Rewind: Finding Leprechauns in Ireland (or trying to…)

My dearest, darling friend Maggie and I started a production company in college called Snickerdoodlin’ Productions. We write, film, act in and perform sketches live and it is the most

Me and Maggie in an outtake on set for a sketch called "Bad Cop, Bad Cop." Watch it here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjJkJgxCk3Q

Me and Maggie in an outtake on set for a sketch called “Bad Cop, Bad Cop.” Watch it here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjJkJgxCk3Q

fun I’ve ever had. However, while I’m abroad, we’re unable to make sketches together, which doesn’t stop us from making sketches separately, with the other in our hearts all the while.

The following sketch I’d like to share with you all is the first in a series of sketches called “Snickerdoodlin’ Goes Abroad”. Part 1 finds me and my traveling companion, Aleah, in Ireland trying to make a tell-all documentary about the secret lives of Leprechauns.

Stay tuned for the sequels!

Eureka! Comedy Gold (in Euros): Kaamelott

On our first night in Paris, we spent the evening with our Couchsurfing host, Manuel. He lives right off of the main square of Place de la République in a cozy flat 4 stories up overlooking the square and several of Paris’ magnificent streets decked out in fromageries, chocolateries, cafés and people walking with purpose while carrying baguettes.

Aleah and I chatted with Manuel in his living room about his background and ours, but after about two hours, I noticed his TV had been playing the same show for the duration of our conversation—and the show puzzled me for a number of reasons.

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For staters, the show was in French, so naturally, I had no idea what was happening. But, the show appeared to be set in the Middle Ages, so my first association was with the American HBO series Game of Thrones—a serious show about backstabbing, feuding families and the foul hygienic standards of the middle ages.

But every once in a while, I’d notice a scene occurring that looked objectively absurd. Mid-conversation, I’d glance over at the screen, and a knight clad in armor would be in bed with a priest with covers up to their necks, both of whom looking very confused. Another thirty minutes would pass, and I’d look over again to see another knight and an overly-sexualized damsel acting extremely theatrical on a balcony. I didn’t know what they were saying, but it looked like it was either the funniest show on French TV, or the worst show. I had to ask.

“Manuel, what show is playing on your TV?”

“Oh, that’s Kaamelott,” he responded, in his characteristically French terseness.

“What’s that?” I asked, with my characteristically American curiosity.

It turns out, I’d been watching a marathon of the show Kaamelott, a French sitcom set in King Arthur’s court. Apparently, Manuel is a huge fan of the show (along with the rest of France), and the whole time I’d been talking to him that night, he’d been wearing a shirt that said, “C’est pas faux,” which is a popular quote from the show said by one of the central characters, Perceval. The quote means “It’s not false,” which Perceval often says because he is stupid and never knows the answers to any questions, so instead of saying yes or no, he just says, “It’s not false.”

I love comedy and television writing, and I became so excited by this show from the description of that joke that I knew if I 181256Cestpasfauxwas ever going to learn French, it would be to follow this show. I immediately had to research the show and figure out just which French comedic masterminds were behind it. To my chagrin, I found that the show is no longer running—it’s glory days were from 2005-2009. The series was written, directed and starred in by Alexandre Astier (perhaps one of my new comedy hereos—I can’t be certain yet, because I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time…).

When Manuel, Aleah and I decided (around 3 am) that it was time to finally go to bed, I asked if we could leave the television on as we fell asleep. Manuel agreed, and I fell asleep watching Kammelott, not understanding what was being said, but coming up with dialogue in my head for the hilarious comedic scenarios I was watching on TV. Good practice for when I write for a TV show one day, huh?

The Louvre: An Exercise in Empathy

Ah, The Louvre! Arguably the world’s most famous museum! Home to the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, The Code of Hammurabi and Napoleon III’s apartments. A building filled with more history and knowledge than even the world’s greatest geniuses could consume. But here’s the catch: it’s all in French.

