After waking up in the luxury of Chester's Queen’s Hotel mattresses, we feasted on a traditional English breakfast consisting of varieties of yogurts, sausages, eggs, and fruits – a veritable smorgasbord. Charlotte discovered that concierge wake-up calls are not as reliable as anticipated, and as a result had to postpone her early-morning Roman wall walk.
From our hotel, we walked across the street and hopped onto a morning train to Liverpool, where the empty Sunday morning streets contrasted sharply with Chester's bustling downtown the night before. Before heading to the Walker Art Gallery (not to be confused with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis), we explored the icy waterfront area, which was once the lifeblood of the port city. At the museum, we encountered important Pre-Raphaelite artworks such as Rossetti's Dante's Dream, Burne-Jones' The Sleeping Knights, and Millais' Isabella. In the museum's cafe, we finally tasted the “jacket potatoes” Baird had been raving about the day before. But they were not much more than baked potatoes; those of us who tried them were underwhelmed. [Editor’s comment: agreed, underwhelming they were, but try again elsewhere.]
After waiting diligently for the elusive 82A bus we hoped to take to Speke Hall for about fifteen minutes past its scheduled stop time, we gave up and splurged on a pair of taxis. Upon approaching the 16th century Tudor manor home, we were immediately confronted by the familiar black and white half timbering that dominated the facade. Inside, we found more of the extravagant Christmas decorations that bothered everyone but Charlotte, and were serenaded by a group of carolers who brought Tony to tears with their rendition of “Lean on Me.” The volunteer tour guides were characteristically friendly, although one older guide told us the same anecdote in three different rooms of the house. We chatted for a quite a while in the kitchen with a woman who told us excitedly that her son was living in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Small world. We also learned about the “priest hole” on the second floor—a secret compartment where the Catholic family that built Speke Hall could hide local priests during the early years of the Reformation.
After rounding out our visit to Speke Hall, we ventured back into town to see the massive Liverpool Cathedral. Aptly dubbed “The Gothic Revival Deathstar” by Spencer, this Anglican cathedral designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (grandson of George Gilbert Scott, many of whose buildings we have seen) is one of the largest in the world. Construction began around 1900 and lasted long beyond the heyday of the Gothic Revival, being greatly delayed by both world wars. This massive church is a strange amalgamation of gothic forms with a spare modernist sensibility. We arrived just before an evening service and so couldn't explore for as long as we would have wished, but we did get to hear some beautiful Christmas music while standing below a neon pink bible quote at the west end.
[TE & CT]