Monday, August 23: Travel day.
An airport has never been so amusing. As soon as my mother, Debbie, and I arrived at JFK (wearing our Beatles best) we were greeted by other members of the group. There was a couple from my hometown, Pam and Al from CT, Linda and her nephew Ian from FL, 2 Michaels, a doctor, a Fred and our tour guide, Charles. Everyone had excitement racing through their veins and it was understood that we could not wait to get to London! We knew a splendid time would be guaranteed for all!
An important and not so little side note: Due to a physical disability, I use a wheelchair to get around. I have an overall muscle weakness, which makes it impossible for me to stand for longer than ten seconds or walk far distances (and by far, I mean I can't walk around a VW Beetle). It's not something I want to be identified as, but I'm sure that this tour will be very different for me because of that reason. You should also know John is my favorite Beatle and I am dead set on getting a tattoo while I'm over here. I just don't know what yet.
Tuesday, August 24:
We arrived in London, and waited for the rest of the group to come in from Germany (and it's a big group). Once we got together, Dave, the super awesome bus driver, took us on a quick tour of the city. We saw Big Ben and more touristy London-ish things. Charles's friend, Rene from Beatles Unlimited Magazine (this guy really knows everything about the Beatles) took some people on a walking tour to see some Beatle sites around London, but I passed. I was far too tired to do anything like that! I think John Lennon could have offered to do the tour and I would still prefer my bed… ok probably not but whatever. In this hotel, the suites are called the "Lennon Suites." I wonder where they got that idea from! I just think it is so cool to be in London - I never thought that I would make it "across the pond" but here I am! I can only imagine how crazy I will be when I get to Liverpool!
Wednesday, August 25:
Today, we went on a Beatles bus tour of London. The forecast was rain around noon so we started at Abbey Road. It was pretty awesome to be there and walk across the street and think 'John was here' and this is where/how "Paul is dead" started. I've been saying since I booked this trip that I was going to write on the wall at Abbey Road and I forgot a freakin' marker! Have no fear! Debbie and Charles came prepared! I wrote on the wall twice- once with a purple pen and once with a black Sharpie. Both times I wrote, "Limitless, undying love. Thank you, Autumn '10" on the wall. I don't know why I had to write it twice and why I didn't write something different the second time but let it be. One of the guys visiting our group picked through the studio garbage and my mom ended up with a Sting album, a completely random, but funny, fact.
Abbey Road wall. Photo by Autumn Chmil
After we left Abbey Road, we got back on the bus and went to the Cavendish home of Sir Paul McCartney! I was so hoping he'd walk out to get the mail or the newspaper or something! You never know what might happen. After the visit at McCartney's, we went to Chiswick Park where the videos for "Rain" and "Paperback Writer" were shot. The statues are even there still! You could picture the videos in your head and just let the awesomeness play out in front of you. Then in some crazy back alley behind a theater, which you wouldn't be able to find on your own, we were presented with the staircase from "A Hard Day's Night" and it's still in one piece! It was amazing to me!
Tourguides Charles & Rene on the HDN steps
Another part of today's adventure was to the street where all the homes from "Help!" are still standing! In another crazy back alley along a river, we stumbled into the bar that is in "Help!" Actual places where the Fab Four stood! The bar is in the scene where Ringo ends up under the actual bar and finds himself face to face with a tiger! It was awesome to be at this bar, and we would never know about it if it weren't for Rene and Charles! I think that it is great that these simple additions to music history are still intact and that we were able to see them!
After the coach tour ended we took a dinner break and went for another walking tour of London with Renee. Al, Pam, my mother, and I were all late getting to the tour, so we took a cab over to Apple Records, which ended up to be the right thing to do. Being at Apple, the place where so much great things have taken place was quite amazing! I shook my head in disappointment and/or disbelief as I thought of the foolish cops that forced the Beatles to stop their rooftop performance. They should have encouraged the boys to play forever on that rooftop. I am not one to get sentimental, and rarely do places where people once were mean much to me, but that street, that building, the steps, and the view of the rooftop with my own eyes caused an "out of body" experience. To date, it was the most "spiritual" I have felt in my life. As silly as is sounds, I felt John there. I could hear "Don't Let Me Down" rattle from the rooftop. And when I closed my eyes, I was sure I would open them back up and find myself in a cold January day in '69 where I would be able to witness the finest band in rock and roll perform live for the last time. We ran into the rest of the group at Apple and gathered to hear Rene tell us facts about the story. I could have hopped on a plane back to the States after that and it would have been enough for me. Later on, I was talking to Charles about going to the vacant building and he described the building with, "A holy site is a holy site." I dig it. I am just not sure if anyone else could ever be as moved as I was on Saville Row.