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I didn’t notice this until I walked into my first exhibit: a room filled with gorgeous scultpures. I realized when I was at the free museums in Liverpool just how much I love sculptures and reading the plaques that come with them so I get a sense ofIMG_0951 what each statue is thinking and living through. But when I went to understand the sculptures better in The Louvre, I was met with French descriptions.

At first, I was a bit disappointed—all these incredible pieces of art, and I didn’t know what they meant? But then I remembered an old mantra: art is what you make it. And I realized that the beautiful thing about art is that each viewer can interpret it in whatever way they wish—good pieces of art can have dozens of different meanings for different people, and that’s the beauty of it, right? So, I decided that that afternoon, I was going to connect with the art in the Louvre on a level I’m sure many art goers never have: a personal level.

1. Engaging in a staring contest with this Egyptian statue.

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2. Sympathizing with this guy, trying to brighten his day a little. He seems a little bue-green.IMG_0948

3. Feeling the chill with this guy.

IMG_09504. Reading my texts with this guy.IMG_0952

5. Trying to steal the Hail Mary pass from these guys.IMG_0954

6. Feelin’ mysterious with The Mona LisaIMG_0967

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7. Trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on over there with this Egyptian statue.

My First Tango in Paris

When a person who’s never been to Paris before arrives in Paris for the first time, there is a lot of intimidation. First of all, we’ve been told all our lives about the allure, the magic, the beauty, the snootiness and the superiority—both imagined and real—of Paris. We’ve seen Paris at the top of “Best Cities In The World” lists since we first learned how to read and we’ve heard stories about the snobbery and the food and the beauty and the history as well.

Photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from within The Louvre!

Photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from within The Louvre!

So, when I first arrived in Paris and left Gare du Nord (the train station), my senses were heightened. In my head, heart and soul, I kept thinking, “Oh my God, this is Paris, oh my God this is Paris…” and so on and so forth.

Because I found myself in this extremely heightened state of being, I noticed a lot of things on my walk to my Couchsurfing host’s house which I will share with you. Now, I’m not sure if these things are interesting or even quintessentially Parisian, but while walking down the cobblestoned streets and cigarette stained air of Paris, these moments really hit me. Here’s what I saw during the 15 minute walk from the train station to our host’s house that made me feel like I was really in Paris.

1. A whole lot of hobos outside of the train station. I was raised in Los Angeles, home of skid row, and I’ve still never seen such a high concentration of loud, pungent homeless people in one place than I did in Paris upon my arrival. Aleah had already been to Paris twice before, and turned to me and said, “Oh that’s right, I remember when I first got to Paris I realized I saw more homeless people here than anywhere else.” Aleah is from New York state about 40 minutes away from NYC, hobo central. But of course, in a city so affluent, expensive and snooty, it should have been a no-brainer that I’d see a lot homeless.

2. I noticed a man disposing of his cigarette by flicking it from his hand, watching it land on the seat of someone else’s moped, and continue to walk past it, with the cigarette still smoking on the moped’s leather seat. When I mopedsaw that, I had to stifle a laugh, because I felt it was so utterly Parisian I almost couldn’t stand it. Not only was this dude smoking (Point 1), but he made no effort to throw his cigarette away in a cleanly manner (Point 2), and he didn’t care about destroying someone else’s property (Point 3), and the property was a moped, which is so European (Point 4).

3. A man was skateboarding down the sidewalk, and when he tried to pass over a sidewalk curb, he didn’t jump his skateboard high enough and instead, fell off his skateboard and almost fell flat on his face. He almost ran into a lady walking in the other direction, and he smiled at her in discomfort and embarrassment, and instead of shaking it off, the lady just stared angrily right into his eyes, and I swear to God, these people literally stood on the street for about 3 seconds straight just staring angrily into each others’ eyes before the man skated off, back on the skateboard. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen many times in my life, and usually it ends up one of two ways: A) the person not on the skateboard, smiles, laughs, and puts his/her hand up as a symbol of, ‘Oh, it’s okay, no problem, have a great day,’ or B) the person that almost got hit immediately goes, ‘Hey dude what the fuck, man?’ and then continues walking after having been loud and angry for a second. But never have I seen this angry, evil stare down—this battle to the emotional death of silent judgment. I hope this is what the Gladiator remake looks like, ’cause it’s way more scary.

