Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Abbey Road, Strawberry Fields & the Dakota: My Here, There & Everywhere Tour

Crossing Abbey Road in London

Something about that band moves me
by rick olivares

There was a time when I stayed a few blocks away from the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park, Strawberry Fields. I even lit a candle in the nearby driveway of the Dakota where he was shot and killed.

The Beatles were always a favorite of mine. I had all their vinyl albums, saw their films, and I even wore a mop top during my grade school years as a tribute to the Fab Four. The Beatles Jingle Songbook was where I first learned to play the guitar. The Beatles Anthology, both the massive tome and the CD set, remains a favorite and is prominently displayed in my collection. 

Going to Liverpool and taking the Beatles Taxi Tour was communing with my first ever favorite band. I came away emotional and like I have been handed old photo albums that contained secrets and anecdotes of people who I only knew from across the miles. It was if I was not meant to see them until such time. You know… like an inheritance.  

I went down Matthew Street not once, not twice but thrice. One for the three full days I was in Liverpool. I would stand in one corner and soak in everything. I’d watch some bands and street performers. This was rock ‘n’ roll nirvana.

Moving over to London, if there was one place I had to go it was Abbey Road. To complete the pilgrimage and cross that pedestrian lane just as the Fab Four did all those years ago. That I did this with one of my best friends in Craig Burrows made it even more special.

I have had all these bands and recording artists I would call favorites through the years and up to today. There are some who I watched not only in the United States but also in the Philippines. One indie outfit that I absolutely love, I even befriended. But at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I only undertook one pilgrimage and it’s for the Beatles. 

And I am a happy happy man. Yeah yeah yeah!

Strawberry Fields in Central Park

Outside the Dakota where John Lennon was murdered

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Let me take you down: Taking a Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool

Let me take you down: Taking a Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool
by rick olivares

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…”

Taking the two-hour and a half Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool was a treat for the heart, rubber soul, and the senses. When you travel around the streets of Liverpool while Beatles songs are playing, the tunes literally come to life. The words take on new meaning as you see the very things that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote about in their songs.

Their songs, especially the early ones, were their life stories.

I checked out the Beatles Tours of Liverpool and there were several. I was looking at this one tour when the concierge at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel pulled out another flyer and gave a person a call. It was the Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour.

I set it for 12:30noon so I had ample time to explore Anfield, my first tour of the day. I was taking the Silver Tour that cost £65 and two and a half hours of tours all over the city. The flyer had a sign that said that if there were five of us, each would end up paying only £9! I prayed I wouldn’t be the only one taking the tour as I could sure save some pounds sterling.

And on time, Dave, my guide arrived at the hotel where I was the only one. The £65 better be worth it, I thought to myself because there were others that were cheaper (because they were in larger groups).

I saw his taxi with caricatures of the Beatles outside. “This is real nice, Dave. Do you mind taking my picture next to your cab?”

He obliged and that was my first picture of the tour.

Dave, a local lad, has been doing these tours for the past seven years of his life. He was a Beatles fan but not the dyed-in-the-wool type as his knowledge was passing. But when he got into this tour business, he really had to brush up on his knowledge about the Fab Four and his hometown.

The first stop was at the University of Liverpool. We parked outside the school and walked in. Next to the University is a building that is now closed down.

Dave pointed to a sign on the wall of one building that had an image of John Lennon. “This is the former Liverpool Maternity Hospital where two of the city’s most famous people were born,” said Dave. “As you can see, John Lennon is obviously one of them.”

Dave went on to talk about John’s birth by his mother Julia and their troubled family. After a few minutes, we started to walk away. Then I stopped in my tracks. “Dave, you said there are two famous Liverpudians born here. Who was the other?”

“Me,” he deadpanned. I had a laugh and we had a picture together. Famous people alert!

I knew then it was going to be a great tour.

And it was as Dave took me to the various homes of the Beatles complete with their back story; the Liverpool Art Institute where Paul McCartney went to school; Penny Lane and breaking it down to the “blue suburban skies” to the corner where the banker parked his motorcar, and the barber shop where the barber showed photographs of “every head he’s had the pleasure to know”; Strawberry Field Orphanage; the site where the Quarrymen played with Paul McCartney trying to upstage John; Eleanor Rigby’s final resting place; and lastly, Matthews Street where the world famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed, is located. 

Of all the places that we saw today, the one that resonated well with me was the home where John Lennon grew up with his Aunt Mimi. My favorite Beatle is and will always be Paul McCartney but John has a special place in my heart as a music fan. Maybe because he had a more difficult childhood where he learned about tragedy at a very young age. Maybe it was because he wrote from the heart about the things he held dear and near. I knew more about his hardship growing up and the situation he was in. His tragic death all the more made seeing his childhood home and his room from the outside all the more poignant. I said a prayer and offered it to the Man Above for him (the tour was more interesting for me as Dave was hardcore Catholic just like me). 

Dave was wonderful as there was really a personal touch to the tour. God knows how many times he has delivered his spiels and anecdotes but he was never bored and was very enthusiastic and passionate. He was not only polite but also very accommodating. He showed me around as one would do a friend. 

Closing out the tour, we exchanged low fives.

During our tour, we came across several other tours by his competition. Save for the one tour that is supposed to have received the official blessing out the tourism English Tourism Council, all the other guides were polite. I quickly picked up that the official tour people weren’t too keen on the competition. 

And overall, the Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour wasn’t simply a tour into the history of the Fab Four’s humble beginnings but also part of the history of Liverpool. And Dave readily shared his knowledge about the city and its people. It might have been pricey but in the end it was worth every penny. To top it all off, Dave dropped me off at Mathew Street where the Cavern Club is located but gave me clear directions on where to go and what to see in the City Square.