Rene continued our walking tour of London. We stopped at a few places where the Beatles performed, like the Palladium Theater. We also stopped at the former home of Jane Asher, who was Paul's girlfriend before Linda. You couldn't help but to stop and think about what it must have been like for the Ashers to have Paul living in their home, right in the middle of London with Beatlemania going on around them! It had to be crazy. Today was just been a taste of what is to come over the next week and I was so psyched to get to Liverpool!
Thursday, August 26:
After breakfast, we all piled into a double-decker bus and drove from London to Liverpool. Along the way, we stopped in a little village called Henley, the village where George Harrison lived, and where Olivia and Dhani still live. Charles said that George would just walk around the village and no one would bother him. We got off the bus to take some photos in front of George's home. The model home, which I believe is where the gardener lives (the real one is miles down the road) is so cute - along with the rest of this quaint little village! I can definitely see why George chose to live there. It is a complete turn-around from what he experienced while he was with the Beatles. I imagine it was like peace on earth for him.
MMTour meets incredible Harrison lookalike! Photo by Joey Montesi
After the stop at George's Friar Park home, we walked around for a little while and visited the village marketplace. There were so many different things there, many homemade, like juices, jellies, and cookies. It was so relaxed and calm, and hard to leave! I saw a woman leave her daughter in a stroller and went inside a store - and wasn't even threatened at the thought that someone might snatch her up! Coming from the chaos of America and the busy streets of London, it was quite refreshing! Henley has an unbelievable innocence to it that Americans can never imagine without seeing it first-hand. There were numerous antique shops and a record store. We purchased a few gifts in Harrison's Village (the name should just be changed to) and I had pizza and got back on the bus to Liverpool!
Driving into Liverpool was so fun, and I mean the drive itself!! We watched Beatles movies and different clips of the boys from the days when they were still a group and just laughed. But when Charles told us we were entering Liverpool, crazy excitement started running through my veins. I started taking photos immediately - of everything, just in case I might have recognized it as Beatle related after the fact. I was already wondering, "Was John here?" with each passing street sign. Although I am quite calm most times, I felt a little bit of a Beatlemania breaking out inside of me. Imagine just sitting on a bus, driving on a street, in the city where the Beatles happened to come together. You'd freak out too! Not long after we arrived in Liverpool, we arrived at our hotel, The Britanna Adelphi Hotel. It is gigantic and beautiful.
Inside, I met Dave Jones, who is a director of Cavern City Tours. He assured me that everything was set up for me to make the trip as accessible as possible. He even saved me the hassle of trying to find my way into the Cavern Club and told me how to get in around the back. He also gave me his card and told me to call him if I have any problems. Right off the bat, this tour is far more friendly, accessible, and willing to adapt than any other trip I have been on.
Mom and I went up to our rooms, freshened up, and then got ready to go to the Cavern Club. Let me say it again, to got ready to go to the CAVERN CLUB! It was probably much more exciting to me to get ready to go than it was for anyone 40 some years ago. Just chalk it up to those people not knowing how good they had it when they had it! There we were, on Mathew Street in front of the freakin' Cavern Club -- where Brian found the boys! Although the original Cavern was torn down, the rebuilt Cavern is made up of 90% of the same bricks that held together the original Cavern Club. The Cavern's atmosphere is so intense that when you walk in there you can feel the music in your veins. There were performers on two stages. The show that we were all waiting for was called, "A Warm Lennon," and it was very impressive. They still love John here.
Of course, I took pictures all around the Cavern. I laughed at myself as I was taking pictures of pictures. Everybody had a good time - as a smart man once said.
original Cavern entrance
Friday, August 27
It's kind of like going to an exhibit, but here you aren't separated by glass from the artifacts. Another plus is that there aren't attendants following you around so you don't take photos. Here, you become a part of history.