4. In every restaurant I passed, there were ashtrays on every table and people smoking at them. There didn’t seem to 2c8314eb-1b52-4161-9d4d-a7f9aa0d9c61.grid-6x2be a defined smoking and non-smoking section. So, that was a bit jarring.

5. I saw two ladies in their mid-40s (of course, very skinny), meet up on the street, grab each other’s elbows, kiss each other on the cheeks, and one said, “Comment ça va?”. A perfect Parisian greeting. Even though I don’t speak a lick of French, I knew exactly what they were saying. Some inflections are universal, you know?

6. I swear to you I saw this: An old man in business attire and a comb-over struggling to defeat the wind walking down the street with a scowl and 3 full, long baguettes under his arm. The whole baguette stereotype, I have found, is the most true and enduring thing I saw about Paris. Every day, I saw several people at least (and not tourists either!) either buying baguettes or eating them or transporting them underneath their arms. The baguettes are delicious, too, so how can you even blame them?

7. At Place de la République—the square our Couchsurfing host lived off of— there was a huge, free, public concert going on. I’ve never seen something that free, that fun and that cool offered to the public—let alone for the entireIMG_0937 week. Because it was the summer, Place de la République was offering a free concert every night that week. Can you say way to go, Paris?

Watching Wimbledon…in Wimbledon

On the day that the Wimbledon final was being played, I was unaware it was being played. For me, the date of the Wimbledon final didn’t mean a significant moment in British sporting history. It was, more simply, Day 13 of my 3-month-long Eurotrip.

At this point, I’d been living the nomadic, eurotripping lifestyle for almost 2 weeks, and I was becoming familiar with my latest propensity to fall asleep wherever I was sitting. With all the walking, moving, hauling, lugging and learning I was doing every day, if ever I was sitting in a vaguely comfortable position for more than 15 minutes in a row, it’d be a safe bet that I would be sound asleep by minute 16.

Anyways, on July 17, Wimbledon Final Day, Aleah and I had met up with Aleah’s friend at a bar in Victoria’s Station, The Iron Duke. I’d stepped away briefly to the “wifi zone” of the bar, complete with rapid-access wifi and a lot of comfy couches. Before I knew it, I was asleep where I sat, and the only reason I knew I’d been asleep was because I was violently woken by a sudden wave of loud, unified cheers. I awoke with a start to find the room packed to capacity with sweaty, drunk Brits huddled on and around the couch watching the television. I, too, looked at the screen and saw a tennis match being played. A couple seconds later another point was scored, several more pints were poured, and another volley of shouts and cheers were sent across the room.

Andy Murray Novak Djokovic wimbledonI hurried back to find Aleah at the table we’d been at, but before I could leave the room, I found that Aleah and her friend, too, had migrated into the TV room to watch the match that was unfolding. She quickly filled me in on the importance of what was going on: Andy Murray, a citizen of the UK (from Scotland, but close enough for the English to care as well), was playing Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, and if Murray won (which is what it was starting to look like), it would be the first time a Brit had won Wimbledon—an event hosted in the UK—in 77 years.

Even though that explanation cleared up a lot of the questions I had about the devotion with which the crowd was cheering, I was still taken a bit aback by how passionate these people were about tennis.

I love watching sports. Any kind of sport—even golf!—I love watching. But I’ve done most of my sports-watching in America, and never in my 21 years of life have I seen so many people react so strongly to a tennis match. I’ve seen the same fervor inarticle-2357125-1AB4674B000005DC-994_634x419 red-blooded Americans in the Midwest of America watching the Super Bowl—and American Football and British Tennis are two very different beasts.

