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Published: August 11th 2013
Museum Of Liverpool
One of the new landmarks on Liverpool's waterfront.
Kelley had no idea where we were taking him. All he got was a note telling him to turn up at the Euston Tap at 7pm along with two pairs of undies, photo ID, a toothbrush, and ten vomit bags.
By the time I had arrived at the Euston Tap, the most of the stag crew had already shown up - Yohei the chief organiser (who you may remember from Granada
), Andrew (who you may remember from Milan
), blog débutante Wilson, and Kelley the stag himself (who regular readers of this blog should know by now).
Our numbers were complete when we were joined by Hanson (who you may remember from the Peak District
) and Francis aka Turtle (who was also with Kelley, Yohei and I in Granada) who was the last to arrive, literally jumping on board just as the train was leaving Euston Station.
But where were we going?
Kelley still wasn't quite sure - the train was heading to Liverpool but was stopping in Nuneaton, Stafford and Runcorn.
As nice as I am sure Nuneaton, Stafford and Runcorn are, you would have to have been an idiot to think we would be holding the stag-do in any of
Atop the Royal Liver Building, this copper statue is the symbol of Liverpool.
them, as hard as we tried to convince Kelley that we were (and we almost did).
When we were deciding where to have it, Wilson suggested Liverpool quite early on and I was quick to back him up.
It is cheap, exotic (i.e. out of London), relatively sight-lite, had a reputation as a great night out, and was somewhere none of us had been to before. It is also one of the last major cities in England that I had wanted to visit so when Liverpool was locked down I was killing two birds with one stone.
I love the idea of getting on train for a couple of hours on a Friday night with a load of mates and load of beers.
Firstly, you go straight to the train station after a hard week's work, ready to let off some steam. You're also excited about getting out of town for the weekend and the fun that awaits you. Lastly, you're cracking jokes and beers with your mates - a recipe for some good times.
So it was in good spirits that we arrived in Liverpool and after checking in at the hostel, went for a quick reconnaissance mission
Liverpool's most visited tourist attraction. In the background is The Wheel Of Liverpool - it seems every city in the world has its own oversized ferris wheel these days.
Liverpool looked to have a vibrant night scene - the area around Mathew Street and the Cavern Quarter is like one huge cobblestone street party with its wall-to-wall, door-to-door bars and clubs. The only thing was that the people out were all either old or rough. Geriatric or chav. Just not something we were used to seeing in London where people out are generally between twenty and forty and are relatively well-dressed. I then had a run-in with the local youth as I got pelted by a drive-by carton of chips on the footpath - welcome to Liverpool!
Although we had drunk ourselves to a level where we were all keen to go out-out, with a big day ahead of us the next day, we kept our discipline and headed back to the hostel after most of us had got ourselves McDonald's - or in Yohei and Turtle's case, a cheap but massive box of ropey-looking fried chicken and ribs from "Lobster Pot" (which funnily enough, didn't sell lobster).
In McDonald's, we encountered the famous Scouse accent directly for the first time with the girls behind the counter. Much maligned as it is, I actually don't think the
Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ The King
Modern funnel-shaped cathedral with an unusual wall-like "bell tower" out the front.
accent is too bad - it can be hard to understand at times but I find it quite melodic and interesting, and it has a childish but everyman quality to it that makes it endearing...and on girls, quite cute.
Given the beers and the excitement of arriving in Liverpool that night, I didn't think that I'd be able to get to sleep and so it proved. The squawkiest seagulls ever outside, and the squeakiest bunk beds ever inside, made sure of it.
Cranky and groggy the next morning, I wasn't too impressed that we all had to do a wake-up shot. It was vodka and orange so at least it wasn't straight. The orange took the edge off the vodka and at least made it feel like a breakfast shot.
Speaking of breakfast, Yohei took us to Shiraz, a cafe offering the biggest breakfast in Liverpool and I wouldn't argue with them - it was huge. Four pieces of toast, half a grilled tomato, scrambled eggs, half a can of baked beans, bacon, mushrooms and black pudding, it sure was a full
Then came the stag's first humiliation - we gave him an afro wig that he had
Port Of Liverpool Building
One of the old landmarks on Liverpool's waterfront.
to wear for the rest of the day. Our very own Asian Marouane Fellaini
Fellaini of course (at the time of writing) plays for local team Everton but all over town that morning was a huge proliferation of people wearing the shirt of Everton's more famous neighbour - Liverpool FC.