Today, we went to the Casbah Club. This club was owned by Pete Best's mother, Mona, and can be referred to as an early Beatle's shrine. Photos of John, Paul, George & Pete are all over the walls. There is a spot on the wall where John carved his name and underlined it a few times, and it's still there -- which is a little more than awesome if you ask me. You'd never know that this was such a big part of music history if you saw this building as you were passing by. It's seems like the Casbah is Liverpool's best kept secret. It's away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Liverpool and the thought of a rock and roll club being in a basement in a home in this part of town is pretty amusing. It's right in the middle of Pleasantville.
In the backyard of the Casbah, for today's event there were bands playing all day long. It was like a backyard cookout with a bunch of old friends. Our very own Charlie Guitar performed for everyone. He did a fantastic job, and made everyone proud! Pam, Al, my mother and I met a few local (and not so local) celebrities there too. We were lucky enough to meet Roag Best, who is the half-brother of Pete Best and is also Neil Aspinall's son. We also met Pete Santora, a guitarist who has played George in Beatlemania. My Mom developed a new obsession with The Tearaways, a pretty impressive band. The funniest part is that there was a kind British woman that was telling my mother that The Tearaways are a great group and that if she wants to hear what true American rock & roll sounds like to stick around and listen to them! Apparently, she didn't hear Mom's (clearly) American dialect.
After the Casbah, we all went to the Liverpool Philharmonic to see a tribute to The Beatles with The Shakers and The Overtures. Both bands were very entertaining, but The Overtures were phenomenal! I'm pretty sure that most of the audience was on their feet from the start of their performance to the end of the night. It was a great kick off to what I was sure was going to be a memorable weekend!
Saturday, August 28
Earlier today, Rene took us on walking tour of Liverpool. Let me just say one thing first: although it is a bigger city, it is easy to get around, even by foot. Everything is in close quarters and that makes the experience very different than anything we might experience in the States. Anyway, we first stopped at a yellow door, numbered with a brass "64." Once upon a time, what was held behind that door was a marriage office - Justice of the Peace, if you will. Behind this door is where John and Cynthia were married, and Julia and Alf Lennon, and George Harrison's parents. It seemed like a plain old yellow door, but behind that door is where the people that really are responsible for the individual Beatles got together. There were many different "John sites" along the tour today. One of the most awesome sites was where John Lennon was born. The hospital is now used as dorms for students but in 1940, that is where the boy who would forever change rock and roll was born. I like to think of it as the "Bethlehem of Rock and Roll." Creative, I know. After the hospital, we went inside the Philharmonic Bar, which is the most beautiful bar I have ever been in! We stopped in the Jacaranda Club where John and Stu painted murals for the owners, and, of course, also played in the band.
One particularly interesting stop on the tour was at the Liverpool Art Institute, not necessarily in front of the building or inside, but up the hill from it. In the middle of the sidewalk (a rather wide sidewalk) there are two "statues" of suitcases that the art students have created from original suitcases of celebrities like John, Paul and George's guitar case. It is hard for me to decide what kind of work of art to call this. From the moment I saw it up close, I just thought, "it's a peace monument," which is a promising suggestion. A piece of art dedicated to peace, or even another genre of art is like a breath of fresh air opposed to war monuments that we are accustomed to. I think that this will be one of my favorite things in Liverpool.
Around the corner from the suitcases there is a special bar (Beacon Ale House) that John and the boys would frequent after classes. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go inside because there were far too many stairs to tackle. Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time to be the receiver of a random act of kindness. Rene and I were waiting outside for the others to come out from the bar and a man came over to me and asked me if I was here for the Beatles. In case my Beatles t-shirt didn't give it away, I told him that I was, in fact, in Liverpool for the Beatles. He proceeded to tell me that he was a custodian of Lennon's Kenwood estate and gave me a Beatle geared map of Liverpool, which had tons of Beatle sights right down to Eleanor Rigby's grave. He also gave me a photo of John and Paul in Paul's kitchen. In the photo John was making tea and Paul was doing laundry! Sir Paul McCartney doing laundry! Ha! The man shared other information with me and I thanked him for the photos and the information as I waited for the group to come out of the bar. I love that about Liverpudlians - they're so kind.