**SPOILER ALERT** When Murray finally defeated Djokovic after the Serb made him really earn that final set, the bar erupted in a way I’m sure would make Mt. St. Helens blush a molten lava pink. It was a joy to be surrounded by so many sports fanatics, and a bit surreal to see this many people acting this way about a sport that manages to get the thousands of audience members in attendance at the match to assume a dead quiet routinely each time an athlete serves the ball.

By the end of the match, I was able to wrap my head around the passion these people were showing for tennis…but I still haven’t managed to understand their love for Cricket. The logic behind that one might take another Eurotrip altogether.

The Journey to Abbey Road: A Long and Winding Road

I like to consider myself a Beatles snob. When I got to London, I nearly bit my tongue off several times after I told people I’d been to Liverpool, only to hear people say, “Oh, did you check out Abbey Road while you were there?”

“No.” I’d always say, “That’s why I’m here.”

Though it was a struggle not to reprimand the fair-weather Beatles fans for their limited knowledge of even the most basic Beatles trivia, it did give me a quiet sense of pride that I knew my boys better than the average “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” hummer.

So, of course, my number one goal when I arrived in London was to reenact the famed Abbey Road crossing photo on the cover of the Beatles’ relentlessly excellent album, Abbey Road. This proved more difficult than I anticipated, and brought me down a few notches on my Beatles snobbery totem.

Luckily, we saved the Abbey Road crossing for our last day in London, just because we wanted to make sure we finished everything else and had as much time as we wanted to spend at the hallowed Beatles landmark. By then though, we’d learned something that was hard for me to come to terms with: The London Tube is outrageously expensive. For the average tourist, each ride on The Tube is £4.50 (roughly $6.80! Per ride!). Granted, The Tube is like driving shotgun in a Lamborghini compared to the rickety death trap I call the Chicago L Train (only $2.25/ride, which is still highway robbery), but for a college grad on her post-grad Eurotrip, using The Tube gets pretty costly pretty quickly.

tubemap-image-webThe Tube map divides London into 4 zones, and nearly all of the biggest tourist attractions are in Zones 1 & 2. Buying a day pass for Zones 1 & 2 is cheaper than buying a pass for all 4, so we took to doing that. On the day we wanted to see Abbey Road, we saw that the Abbey Road Tube Stop was just outside of Zone 2, just inching its way into Zone 3. So, we decided to still purchase the day pass for Zones 1 & 2, and just walk to the Abbey Road stop from the closest stop in Zone 2.

We got off at Pudding Mill Lane, which is the stop right before Abbey Road, and it is clear once we get off that this is not an area frequented by anyone in London, let alone tourists. We exit the Tube Station are are confronted with a freeway and an overpass and a lot of trash blowing in the wind left in the wake of zooming cars.

“Well, let’s start walking!” Aleah says. And we did. A mile and a half an 30 minutes later, we decide we can’t be walking in the right direction. After consulting our map, we find that we haven’t been, and that, from the Pudding Mill Lane stop, the Abbey Road stop is 45 minutes in the other direction. At that moment, I make an executive decision.

“Okay, let’s just get off at the Abbey Road stop and try to sneak out of the station—I know it’s in Zone 3, but what if they don’t notice? We can say we’re tourists and we didn’t know how The Tube worked!”

It was hot. We were sweaty. Our feet hurt, and we were in the middle of nowhere. “Okay,” Aleah said. In any other situation even mildly less desperate, I’m sure she would not have agreed as quickly.

Finally, we get back to the Pudding Mill Lane stop, accidentally take a train going in the wrong direction, right our course, and finally arrive at the Abbey Road stop. When we arrive, I noticed that there were no Tube Workers manning the exit booths, so I make a B-line for the exit—thrilled we’ll be able to exit at a Zone 3 stop without a Zone 3 pass, but I notice Aleah isn’t consumed with the same zeal I am.

Instead, she’s standing still, looking at the Tube Information boards near the station exit. I stand next to her and follow her eyeline, and I immediately deflate after reading the below:

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After looking at the Tube Map again, it turns out that not only is the actual Abbey Road crossing at St. John’s Wood comfortably located within Zone 2, but it’s also ALL THE WAY on the other side of the city.

