The day I won the European Cup (A weekend in Liverpool – Part Two)
So, finally, onto day two of my recent birthday trip to Liverpool. You can find part one here, if you’re so inclined.
Saturday. Breakfast seems as good a place as any start, so my Significant Other and I head for Jamie Carragher’s Sports Café Express. I mean, on a trip to Liverpool, where else could you go?
The café has probably the most male interior design known to man. We are greeted by a vision of black and metal fixtures, many mirrored surfaces and screen upon screen upon screen showing Sky Sports News. It’s exactly what you would imagine such a place would look like. It’s brilliant and just a little unnerving. Carragher is very much an advocate of healthy eating, so its no fry-up for us, rather we have muesli and poached eggs and smoothies and plenty of goodness to start the day.
It is also a good moment to take stock of how wonderful weekends, and particularly weekends away, can be. It’s a lovely feeling to have two whole days of freedom, and to be free to share some proper, genuine, dare I say it, ‘quality’ time with a loved one.
And for me, the best part of the weekend is Saturday morning. It’s still early enough in the weekend to feel like you’ve just escaped a week’s worth of work. It’s also early enough for you not to be thinking about Monday morning just yet. Instead, there is a whole lot of happy expectation of what lies ahead. For me, there is never more possibility than on a Saturday morning. On this Saturday morning, that feeling was especially intense. The bulk of an unbelievably exciting weekend still lay ahead.
After breakfast came our first excursion to Anfield of the weekend. A mini-tour and trip around the museum had been booked as part of my birthday present. We arrived early, naturally, for a photo with the Shankly statue and took a quick look around the club shop. Sadly, there was no photographic print of Lucas for me to buy, but what can you do?
Then, the mini-tour began. It was explained that this essentially involved being shown the Kop end, as most of the stadium was out-of-bounds in preparation for the next day’s televised game. So, the gate opened and we walked onto the Kop.
While I don’t want to blaspheme, stepping out there and seeing the Kop, the pitch and the empty stadium was pretty close to feeling like a religious experience. My Significant Other had to prod me forward to move me around as I gazed out in some sort of joyous haze. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was piped out, a few comments were made by the tour guide and photos were taken. It was the ultimate prelude to seeing the game the next day. And we still had the museum tour to do!
The museum itself does a great job of taking you through the history of Liverpool, with a huge selection of memorabilia from the club’s storied past. Perhaps the most breathtaking area is the trophy section, with European Cup after European Cup lined up. And then, as I looked around, I saw a European Cup outside of its cabinet. Accompanied by a cameraman. I was to have my photograph taken with the European Cup – an absolute dream. I am now the proud owner of a photo of me with the massive trophy, me with a smile just as wide. I’m pretty sure I’ll tell any future children or grandchildren that I personally won the European Cup. Luckily I was wearing a vintage Liverpool shirt, so it’s kind of believable, right?
We headed back into the City centre for the rest of the afternoon. First, a late lunch, including a sandwich with meatballs as big as my head. I pretty much had to dislocate my jaw to fit it in my mouth. It was well worth it.
And then, perhaps to make up for the pseudo-religious experience earlier in the day, we took a look around both of Liverpool’s cathedrals. We first went to the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral. It was truly immense and seriously breathtaking. A good cathedral is generally something special in my experience, but the sheer scale of the building made Liverpool Cathedral even more so. We then walked along Hope Street to the Catholic Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. It is of a much more modern design and is dwarfed by its neighbour, but is still very impressive in its own right. The effect of the light from the stained glass shining down into the body of the church was particularly magical.
It was now nearing evening and so we headed back to the hotel, and then popped out again to Jamie Carragher’s other eaterie, handily located right by our hotel. As a Liverpool supporter forever indebted to the likes of Carragher for so many great moments, I felt the least I could do was support his other endeavours. Dinner was pretty good too. Fajitas, since you asked. The rest of the evening was taken up with some relaxed wandering around the pubs of Liverpool – sticking to the more sedate Georgian Quarter, by the cathedrals. And then to bed, as in but a matter of hours we’d be on our way to Liverpool versus Sunderland…