Tonight there was a very special concert at the Anglican Cathedral. The church itself is beautiful, inside and out. The concert was titled "Peace, Love, and Understanding: The Concert." As people were entered for the show, the church bells rang "Across the Universe" and "Let It Be." The whole show was great. Many different acts from all over the world performed different songs from The Beatles' catalogue and even performed songs from every Beatle's solo years. Every performer was better than the one before! Our Charlie Guitar was the best performer! Julia Baird, John's half-sister, spoke; this was the highlight for me. All week, I had been hoping to meet her, and even though I didn't get to meet her personally, it was an honor just to be in the same room as her. She talked about John in her speech, about "Across the Universe" and finally explained what "Jai Guru Deva Om" means! Julia also let the crowd know that when NASA was able to beam a song into space, aiming directly for the North Star which is some 430 light-years away, it was "Across the Universe" that that NASA chose to play across the universe!
Sunday, August 29
Today was the day of the Beatles Convention, also known as "Heaven on Earth." I couldn't believe everything that was going on, all the bands and everything that was for sale! I had no idea where to start! Luckily, mom and I ran into Rene shortly after we got there and he told us that John's sister Julia was in the interview room if we wanted to go see her. I couldn't explain why but it was my mission to just see her and maybe get a picture with her since her speech last night. I just think that she is great. Well, as we got into the interview room she was finishing up her discussion, and as she was leaving the room I asked her if she wouldn't mind taking a picture with me. She smiled and said, "not at all." It may not be a big deal to anyone else, but I got a picture with John Lennon's sister; I know how close I am with my brother and it was just an honor to be speaking to someone who was so close to John. I thought that was going to be the most exciting part of my day, but then the rest of the day happened, and what a day it was!
Of course I bought way too much to bring home. We had to get another suitcase just to bring everything home that we bought over the last week! There was so much Beatle memorabilia. There were authors and many different musicians were around to chat with; I was able to meet Billy J. Kramer, get a photo with him, and also an autograph. Today was also a great chance to speak to so many different Beatle fans from all over the world! At one point I said to my mother, "Mom, there are thousands of people here this weekend and they are all just like me!" The convention is a MUST for Beatles fans, at least once! Up until today when I heard the word "convention" I had bad visions of science nerds running around squawking about R2D2, but I must say my vision has become much clearer.
World's Greatest Beatles Artist Shannon paints another masterpiece at the Liverpool Convention
But there is one part of the convention that will probably be very unique from other stories. As my mother and I were leaving the convention, while we were waiting for the elevator I noticed Julia standing across the way. I told my mother "I would be right back" and handed her my stuff with no explanation to what insane thing I was doing this time. I went over to Julia, told her that I thought her speech from last night was wonderful, and asked her if she could tell me again what "Jai Guru Deva Om" meant. I told her that I was thinking about getting that lyric tattooed while I was here. I was going to get a tattoo, and I wanted to make sure of the meaning. She looked at me said, "You know I don't know offhand. Will you be around for awhile? I don't want you to get something tattooed on you that I mess the meaning up on!" She told me to come back in a little bit and she'd get the speech for me. I thanked her and I went back to my mother and I told her I knew what I was going to get tattooed.
On the way to the elevator, someone grabbed my shoulder and startled me so bad that I wanted to yell at this person. It's a good thing I didn't because it was Julia. She stopped me to ask me if I could wait a moment because her friend was going up to get the speech right now and she would give it to me. That moment actually turned into 90 minutes with Julia, which was awesome! We chatted about many different things, including her brother. Eventually, the speech did arrive and at the top of the paper, "Jai Guru Deva Om" was written in Julia's handwriting. Seeing that gave me a great idea. I asked my mother if she had a sheet of paper and a pen and went over to Julia and asked her if she would write that lyric out again for me. She looked at me strangely first, but she did. Of course, I told her why I wanted her to do it and thanked her again. My mom asked me what I was doing with the lyric; I told her that I was going to get that lyric in Julia's handwriting, tattooed on my ankle (which was way better than a green apple).
After we left the convention, my mother and I went to see another show at the Philharmonic that was just about John, titled, "In My Life." The show was amazing and I am so happy that we decided to go. It was a biographical concert telling the story of John's life through John's songs, starring Mark McGann. It was beautiful. McCann performed many songs from John's Beatle days right until "(Just Like) Starting Over." Different images of John, his friends and family were displayed depending on what songs were being performed. McCann nailed "Come Together" and he closed the show with "Imagine." We can all imagine how moving that part was; I can't be certain that there was a dry eye in the audience.
