This week’s dream
A magical tour of the Beatles’ Liverpool
The day I suggested to my Beatles-obsessed husband that we should visit Liverpool, “I won points for the rest of our marriage,” said Liz Robbins in The New York Times. I’ve never been a Fab Four fanatic—not like Ricky, a fount of Beatles trivia who started playing the band’s songs on guitar when he was 13. But as we made our way from Abbey Road to Penny Lane, meeting fellow fans from the U.S. and as far away as Uruguay, I was able to marvel at how four Liverpool lads united the world, “and continue to do so,” even 54 years after they charted their first overseas No. 1 single.
“Where does one begin the story of the Beatles in Britain? At the crosswalk, of course.” Hours after landing at Heathrow Airport, we headed to London’s Abbey Road to re-create the cover of the namesake album—as a few hundred other people were doing the same. Beatles tourism is an even bigger deal in Liverpool, bringing in $116 million a year, and when we arrived in the industrial port city, “I didn’t know whether to expect depth or Disney.” We experienced Disney on our first day, spotting a Magical Mystery Tour bus and, on the docks, a Yellow Submarine houseboat for rent. Outside the Beatles Story museum, Sgt. Pepper himself was hawking tickets. But the museum offers a decent primer for Beatles beginners and includes a replica of the Cavern Club, where John, Paul, George, and Ringo played some of their first gigs. The exhibits prepared me for the next day’s big activity: a Fab Four Taxi Tour with a Beatles expert as our guide.
We were picked up in a black cab by Gareth Byrne, 57, who called himself a Scouser—a true Liverpool native. For the next three hours we roamed the city, enjoying Byrne’s encyclopedic memory, deadpan humor, and “an accent that begged for subtitles.” He took us to John Lennon’s favorite pub, the Beatles’ childhood homes, and to Penny Lane, where the street sign is stolen and replaced, we learned, about once a week. Our last stop was St. Peter’s Church, where Paul McCartney first heard John play, fronting his skiffle band, the Quarrymen, at a 1957 Sunday picnic. Across the street stood a cemetery. “When slanted sunbeams fell on Eleanor Rigby’s headstone as if on cue, I shivered a little and smiled.”
At Liverpool’s Hard Day’s Night Hotel (harddaysnighthotel.com), doubles start at $102.