“We should” doesn’t often become “we are.” Especially when it comes to large, complicated ideas.
My family of diehard Beatles fans has kicked around the idea of going together to England intermittently for 10 years. My Uncle Dave first began rallying the idea seriously last Spring and when my Dad found that there was a ready-made pilgrimage tour, it ended up coming together (no pun intended, I swear) remarkably fast. The convenience of it caused “We should do this” to quickly become “we have to do this.”
So off we went to London – my father, brother Christopher, uncle and I from Buffalo via Toronto, my Uncle Bob from Detroit via Ann Arbor, and my Uncle Mike from Philadelphia. We spent most of our first jetlagged day in London roaming around while waiting for our hotel check in. Christopher and I made a return trip to the London Eye because it was such a beautiful day weather wise to do it. The London Marathon was on this day which made navigating the city an..adventure.
We met our fellow pilgrim-ees for a dinner in the hotel restaurant where the six of us were all together in one room for the first time in over five years. It was the first of many meals filled with catching up, reminiscing, and laughing all the way.
Our first day in London was my birthday! What a thrill it was to turn 26 on this trip. It was our first of two days being escorted in and around town on a guided bus tour led by the fantastic Lee. He’s incredibly well versed in London’s overall rock history and escorted us through some fantastic non-Beatles sites which were unexpected but totally awesome. Visiting the spot of the Ziggy Stardust album cover and Freddie Mercury’s home were two highlights for me.
We spent lunch time on my birthday outside of Abbey Road studios diligently and at times clumsily getting the ever-famous photo. It’s worth noting for anyone that goes that this remains a VERY busy intersection and it took nearly 45 minutes for everyone of our group (only 18!) to get a satisfactory shot. The climax of the afternoon trek was undoubtedly stopping at 3 Saville Row, former home of Apple headquarters and the famous rooftop concert. Despite having visited London 3 times previously, this was the one major landmark I had never made it to. The building is now an Abercrombie Kids which on one hand makes me want to die a little but it also meant we got to walk around inside.
While in London my Dad, Uncle Dave, and I had the pleasure of taking in two West End shows – 42nd Street and Les Miserables. I’m very familiar with Les Mis and largely knew what to expect but I went into 42nd Street completely cold. It was an entertainment spectacle of the highest order. I loved it.
On Wednesday we boarded a train at Euston Station for LIVERPOOL. Having wanted to make the trek to this city for almost as long as I’ve been a Beatles fan I wasn’t at all sure what I would think of the city itself. In short, I fell in love with it. Sure there are more than a few awesome nods (in the forms of shops and pubs) to the city’s most famous sons but I enjoyed it as a place separate from The Beatles too. It’s very blue collar and the city’s epicenter is, honestly, quite American. I loved roaming around the water and the docks.
As for the reason I came to the city that part did not disappoint at all. In addition to the life-making thrills of visiting The Cavern Club, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane another somewhat surprising highlight was a visit to The Casbah Club. Unlike many other locations on the trip that are altered. gone, or faithfully re-created, the traces of The Beatles are still very much present – including John Lennon’s carved writings on the walls! Animated tour guide Roge Best definitely enhanced the thrill of it.
This once-in-a-lifetime trip lived up to everything I hoped it would be. I’d recommend it to ANYONE.