So, with our tails between our legs and feeling not only like newborn tourists, but also like half-assed Beatles fans, we get back on The Tube and sit, sweaty and silent, on the train until we get to St. John’s Wood. Finally, we get a picture on the WP_20130709_009crosswalk, but at what cost?

For the first time London tourist, let me tell you a few things. Look at the stops on the Tube Line pictured to the right. BE AWARE: The IMG_0873Tube Stop titles are often misleading. DO NOT expect to find either Waterloo Bridge or the battlefield from The Battle of Waterloo off the Waterloo stop. DO NOT expect to see either Westminster Abbey or Westminster Cathedral off of the Westminster stop. DO NOT expect to see any kind of James Bond fan sites off the Bond Street stop. DO NOT expect to see 221 B Baker Street off of the Baker Street stop. DO NOT expect to see any adorable Swiss-themed Cottages off of the Swiss Cottage stop. More importantly: DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER, OR A LONDON TUBE STOP BY ITS TITLE.

Homeless in London: My Oliver Twist Story

When I boarded the Megabus to London, there was only one thing I knew for sure: I did not have sleeping arrangements for that night. But I wasn’t worried. The bus ride was 6 hours long and I had been in contact with a Couchsurfing host who just had to e-mail me back with his address and when to meet him. Six hours should be enough, right? Of course. So, Aleah and I boarded the Megabus at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, and I promptly fell asleep in my seat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the thing about Megabus (or at least Megabus in the UK), the seats are comfy, the ride is soothing (not too bumpy), and there is Wifi. When I first boarded the bus, I thought, “Oh, wifi, that will be nice.” I didn’t know that, within 4 hours, it would be the last line of defense between me and homelessness.

We boarded the bus at 3 pm (or 15:00, if you’re European—or just anywhere else in the world), and at 6 pm, I woke up.

“How long have I been out?” I asked Aleah, who was now 2/3 of her way through the first installment of Game of Thrones.

“Three hours. Has the Couchsurfing host responded?” I hadn’t checked. But after I refreshed my e-mail (which I could do, thank god, because there was wifi on the bus!!!) I realized he hadn’t. Well, we still had three hours before we got to London. There was still time. I went back to sleep.

I woke up again and we were parked at a rest stop. I GoogleMapped where we were and how much time we had before we arrived in London town, and we had an hour and a half. I refreshed my e-mail—still no response. I felt a slight tingle in my chest. This might not be good.Megabus-ud-int14240-j130803

“I didn’t get a response, Aleah.”

“Oh…okay, well—”

“Let’s look for cheap hostels?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

25 minutes passed and we finally summed up the courage to look each other in the eye and see the same realization reflected in both our countenances: all the hostels we’d looked at were booked. An hour left before we arrived in London.

“I’m gonna call a travel agency and get to the bottom of this—there can’t be nothing available,” I said, and, thanks to Google and wifi on the Megabus, I found a toll free number to call.

I consulted GoogleMaps again, and at the pace we were traveling on the Megabus (we weren’t necessarily hurtling down the highway, perse), we had 50 minutes left before we arrived in London. But it was at that point that it hit me: we had 50 minutes until we were officially homeless. That Megabus was the only home we had at that point, and time was running out.

jakeparker_olivertwist15 minutes later, I found—from the TripAdvisor lady—that all the hostels were booked solid, and the only option we had was a €500 ($650)/night room in King’s Cross Hotel. That wasn’t happening. What were we going to do?

“My Dad stays in Marriotts all the time—maybe he’s racked up enough Marriott points for us to stay somewhere for the night—ask her if there are any Marriott openings,” Aleah said.

Apparently, the TripAdvisor lady could only tell me about hostels and Bed & Breakfasts, so I called the first Marriott I found in London. No vacancies. Apparently, that very night, the Marriott had had an event specifically for all their most valuable and reliable customers, so it was booked solid—just for that night. Just our luck.

“Can you speak to the vacancies for any of the other Marriotts in London?” I asked her.

