings of their skiffle band (The Quarrymen), through their years as the Beatles and onto their solo careers. A definite must-see.

          Our day next took us by St. Luke's, a church that was bombed during WWII. But the highlight of the afternoon was the opening to fans of two original clubs where The Beatles played, the Blue Angel and the Jacaranda. Allan Williams, the Beatles' first manager, hosted the two clubs, which officially welcomed groups of fans for the first time in a long time. We didn't stay very long at either place as the basements were quite crowded. I tried to get pictures of the murals on the walls of the Jac - the murals were originally painted by John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe (original bass player for the Beatles) have been repainted - but one of the originals still remain. I have better pictures of the basement of the Jac that I took the next day.

          We all met up back in the lobby so we could go as a group to the Hard Day's Night Hotel gift shop and gallery for our private exclusive reception with Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voorman. Astrid Kirchherr first met the Beatles in Hamburg in 1960 and took many of the famous pictures of the group from the early days when Stu and Pete were still in the band. She was engaged to Stu before he died in 1962. Klaus Voorman also met the Beatles in Hamburg in 1960 and would eventually design the "Revolver" album cover. He was very nice, and we took a group photo there. John got Klaus to sign his Revolver T-Shirt and he signed Barb's Revolver postcard.

          That evening we all headed over to the the Casbah Coffee Club for the famed club's 50th anniversary party (to the day!). The Casbah first opened August 29, 1959 in the basement of Pete Best's (drummer for the Beatles 1960-1962) house. The Beatles helped decorate the club and played here numerous times until 1962. Pete Best signed autographs for about a half-hour when he got there, and I was lucky enough to get to talk to Pete for a few minutes and get a picture with him. I got to talk with Pete Best! Barb told him that she and her husband had met him a few years ago. He is a very nice and gracious guy.

          It was very interesting getting to talk to the people at the Casbah that night. Guests in the audience included legendary Liverpool musicians Lee Curtis and Ken Brown. The Casbah was my favorite venue on the trip. It's divided into little rooms. The room we were in most of the night was the Aztec Room. John Lennon painted the ceiling with an Aztec design, and also scratched his name into the wall. We got pictures of both. The room next to that is the room where Paul painted a rainbow on the ceiling. Behind the stage is a spider web painted by George and Pete Best.

          The great thing about spending time at The Casbah was that we got to talk with some locals. We met a wonderful lady named Jean. She grew up in the neighborhood and saw the Beatles all the time. Her husband is in a band called the Merseycats, and they were opening for Pete Best's band. He told us that he and Paul were going to an audition together and Paul wrote a song on the way called "Thinking of Lincoln" (which some may have heard of as "Thinkin' of Linkin'"), a lost song that was never published. So interesting.

          Sunday is convention day! My day began with a trip to the dealer tables to see what I could find with what money I had left. Over the course of the day I did find a few things to spend some money on. Barb found the Remco Beatles dolls WITH instruments, thus ending a decade-long search! Throughout the day and night, Beatles bands were playing here, there and everywhere! Some in the main ballroom, others in rooms off the sides. Everywhere you went you heard the great music.

          John and Barb had lunch at Bella Italia (recommended by Lynda), and it was delish. Back to the convention at the Adelphi, Barb found a UK 5th printing of John Lennon's book, "In His Own Write" (in excellent condition!), some nesting dolls, socks, a pen and a Beatle fan.

          Allison and I returned to the Jacaranda, where Dot was kind enough to let us in before they opened so we could get some pictures of the murals in the basement before it got crowded. I returned to the convention and watched part of the Paul McCartney concert in the video room.

          At 4:00pm we went to see Jimmy Pou perform solo Harrison - he was great! Then, at 6:00pm, we went to see the Mersey Beatles perform - they were doing "Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour," and they were great as well!

          That evening we had tickets to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (the "Phil") to see Mark McGann's John Lennon presentation "In My Life." McGann played Lennon in the film "John & Yoko A Love Story," and this show was extremely well done, and moving. This was the best show I saw in Liverpool. Michael McGann narrated and sang, and they projected pictures throughout John's life. The opening act was the aforementioned Jimmy Pou, who did a beautiful tribute to George. The MC was our tour host Charles, who was also an MC at the Mathew Street Festival. The convention was still going on when we returned to the Adelphi, and there was music in every ballroom, pub and restaurant in the hotel. A band from Chicago, Cavern Beat played "Rubber Soul." We were pleasantly surprised to see that James Lynch, formerly of British Export, plays George in this band!