Monday, August 30
Today. Oh today was a wonderful day! We took a coach to McCartney's childhood home on Forthlin Road. The custodian, John, was very informative and entertaining! He looks like he may be related to Paul but no one wants to give us an answer. John, at Paul's, told me to get out of the chair and sit in another one. That chair happened to be where John Lennon sat as he wrote "I Saw Her Standing There." Wow! While everyone went upstairs to explore the rest of the house I stayed downstairs (I wanted to save my strength in case we went upstairs in Lennon's home) so I just explored more downstairs. I noticed that every clock was stopped and that makes me think that they haven't been working since he lived there, like once Paul left there wasn't a reason to keep ticking. When everyone came back downstairs, John asked if anyone knew how to play the piano? I said I know how to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb," so there I was playing on Paul McCartney's piano! How many people that you know can say that? SO THEN...
We get back in the bus and drive over to Mendips which is John's childhood home, while he lived with Mimi. What a wonderful experience that was! Earlier in the trip, Charles said to me "A holy site is a holy site" while discussing Apple Records being vacant and whether or not it is still valuable to visit. Well, no offense, but this certainly is the holiest of all Beatle sites to me! We gathered in the front garden as Colin, our tour guide for Mendips, told us the beginning of the story of the first day that Paul came over to Mimi's house. I have to admit once we got inside I was hardly paying attention to what Colin was saying. I was focusing on Mimi's cabinets, a unique shade of bluish green and imagining John grabbing a cup from the rack to make tea. While we were in the living room, which is also a room that the boys would practice in, I was thinking about Mimi waiting quietly for John to come home to scold him for failing a test or to remind him again that his guitar won't get him anywhere.
After Colin finished his story in the living room, he gave us permission to roam the house. I went into the dining room first and pictured John having a lovely dinner with Mimi, George, his sisters, and Julia. Maybe even Alf too. I know this dinner has never taken place but I just thought how lovely it could have been for John to have his whole family together just once and maybe he would have some piece of mind and peace of mind when it came to his dysfunctional family life.
I decided to make my way up the steps. Colin said "You're going up, Love?" and I responded with "Come hell or high-water I am going to see his room." He smiled and said "Well John's room is to your right when you go up the stairs. Be careful, Love!" I grabbed a hold of the banister linked to John Lennon's staircase, pulled myself up out of the wheelchair, sped up the steps and announced, "I'll be in John's room."
As you can imagine I was already losing my strength from getting up the stairs and from pure anxiety of what I was about to do! Luckily, when I reached the top of the steps the lovely Linda was in front of me, and I grabbed her shoulders for support as I proceeded down the hallway. As we stepped into the room, I could hardly breathe, or stand for that matter, I moved a book that was on John's bed and sat down. We weren't supposed to sit on the bed but I hardly think John would mind if I did. Once I sat down, so many uncertain, and some uncomfortable, emotions hit me at once. The National Trust or someone put in a small stereo and "Mind Games" was the first song that I heard once I sat on the bed. As soon as I registered it all, I was overwhelmed with sadness and grief and I began to cry. I was sad because I knew that this moment was going to be the closest I ever came to meeting John and that is heartbreaking.
One single act of hate robbed the world of a beautiful, wonderful man of peace who could have done so much more with the life that he should have had. The great changes he could have brought to our society and the wonderful words of love that he could have contributed to our souls that will forever be left unheard. All of this hit me in his room, and I was heartbroken. I had a moment to observe the room and I recalled reading little facts over time of the things John would do in here, like write silly stories and poems, draw pictures, and, of course, learn to play the guitar and write his first songs. Then, I was filled with joy and honor to be able to be inside the room where the course of music history was changed by one cheeky boy with Buddy Holly glasses and a guitar. It was an amazing place to be and a very unique and wonderful thing to experience for anyone, not just a Beatles fanatic. It was moving in this small space. You were able to close your eyes and listen to the music and see John smiling in your head as he strummed his guitar. If anyone wants to make a pilgrimage, I recommend it be to Mendips to see where rock and roll, as we know it, was born.
When we got back from Menlove Ave my mother and I headed down to the Mathew Street Music festival, which stretched out beyond Mathew Street. The news reported that there was some 350,000 people in Liverpool just for this festival. Well, after seeing the crowd I definitely believe it! There were kids dancing, adults laughing, and guitars strumming everywhere! There was a something for everyone; cover bands of all different artists, from the Beatles to Nirvana. Our tour host Charles was even on stage too as a compere, which is what the British call MCs! It was awesome to have music everywhere you went.