“No, Mum, I’m sorry, you’ll have to coll them ool,” she said in her annoying accent. **Disclaimer: I find British accents beautiful, I was just under a bit of stress then and remember everything with a shadow.**

I relayed the news to Aleah. “Let me e-mail my Dad. He’ll know what to do,” she said. I looked at my watch. 40 minutes until we’re homeless. 40 minutes until we have to find a gaunt, Fagin-esque man to take us under his wing and teach us how to steal handkercheifs from the pretty people living in town houses and walk-ups. “What if he doesn’t respond in time?” I asked Aleah. “Well,” she said, “Let’s just hope he does.”

With 35 minutes left before we had no home to call our own, my life became an ugly loop of meimpatience refreshing my e-mail, the Hostels World homepage and Twitter (though, admittedly, the latter was my in hopes of finding funny one-liners from comedians to brighten the mood). My life was Megabus wifi.

Finally, with 22 minutes until landing, we get an e-mail from Aleah’s Dad: “Checking now. Are you on wifi?”

Yes. Yes, we were on wifi. Thank you, Megabus.

A back and forth saga lasted for those last, tense, nail-biting 22 minutes, waiting to hear what happened with Dan (Aleah’s dad) and the Marriott.

And I swear to you—this is not added for dramatic effect, but the moment the bus parked at Victoria Station, we received a forwarded confirmation e-mail from Dan with the address and phone number of the room he’d booked for us (free of charge!) at the Marriott with the Marriott points he’d racked up from years of traveling with them.

Aleah and I disembarked from the bus with a home to go to. Unfortunately, though, it was on the other side of the city, so, with all our luggage in tow, we walked 2.5 miles across London—through a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park, past gypsies and their children soliciting us for funds we didn’t have on Edgware Road, past a film set we’d hoped was for the

Can you tell what these guys are filming?

Can you tell what these guys are filming?

gripping TV series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, negotiating intersections with people driving on the wrong sides of cars driving on the wrong sides of the road.

Finally, though, we reached the check-in desk at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvernor Square. A much better sleeping option than an overnight chair on the Tube Train. And, a much better life precedent than an evening spent homeless in London. At least now, I don’t have to worry about any of the chapters of my life’s story being titled, “EMILIA WALKS TO LONDON. SHE ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD A STRANGE SORTOF YOUNG GENTLEMAN,” or “EMILIA BECOMES BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE CHARACTERS OF HER NEW ASSOCIATES; AND PURCHASES EXPERIENCE AT A HIGH PRICE. BEING A SHORT, BUT VERY IMPORTANT CHAPTER, IN THIS HISTORY.”

Liverpuddlian humor finds itself in the gutter

Our Couchsurfing host, Ray Morton, is a Liverpuddlian through and through. Born and raised in Liverpool, he was educated there, raised his family there, but is also extremely well traveled. In his “wilder” years, as he says, he did refugee work in Africa, taught in Asia, worked all throughout Europe, but, of course, ultimately landed in Liverpool, his home. Ray is a man that has done a lot of things in his life—he is, most definitely, a renaissance man.

Ray, smoking, as he is wont to do.

Ray, smoking, as he is wont to do.

Over breakfast one morning before Aleah and I journeyed out into Liverpool’s city center to check out sites like The Cavern Club and Albert Dock, Ray started telling us about his “joke journal” that he said was filled with humor as true to Liverpool as a person could get. These jokes he’d accumulated from years of contemplation and party hosting. He thought it particularly fitting to share them with me as he knows I have “comedy writing” aspirations. Here are some of the jokes Ray shared with us to get our day started on a note both bright and dim.

1. A cute, little girl walked in to a pet shop. She asked the Shopkeeper, “Do you have any wabbits?” The Shopkeeper was overwhelmed by her innocence. “Why yes,” he said, taking her to the rabbit section. “Do you want a brown rabbit, a white rabbit or a spotted rabbit?” The little girl looked a bit confused, staring at him with her big blue eyes. After a moment of silence, she responded, “Well, I don’t really think my python gives a fuck!”