There were people wearing Liverpool shirts and scarves everywhere which seemed a bit unusual and for me, a little frightening. Andrew and I are both Manchester United fans so we were behind enemy lines. It felt a bit uncomfortable to be honest, as if I was walking around carrying and hiding a terrible secret, worried that I would do something to accidentally reveal my allegiance and that I'd be found out and crucified.
It turned out that there was a match on at Anfield that day, a pre-season friendly that doubled up as Steven Gerrard's testimonial against Olympiakos of Greece.
With a 12.45pm kick-off time, it caused us a bit of bother because it meant everyone in town was trying to get cabs to Anfield which meant there were hardly any left available to take us to our next destination - the Knowsley Safari Park. Liverpool Pride was on that day
The largest Chinese arch outside of China - and entrance to the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
as well which meant a whole lot of roads were closed off in the middle of town. It was a perfect storm.
We eventually managed to call a couple of cabs and eventually made it to the park forty-five minutes late. The people waiting for us were furious.
So you're probably wondering what we were doing at a safari park. Were we going to feed the stag to the lions?
Well no, nothing that exciting but it would still involve the stag getting hurt though - paintball!
We were mixed in with two other groups, one of which was also a stag do. It was all a bit disorganised - we pretty much had our guns filled with paintballs and were then asked to join in a game already in progress. We had no idea who else was on our team or what we were doing and I barely fired a shot. The game was over before we knew it.
After a short rest we started a new game where we finally figured out who was on our teams and what was going on. But the objective of the game was impossible to achieve - basically, trying to achieve
Bigger than you think - it is huge. Pictures don't quite do it justice.
it was a suicide mission. I'm sure that there is a way to succeed but none of us were exactly army commanders well versed in military tactics.
The best games are often the most simple and in this case it was The Stag Run - the stag runs from one end of the playing area to the other; everyone else stands on one side of the playing area and shoot the crap out of him as he runs past.
We then finish up with an all-against-all - everyone puts one foot on the tyre in the middle of playing area and on the count of three, you take your foot off and are free to shoot anyone or get the hell out of there. As soon as the count hit three I basically sprinted backwards to get some cover while shooting anyone I could along the way. Those paintballs hurt when they hit you - I ran out of ammo at an inopportune moment can got hit multiple times as I ran to take cover. They really sting and I had to take a few moments for the pain subside before continuing. Everyone had a few nasty welts afterwards.
The famous river that birthed Liverpool. It is really wide.
everyone ran out of ammo - you tend to run out a lot quicker than you think you will - and it was left to Yohei and a 12-year old kid from one of the other parties to duke it out. It has to to be said that watching Yohei writhe on the floor trying to avoid a hail of paintballs from a twelve year old was hilarious to watch, even if he did manage a couple of awesome shots on the kid.
When we returned to the hostel, it was time for Shot #2 - "black death". Vodka and soy sauce. The others thought it was awful but I actually thought it was OK. Definitely not as bad as the black death in Iceland
Following the shot it was Humiliation #2 - and this really was a humiliation - the stag dressed in a pink morph suit with a Borat mankini over the top. With the afro. And a fake mo. And we were about to take another tour of Liverpool.
As we strolled through Liverpool, down Paradise Street, through Liverpool One, and along the Albert Dock, the expressions on the faces of the 100,000 Liverpudlians who saw
What Kelley had to wear around the streets of Liverpool.
our permed, hot-pink, stag-beast were priceless. It was like Candid Camera. Car horns tooted, old women wolf-whistled, kids asked for photos as if he was some celebrity. A hen-party got super-excited when they spotted him (how could anyone miss him?) outside the Museum Of Liverpool. Another old lady had her photo taken with him before making a grab for the stag nuts!
"Where is it? Ooo, there it is!" she said, as Kelley keeled over slightly, his face a contorted combination of pain, surprise and violation.
We only walked around for an hour, but it must have felt like a whole day for poor Kelley - but fair play to him, he was a good sport and took everything in good spirits. In fact, as he played to the crowds, I reckon he was even enjoying it by the end.
It was then back to the hostel for Shot #3 - a Bloody Mary. Love that Tabasco.
While we had all enjoyed humiliating Kelley all day, it was now time for us to give back a little as we donned out stag t-shirts - basically we all went out to dinner in white t-shirts with a huge picture of
Huge open-air shopping complex which has regenerated Liverpool's city centre.
the stag's mug emblazoned on our chests.
As we rocked up to the buffet restaurant where we had made a reservation, it seemed that making a reservation actually made no difference and we still faced a half-hour wait - which begs the question, what is the point of taking reservations?