Onstage at the Mathew Street Festival. Photo courtesy Autumn Chmil with kind permission of Richard Hilborne for The Beatles Experience
After dinner, the group got together and went to the Liverpool Philharmonic for one last show, "A Beatles Variety Show." It was fantastic! There were a lot of performances there (note the "variety"). Joey Molland from Badfinger performed quite a few songs, other Beatle tribute bands performed, but probably the most historic act on the bill was the Pete Best Band! Yes - Pete Best was there performing in front of us!
In a few days, we will be heading back to the States and I am already missing this.
Tuesday, August 31
Today was absolutely Beatleful! It's one thing to tour Liverpool, but it is another thing to tour Liverpool with people who know where they're going and what they're talking about! And who knows better than John Lennon's sister! Yes, Julia actually got on the yellow Magical Mystery tour bus with us and went all around Liverpool telling us so many stories. This was far more splendid than anything I have ever imagined. We went everywhere that a Beatle fan would want to go with Julia: Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, and each Beatle's house. It was surreal. We even went to St. Pete's church, which is where the planets aligned and John met Paul for the first time. The cemetery at the church is also where Eleanor Rigby and John's and Julia's Uncle George is buried. Penny Lane is still just like it is described in the song! There is still a shelter in the middle of that roundabout and even a barber shop! It's actually not very far from Mendips. At Strawberry Field, we all took turns signing our names to the gate leading to the orphanage, and Julia was there with us for all of these amazing explorations!
Strawberry Field gates
Julia's eyes were filled with excitement as she told us stories of each different place that we visited. At one point she turned to me and said, "Well, who is your favorite Beatle?" and I responded, "John." She laughed, "OK you can stay on the bus then!" I was first introduced to the Beatles when I was 12 watching Beatles Anthology in '95, and I never ever imagined that I would ever be traveling around Liverpool, England and to add with John Lennon's sister! I can't even say this was a dream come true because my dreams were never this wild!
This has been the most amazing adventure of my life and I am lucky to have been able to participate in this, especially today!
After the tour ended we got a bite to eat and then headed back to the Cavern Club, one last time, to see Billy J. Kramer perform. When we arrived our very own Charlie Guitar was playing on stage. He was so awesome! While we were waiting for Billy J. Kramer to come on, a man called Charles up to the stage. All of us thought that he was being called up to introduce Billy J. Kramer but Charles actually got an award that night! Charles was inducted to the Cavern City Tours Wall of Fame/Hall of Fame! We were all so excited for him! It was such a great surprise it certainly made the trip even more special for everyone!
MMTour Host Charles F. Rosenay!!! inducted into Liverpool's Hall of Fame by Cavern City Tours' Ray Johnson. Photo by Maria Veall
Monday, September 1
Today was the last day in Liverpool and what a long (but awesome) day it was! We started off the day by going to The Beatles Story on Albert Dock. This exhibit (I wish I could think of a better word than exhibit) is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It covers every single detail in The Beatles history that you could ever want to know. You are supplied with headphones at the entrance and it is a great idea to listen to the headphones the whole time! There are so many things that I learned from The Beatles Story. We spent hours in there. There are no words to describe this place! There are also four separate "rooms" in the exhibit for each Beatle dedicated to his post-Beatle career. You really need to take a whole day for this place! There is so much to read, watch, and listen to; it's absolutely another gem of the trip!
White Feather exhibit
Down the road to Pier Head was The White Feather exhibition, which was put together by Cynthia and Julian Lennon. It was moving, agonizing, and sometimes frustrating to go through the exhibit and realize that the media had really painted a picture of John and Julian's relationship that wasn't quite honest. But, those same emotions ran through me because I became infuriated with John for not being there for Julian when he should have been. There is a very interesting part of this exhibit that focuses on Julian's relationship with Paul and it is absolutely brilliant. When you get out of The White Feather, there is a fun-for-all ages Fab4-D experience that is actually a motion simulator ride! It's about 12 minutes long and exciting every minute. The only thing I can advise is to be prepared for when Octopus's Garden starts to play!
White Feather's surprise photo exhibit (Thank You Beatles Story)
Once you get off of the ride, make sure you check out The Hidden Gallery that goes behind White Feather for some pretty rare and very interesting photos!