          Monday morning we started the day with a 3-hour walking tour of Liverpool with Rene (yes, Gilligan, there is such a thing as a three hour tour), who guided our tours in London. We met in the lobby of our hotel, the Adelphi, and Rene pointed out that Yoko and Sean have stayed there, and it was also used for Fred and Julia Lennon's (John's parents) wedding ceremony. Then, across the street, the department store Lewis's, where Cynthia Lennon (John's first wife) worked in the perfume department and Paul worked in the canteen.

          As we walked along Lime Street, Rene also pointed out where George used to work, at Blackliss. We saw the Odeon Cinema where "Yellow Submarine," "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night" all premiered. We also saw the Empire Theatre where the Beatles performed in 1963 & 1965.

          We passed St. George's Hall where a vigil was held for John Lennon following his murder, and where the "For George Exhibit" was being held. Rene pointed out the Playhouse Theatre where Brian Epstein frequently went to see plays. We saw the former home of Hessys Music Store (now LaCoste) where aspiring rock n rollers would buy their instruments at low cost and over time. Rene also pointed out the offices of Rex Makin, Brian Epstein's solicitor (lawyer) and the Beatles' first attorney.

          We stopped by the White Star Pub where the Beatles frequented (The White Star Line owned the Titanic) and then on to Mathew St. The Grapes is the only original pub left, and the Beatles spent a lot of time there. We saw the building where Cynthia Lennon designed the artwork.

          We stopped outside The Cavern Club and learned more of its history. We also found out that Pete Best was actually born in India - his father was in the service and stationed there!

          We continued to walk away from Mathew St. and saw the art shop where they would buy their art supplies. We walked to LIPA - Paul comes back every year to hand out diplomas to the graduates!

          We saw the church where they would practice acoustically in the yard, and the building where John, George, Paul and Stu Sutcliffe all lived together for the first time. We saw the studio where they'd practise all the time and Allan Williams' house.

          We walked to #36 Falkner - Brian Epstein's apartment. This is where John and Cynthia "honeymooned" and lived for a while. We passed the Philharmonic Hall where the remastered soundtrack for "Yellow Submarine" premiered, and the hospital where John Lennon was born (now apartments).

          We visited some very unique and rarely-seen Beatles sites, and somehow lost Charles and few of our tour-members along the way. He didn't disappoint the ones who fell behind with him. They took photos in front of The Grapes on Mathew Street (where The Beatles often drank) with a female Japanese Beatles band, and then they wound up on the balcony of Liverpool Town Hall where The Beatles once posed for the city.

          After our walking tour, several of us headed over to St. George's Hall to see the "For George" exhibit that was set up. The "For George" exhibit was excellent, and we spent some time talking with the lady who organized it. We found out the next day that it had been robbed and the exhibit shut down, so we were blessed that we were able to see it.

          I spent some more time at the Cavern in the afternoon to see some more bands, and the evening it was back to the Philharmonic, where we had box seats (!) for Apple Jam performing songs the Beatles gave away to other artists, and a terrific performance by the band Pepperland. Another great show - pretty much every band I saw in Liverpool was great.

          The evening continued back at the Adelphi with a midnight show by The Overtures. The first part of their set was entitled "the big three" as they performed songs by The Beatles' great friendly rivals The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks. The second half was a tribute to The Beatles themselves.

          Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool! How exciting it was to board the yellow Magical Mystery Bus (another lifelong dream)! We had a wonderful tour guide, Paul and we were on our way for what would become one of the best days of our trip. Yes, today is the day we get to take the yellow Magical Mystery Tour bus for our official site-seeing trip around Liverpool.