2. A little boy asked his mother one day, “Mom, if you’re white, why am I black?” The mother rubbed her forehead with a sigh and responded, “Son, after all the drugs I took at your age, you’re lucky you don’t bark like a dog!”

3. This joke is the pinnacle of Ray’s handiwork, and mother, avert your eyes!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a rock,
Little Bo Peep was sucking his cock.
The moment he came, she started to weep,
‘Cause she could tell by the take he’d been screwing her sheep.

Liverpool: so much more than the Beatles’ hometown

When Aleah and I first arrived in Liverpool, one thing was clear: locals were always disappointed to hear we’d only come in search of Beatles sites. Every time we said, “We came ’cause we’re huge Beatles fans!” we’d get a groan and an, “Alright,” and we’d always feel a bit awkward. But after spending 4 days in Liverpool, we now know how justified the groans were. Liverpool is so much more than Paul McCartney’s childhood home (though that is quite the resume builder). Here are some things you might not know about Liverpool that make it an incredible city regardless of its Beatles heritage.

1. The Museums

Liverpool is home to tens of fabulous museums, all of which are free, and all of which are interactive, informative, beautiful and fascininating. While Aleah and I were there, we made it to The International Slavery Museum, the Tate Liverpool, The Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool, among others. To my delight, I noticed just how many

Gigantic Titanic replica in Merseyside Maritime Museum

Gigantic Titanic replica in Merseyside Maritime Museum

teenagers with saggy pants and hair in their faces were in the museums with their friends on a Saturday afternoon, reading up on the Captain’s Log from the Titanic, or slavery over the years in Uzbekistan. Aleah and I had gone to a museum in Cobh, Ireland called The Titanic Experience, and that cost 10 Euros to see, while this museum was not only free, but 10 times more informative and fascinating. Liverpool has a rich and fascinating history that it displays with great pride in its museums. Aleah is a much bigger museum buff than I am, and she spent 2 hours in the Museum of Liverpool reading up on Liverpool’s history and only left because it was closing time. “It’s one of the best museum’s I’ve been to ever—not even just as a free museum.” It

Fascinating exhibit in Slavery Museum.

Fascinating exhibit in Slavery Museum.

really made me feel like every city should have a free museum available to the public about its history. Locals should not only know things like that, but they also probably want to know, and luckily enough in Liverpool, they have a beautiful, interactive, informative location to learn.

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Torpedo used in WWII.

2. The Architecture

I was so surprised to find Liverpool as visually stunning as it was. The crazy Beatles fan that I am, any time I looked up pictures of Liverpool, it was always of Penny Lane, or McCartney’s childhood home, so I’d never gotten any sense of the beauty of IMG_0793Liverpool’s city proper—but any street you walk down in Liverpool is flush with beautiful buildings, picturesque streets and stunning artwork—like statues or paintings or memorials. It’s easy to get caught up walking down the sidewalk with your head turned skyward, trying to take in your surroundings and forget which direction the cars are coming from. (Damn the UK driving rules!) Luckily, I’m still alive, and trying to spread the word: run to Liverpool! Don’t walk!

3. The Shopping

If you’re looking to spend money in Liverpool, you won’t be disappointed. The streets are filled with boutiques ranging from high-fashion to used and recycled. There is a gigantic, 4 story mall that commands the center of the city and opens out onto the street on every floor. It’s overwhelming for the shopping-challenged like myself. I always need someone with fashion sense with me while I’m doing my shopping, or else I’m completely lost. This mall has probably been in a dream my little sister has had…

4. The Music

Do I even need to go into detail here? Not only is this the city that bred and raised The Beatles, but it is also home to The IMG_0771Cavern Club, a venue that helped give The Beatles their start. The venue is littered with paraphernalia and plaques commemorating the musical giants that have graced its caves. There’s music playing there 24/7—like any club that is true to the mandate of rock ‘n’ roll should. The day we visited The Cavern Club, we arrived at 2 pm and there was a band already three quarters of the way through its set. Granted, that day it was a duo performing sub-par covers of timeless Beatles classics, but

Two gentlemen, giving their best to the Beatles songs they're butchering...