After we left the dock, my mother, Charles, and I took a stroll through the newer section of Liverpool Centre. I hadn't realized how much of the city I didn't see until that point! There were a million more shops that I didn't even know about and a huge movie theatre. I'll have to go back just to see ALL of the City Centre!
Remember that tattoo idea I had? Over the last day or two, I grew more and more set on the idea of getting the tattoo done while I was in Liverpool. Lucky for me, there was a tattoo shop right across the street from the hotel! Since my mother was so against the idea of adding another tattoo, she wouldn't come with me to get this one. However, Charles is a pretty rockin' tour guide and he went with me to get it! Mike, a tattoo artist at Design for Life, did my tattoo on his supper break so that I could get this tattoo before I left town. Designed by Julia and done in Liverpool made it ten times more awesome.
The trip was amazing and now the tattoo is a constant reminder of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I had in these last eleven days! The whole tattoo experience, from meeting Julia to actually seeing the finish product, was so extraordinary that I could never have anticipated this happening when I got on the plane in NYC.
After the tattoo, we met some of the group to have a quick dinner before we started to get our things together to go home. Would you believe me if I said I didn't want to go? I was so sad to have to leave! We all gathered together later on in the lobby to have a sort of farewell party - a group sing-a-long (of all Beatle songs of course!). It was bittersweet; most of us are bad singers! We all knew the time would come that we would have to leave, but when the bus pulled up to take us back to London, I think all of our hearts broke a little. As the bus pulled away from Lime Street, I listened to "All Things Must Pass" from Beatles Anthology, and cried. Sobbed, actually.
The coach ride, the wait in the airport, and the flight were all quiet events. I don't know if it was because we were exhausted or if it was sadness creeping through, but it sure was quiet. Although we were all happy to be home safely and to see our families (my sister was waiting with a HUGE smile at the gate), some of us were teary-eyed when it was time to say goodbye. Back on U.S. ground, my phone instantly rang with texts, phone calls, and emails from people that have missed me. I was happy to talk with them again and catch up with my sister on the way home. But even then I knew that I wouldn't be the same, and home wouldn't be the same, now that I know everything that I am missing in Liverpool. The trip changes who you are and what you think you know about the Beatles. It takes you to another level of fanatic that cannot be understood until you experience it. Ripping off some smart men: "a splendid time WAS had by all," and YOU will "have memories longer than that road that stretches out ahead!"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Addendum: February 2011, Weekend of LOVE
In 2009, Liverpool Hope University started a new master's program, "The Beatles, Popular Music and Society." When I heard of this pioneer program, I had to be a part of it! Of course, I couldn't just jump the gun and move across the world without knowing what I was getting myself into! So, my trip to Liverpool wasn't just to see the Beatles; I was actually out there to check out the city and school just to make sure Liverpool would be a place that I would want to possibly live for two years.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I fell in love with the city (it's quite impossible not to). After some-not-so hard debating with myself, I decided that I would apply to the school "just to see if I get in". I sent my application out on Valentine's Day (all you need is love, right?) and as I dropped the envelope I just told myself that whatever is meant to happen will find its way. The program only accepts fourteen students each year out of thousands and I was told it was going to take a few days after they received my application, and before I would hear anything on my status. So, I packed for Vegas (for a reunion trip with my Beatles family) and pushed the application out of my mind.
Although the Vegas LOVE weekend was AMAZING, I couldn't stop checking my email to see if LHU received my application. All weekend I didn't hear anything. Yes, I sent it regular mail, across the ocean, and expected it to get there over night. Yes, I was discouraged every time there wasn't a new email staring back at me. Yes, I got back on the plane without being able to tell my Beatles family. Yes, I was certainly discouraged. Only fourteen people? I'd never be one of them.
Tuesday came and my email finally shared some good news. My application was received and I will hear from them in within two weeks.
I checked my email constantly and what I found staring back at me practically rocked me right into insanity! I GOT IN! Within three hours of getting my application, LHU offered me a place in their program!!! This August, when I join Charles on another trip to Liverpool, I won't be returning back to the States! I am now a part of LHU's MA "The Beatles, Popular Music and Society" Class of 2013! I am so very excited about this opportunity! It will be like my own "Lost Weekend" as I get to hang out at the Cavern Club and it will be for school! Anyone who is going on the trip in 2012 or 2013, come and visit me!