We then settled on Nando's but not before we witnessed three teenagers sprinting past the Nando's into the cinema next door pursued by a gang of some twenty angry youths. Either the teenagers had stolen something from this gang or it was part of some teenage turf war. It was all rather unsavoury and you worried that it might all kick-off, London Riots-style.
Trouble followed us inside the restaurant - a dude who had been sitting on the table next to us returned looking for a misplaced phone. He had apparently left it behind but it was no longer on the table and no-one could find it. The guy went into a rage, having a go at the staff and having a go at patrons on another table. I was surprised that he didn't have a go at us. We took that as our cue to leave.
On the streets,
Choc-a-bloc with bars and clubs, the spillout from them resembles one huge street party. Great atmosphere.
the drunken chavs and rough looking characters we saw last night were back out in force. We walk past a couple of police vans investigating a disturbance. It all made me feel a little uneasy - and with all of us in white t-shirts, we were quite conspicuous and were a possible beacon for trouble. Better safe than sorry, so we all headed back to the hostel to change our clothes.
It also allowed us to do Shot #4 - Tapeworm. Vodka + Tabasco + Black Pepper + Mayonnaise. Yep, that's right, mayonnaise
. Fortunately the mayonnaise wasn't quite coming out of the bottle as it should have been so we left it out - it was still pretty bad though.
As mentioned earlier Liverpool's nightlife is fantastically vibrant and energetic. All of it seems concentrated in two main areas which makes it easy to bar hop and give the city a lively atmosphere.
The only thing about it though was that every bar and club seemed the same. There wasn't any particular place that was unique or especially cool - every place was playing Top 40 music and every place had drink specials. It was almost as if there
Inside The Metropolitan Cathedral
The inside is circular with the altar in the middle. The lighting makes it look like more of a nightclub than a church. Pretty cool though.
are too many places to go out in Liverpool and as a result, none of them were really going off or were especially full. In fact, it was a lot like the nightlife in Malta
I had heard a lot about the Scouse girls - much like Geordie girls, their reputations preceded them. However, where the girls in Newcastle
merely reinforced the stereotype, I was pleasantly surprised by the girls in Liverpool. Don't listen to what people say, there are some wonderful looking girls in Liverpool. If only I could understand what they were saying.
Same can't be said about the guys up here unfortunately. Think Wayne Rooney multiplied. Rough.
The next morning was the least hungover I have felt after a big night out in ages
. It was my biggest achievement of the weekend. The Gavilast indigestion tablet I'd taken just before going to sleep looked to have done the trick! I think I'm on to something.
The massive portion of Nando's that we ate before drinking lined the stomach well too - perhaps a bit too well. Most of us were suffering "second night syndrome" where without the excitement of arriving, with a belly-load of Nandos, and
Inside Liverpool Cathedral
Impressive, even with my wonky photography.
being tired from a long day, none of us seemed to be able to get drunk even with all the beer, spirits and Jaegerbombs that we were downing. Nevertheless, for a bunch of thirtysomethings, getting back at 4am has to go down as a reasonable effort.
The next day we hit a funky minimalist cafe on called Bold Street Coffee that served up some good French toast and was once a bar that the Beatles had played at in the 60s.
We then followed it up with a visit to Liverpool's two cathedrals - the larger-than-it-looks Liverpool Cathedral that is much more impressive on the inside than its redbrick exterior suggests, and the modern funnel-shaped Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ The King, which looks more like a nightclub on the inside than it does a church.
Along the way, we passed many an empty lot and many an abandoned building - signs of economic stagnation, a city that is or has been in decline. It seemed that most of the people here were either very young or very old, with little in between, which reminded me of Sarajevo
. But where the war could explain the lack of people in the
Stained Glass Window
The caption underneath reads; "I felt you and knew you loved me." With the seedy neon lighting, I am not sure this was entirely thought through before it was lit up.
prime of their life in Sarajevo, could most of the people in the same age range from Liverpool have left to find better job opportunities?
In saying that, the area around Liverpool One - a massive open-plan shopping mall - as well as the flash buildings housing the Museum Of Liverpool and the Open Eye Gallery, shows off the regeneration of the city, which had a stint as the European Capital Of Culture in 2008.
And with that, the rain started coming down and it was time for us to head back to London. A decent lad's weekend away to a city definitely worth visiting, a great way to mark Kelley's last big night out as a free man. The stag crew will reconvene again in just over a month in France for the big day.
You and I may reconvene earlier - let's see.
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