I paid the man, shook hands and gave him a manly hug. It seemed the right thing to do. And best of all, we were both smiling. 

My introduction to music was the Beatles. I was born at the height of their fame and memorized the lyrics to their songs more easily than I did my school lessons. My love for the band also introduced me to their hometown of Liverpool and I soon became a fan of the team (although it is strange that none of the Fab Four rooted for LFC as Paul was an Evertonian, Ringo an Arsenal fan because of his father while John and George had no time for the game).

I still have all their albums and remain a fan. The Beatles Anthology remains one of my favorite books ever. This tour was something a long time coming. 

My first real day in England (I arrived in the evening the day before and only went out for food and stayed inside the hotel) was one of the best of my life. I am not only staying in the hotel that once housed the passengers of the ill-fated cruise of the Titanic but also went on a tour of LFC’s home field, Anfield and the Beatles Taxi Tour. 

This was life, sports, and music history right here. 


For more infor on Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour, check out their website daytrippertaxitour.com or go to their Facebook Page or call Dave (07711 642 425) or Ricky (07856 318 995)

With my tour guide, Dave.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day One of my Here, There & Everywhere Tour of the United Kingdom

My thoughts as Emirates EK019 was on its descent at Manchester International Airport? I survived the long 15-hour plus trip.

I am not a stranger to long flights. I have done this so many times before. But I hate it because I have travel sickness. So part of the trick there is to get an exit row set and preferably by the window or next to the aisle. Wasn’t able to get those seats on the first part of the flight (was in the middle seat of exit row) while on the last leg I was on the aisle. That helps when stretching or when I need to get up and walk around. 

On the way to Dubai, I struck up a friendship with Rasheed, a Pakistani who is married to a Filipina and both work in Saudi Arabia. He sat next to me and was drinking Gatorade Green Fury (the limited edition flavor with Leo Messi on the label). I asked him if he liked it and he said it’s the best flavor Gatorade has. He was pleasantly surprised that I work for Gatorade. Plus, I showed him my hand carry luggage that had the G logo on it. So we passed the time by chatting about our respective lines of work.

Once on the airplane, we were in different sections as I sat in the middle of the plane while he was all the way in the back.

Had lots of films to choose from the flight's excellent selection but I chose to watch that 1980’s film, The Outsiders starring C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, and Matt Dillon. Also in the film were a young Diane Lane and early 80s singer, Leif Garret. I bought the book a long time ago when I was in high school and saw the film later on. It's like a who's who for young and upcoming actors. Imagine that power cast now. And it was good seeing it again although I can now see the flaws in the script, the pace, or even the acting. But still it's right out of those Casablanca type films that I love.

The food as always was excellent. Excellent service. One of the stewardesses is even a dead ringer for Scarlett Johansson! Passengers were lining up to have their pictures taken with her. I wanted too but inabot ako ng ka-torpehan.

I didn’t have to wait much for the Dubai layover. Just an hour. Sat next to a couple from Leeds who talked about football too. 

Watched X-Men: Days of Future Past for the first time as I missed it during its showing in Manila. Loved it! Thought that Bryan Singer did a great job. And the food was even better on this flight.

The sun was setting when the Emirates flight descended into England. Got to see from the window the sun going down.

While getting my passport stamped at Immigration, the Officer asked me about my trip and I said I was off to Liverpool to watch a match. And he got excited real quick that we ended up chatting for several minutes as the queue behind me wasn’t amused. Turns out he is a LFC fan (but he isn’t originally from Manchester though as he is from some other place that I couldn’t make out). He got real thrilled for me when he saw the letter where I am to avail of a hospitality package from Liverpool and Standard Chartered (Thanks, Ms. Nimii and Anne). "And a derby," he exclaimed! "Now they have to win to make it special for ya."

The one-way ticket from Manchester to Liverpool cost me £14. Took the train at Platform 2 (Heald Green, Gatley, East Didsbury, one stop whose name I didn’t get, Manchester Picadilly, and Manchester Oxford where I switched to another train that went through Warrington Centre, Widness, Liverpool South Parkway and lastly, to Liverpool Lime Street where I got off). 

People were most helpful in pointing me to the right direction (the maze of corridors and platforms). Strangely though, one of the security officers working the exchange station for the trains wasn’t sure what platform I should be on for the Liverpool Lime Street stop. Luckily, one couple who were on their way to the same destination pointed me in the right direction.

It’s about 9:20pm when I arrive in Liverpool. And my first meal on English soil? Burger King (at the train station). Haha.

The hotel where I am staying for four days in Liverpool is the Britannia Adelphi that is about a three-minute walk from the train station. 

The hotel reminds me of L’Fisher in Bacolod City. It has the same feel and ambiance to it. It has definitely seen better days but really who goes on tour to stay in a hotel? Sucks thought that there is no wifi in the room and I have to work at the lobby to make use of the internet. Walking along the corridors of the sixth floor, I can hear some of the floorboards creak. The lift is painfully slow that if a zombie were after me I would have been a meal for the bastard before the doors close shut.

Got a few hours of sleep before I went down early in the morning to use the internet. The lounge sure is quiet. 

So it’s officially Day One of my Here, There, and Everywhere Tour of the United Kingdom. Will get up early for breakfast then head to Anfield where I will take the Stadium Tour after which I’ll take one of those Beatles taxi tours. 

Check you all later.

With Rasheed at NAIA

My train tickets from Manchester to Liverpool