          We passed the Anglican cathedral where Paul had flunked his audition as a choir boy (no matter how often we heard that, we laughed). Much later, his Liverpool Oratorio would debut in this Cathedral. Places we visited included the College of Art where John when to School, Liverpool Institute where Paul and George went to school. We saw where Ringo was born at 9 Madryn St. This time we were able to get out and take pictures in front of it - the Ringo Girls (Vicki and I) were thrilled! Next we went to #10 Admiral Grove where Ringo moved when he was 5 years old and lived there until he left Liverpool. Margaret Gross lives there now and we were able to go inside the house! We sat in the living room as she gave us a personal tour of her memories. Another thrill for the Ringo Girls! He had his 21st birthday party there with 80 guests! and then went to the house on Admiral Grove where Ringo grew up and lived until the time of the Beatles.

          Our next stop on the tour - St. Peter's church and the hall across the street, where in 1957 John Lennon & Paul McCartney met for the first time. We got to hear the story from Dave Peters, who was actually there on that fateful day, and still volunteers there today! The hall still has its original wood flooring, and we got to take pictures in the exact spot where Lennon met McCartney. Rock n Roll history!

          The grave of Eleanor Rigby can also be found at this church.

          We also saw John's Uncle George's grave. This and Abbey Road in London were my (Coni's) two favorite stops on the entire trip.

          Dare I say it? Our next stop, another highlight - Strawberry Field! Strawberry Field was originally a country mansion. In the 1930's it was opened up as a children's home and continued until about 5 years ago. Now it is owned by the Salvation Army. The gates are still there. Yes, we took photos galore.

          On our next stop was John's mom's Julia's house at #1 Blomfield Road, where Julia Lennon moved to when John was 13. He would spend weekends here with Julia. This is where Julia taught John how to play the banjo.

          Next we went to another spot of our dreams - PENNY LANE! Here we saw the shelter in the middle of the roundabout, the barber shop, the bank and St. Barnabas Church (where Paul was a choir boy)! We had lunch, sort of, at the Penny Lane Wine Bar. Delish fish n chips - best we had in England! We ended up having to bring the food back to the bus to eat it (service in pubs is s - l - o - w!).

          After our lunch at Penny Lane, we visited George's birthplace where he lived until he was 5 years old, then we stopped at a special surprise location: Childwell Five Ways, site of a publicity photo of all of Brian Epstein's bands. We recreated some photos of Brian Epstein and 3 of the bands that he managed: The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas. I got to be Paul in the pictures. Then, we saw the house that Brian Epstein was raised - he lived there until he left Liverpool).

          Our next wonderful stop was at the Blenheim Lakeside Hotel, a B&B and former home of Stu Sutcliffe's family from 1961-1966 (Stu died in 1962). We were treated to tea and cookies there and it was lovely. After tea, we took the bus somewhere it has never been - the Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The airport has a yellow submarine out front, a statue of John inside, lyrics all the way down the terminal. We wrapped up our Magical Mystery Tour with the house George lived in most of his childhood, from age 7 until 1962, his formative guitar-playing years, and two more McCartney houses (they had 7 different homes in Liverpool). We then made a stop at Quarry Bank School and passed by Penny Lane one last time. The tour was excellent, and Paul the tour-guide did a truly wonderful job. Charles, who has been on these tours more than 25 times, even said how much fun it was for him.

          John and Barb had one last dinner at Bella Italia, others went back to Mathew Street for last-chance for shopping at the Hard Day's Night gift shop.

          Our last evening in Liverpool found us back at the Cavern. The BBC did a live broadcast from the Cavern to surprise Cilla Black (she was on the other side of the broadcast, not at the Cavern). I didn't make it on camera (which is fine), but it was cool to be there. We then went to the back stage to watch the Searchers, who played all their hits. Was this really our last night in Liverpool?

          It was our last day in England and we got to Heathrow in time for our flight back to the states. We're on our way home, we're on our way home, we're going home...... Back in New York, we all said goodbye at baggage claim. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I'm very glad to have shared it with so many people that I know will be friends for many years to come. Ah, the memories will live forever. Hopefully I will see many of you again in February for the "Weekend of Love" Vegas trip.

          As I sit here writing this several days after we returned, I still have not cut off my Beatle week wristband LOL. Thank you Charles for such an excellent trip that exceeded all expectations!

          "And, in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make"........

          This truly was a magical Magical Mystery Tour.

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