Two gentlemen, giving their best to the Beatles songs they’re butchering…

honestly, at the end of the day, isn’t any cover of a Beatles’ song inherently sub-par? (I’m super biased, I know!) But it’s not just The Cavern Club in Liverpool that fosters great music. Go into any pub on any evening and you’ll find jazz bands playing, blues bands playing, rock bands playing—go to any cafe in the evening and find poetry slams, folk music, you name it! It is certainly a land for the left brainers.

5. The People

As our Couchsurfing host, Ray, told me after I asked him what a fanfare Liverpool must make when the Beatles return to the town, “we’re an Egalitarian people, Emilia. If anyone was to see Paul McCartney at a pub in the evenin’, we’d nudge him on the shoulder and say, ‘Buy me a drink, you rich bastard!'” It’s an equality Aleah and I felt the whole time we were in Liverpool. Of all the places we’d been to at that point (and even since!) we felt the least judged for being tourists. The first day we arrived there and were roaming the streets aimlessly, holding our luggage, desperately looking for Marmaduke Street, the first gentleman who walked by us stopped and asked us if we needed him, took out his phone and spent the next 10 minutes patiently helping us figure out where we needed to go. It’s no wonder everyone loved the Beatles so much—they couldn’t help but be Liverpuddlian!

6. The Public Library

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The Liverpool Central Library is a thing of beauty. Not only is it architecturally magnificent, but it is constantly filled with IMG_0782people—and not just homeless people either! Real, tax paying people, who actually

Look at all the people!!

Look at all the people!!

A beautiful poem about Liverpool molded into the floor on the first level of the library.

just want to read, or are hungry for knowledge, or who want to meet with their study groups at the lovely café situated on the ground floor of this 6-story library with winding, wooden staircases. It’s located in the center of the city, which sends an excellent message that knowledge should be central to any society. Clearly, in Liverpool, knowledge is a priority, and it shows!

So, ultimately, what I’m trying to say is, if you’re coming to Liverpool, make sure you budget time for a lot  of things that have nothing to do with The Beatles—and this coming from the biggest Beatles fan this side of the Atlantic!

Another side of Liverpool

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a fanatical Beatles fan. If Paul and Ringo had any sense, they’d have pre-emptive restraining orders on me. But I digress…

On the first day we arrived in Liverpool, we made sure to see all The Beatles’ old haunts: Penny Lane, Abbey Road, childhood homes, St. Peter’s Church, you name it. The way the city of Liverpool is laid out, the city proper is in Northern Liverpool, closer to the harbor, then 6 miles southeast is the Beatles’ old neighborhood. Most people just take a bus, or a cab (possibly even The Beatles’ Taxi Tour), but because Aleah and I are cheap as hell and always in the market for a good walk, we decided to just walk the whole way. Why not see all of Liverpool since we’re here to visit?

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It came as a bit of a shock to us to find that the area in between the city proper and Beatle town is almost a ghost town. Aleah and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing: closed up shops lining the streets, trash lining the gutters, men in orange vests holding garbage bags and metal hands picking up trash for community service or part-time work.

We tried to figure out why that was. The city center is a thriving, informed metropolis—Britain even named it the Capitol of Culture in 2008. Even the residential neighborhoods are internationally renowned for bringing up the world’s greatest band. So what’s the deal?

We talked to our Couchsurfing host, Ray, about it. He chalked it up to big-name grocery stores like Tesco driving out all the Mom and Pop shops in Liverpool. The streets Aleah and I were walking used to be filled with independent grocery stores with foods grown locally and healthily. Never has the economic crash and the effect of big business on small companies been clearer to us than it was when we walked the streets of Liverpool from the city to the suburbs. The desperation continued on for miles and miles—it was particularly grim when we walked past a graveyard that looked out upon businesses equally dead.

After that walk, we were more inspired than ever to shop locally and avoid name brands as much as we could.