Blackpool 2009 – 3

Yesterday was sunny and windy; today is wet and windy, a typical British bank holiday.

Elegant station buffet
Elegant station buffet

Yesterday was sunny and windy; today is wet and windy, a typical British bank holiday.

Nothing daunted, we set off for the station to use one of our 4 days of rail travel. As the weather is more conducive to urban exploration than open-air rambles, we are heading for Chester. To get there from Blackpool is slightly complicated. We start by taking the small diesel Manchester train and will change, probably more than once, en route.

Bouncy coach
Bouncy coach

I am leaving navigation to Tigger as she possesses advanced skills in this domain whereas I could get lost in a car park.

Our train terminated at Manchester Victoria so we looked for a connection. The best way to continue seemed to be to set off towards Liverpool and change. Unfortunately, routes to Liverpool were being served by replacement buses. So we had coffee in the unexpectedly elegant buffet and then boarded a coach.

Dead cinema at Earltown
Dead cinema at Earltown

The coach bounced, shook and jolted as if it had square wheels. We stopped at a number of stations and were eventually dumped at Earltown. I have no idea what Earltown is like but it felt like the end of the world. Standing beside the station, the dead cinema with broken windows and a pointlessly spinning ventilation fan symbolized my feelings well.

There was no one on hand to give us information or advice, no notices telling us what timetable, if any, was operating. Once more, a railway company shows complete contempt for its paying customers.

Moulded ceiling, Crown Hotel
Moulded ceiling, Crown Hotel

A notice said trains for Chester left from platform 5 which is a long walk from the entrance and over a bridge. Once there we had no idea whether trains were running on not. The “information point” of course did not respond.

Tigger phoned National Rail and they said there were no trains direct to Chester today, only replacement buses. Thanks, we’d already had a helping of that and were not keen on more. The alternative was to go by train via Liverpool.

Stained glass dome
Stained glass dome, Crown Hotel

We waited, unsure of train times, and eventually a train came. We decided at this point that we might as well call a halt at Liverpool rather than struggle on to Chester, only to have the same problems in reverse getting back to the hotel.

We reached Liverpool Lime Street at 14:11 and headed straight for The Crown for lunch. This is a lovely old pub with superb moulded ceilings, wood panelling and a tiled fireplace. As a bonus, the food was moderately priced and we had a three-course meal for both at a total cost of 15.77.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria

After lunch, we took a walk in the rain past St George’s Hall to the Walker Gallery of Modern Art. Several rooms are dedicated to Victorian art with paintings, sculptures and a few other artifacts. Queen Victoria was present, naturally (see above).

Napoleon retreating
Napoleon retreating, Walker Gallery

There are also a few rooms of Impressionism and modern art. I rather liked Ben Johnson’s paintings of architectural subjects particularly his breathtaking Liverpool Citiscape.

We had refreshments in the gallery’s cafe and then wended our way slowly back to Lime Street Station. There was a train for Blackpool in 45 minutes but rather than wait on the station, we have preferred to catch an earlier train to Preston and change there.

I think my back is a little better even though the coach ride did nothing to help. In the Crown I accidentally dropped the menu on the floor and was able to bend down—very slowly—and pick it up.

The Steble Fountain
The Steble Fountain

Taking the train to Preston worked out quite well because a few minutes after we disembarked, a Blackpool train arrived at the same platform, so at the trivial cost of an easy change we were rewarded with a much quicker journey.

Blackpool was still as wet and windy as we left it this morning, so we put our heads down and made for the hotel. We have made tea and are relaxing, while Tigger prepares to watch a DVD about Liverpool that she bought in the shop at the Walker Gallery.

Red columns
Red columns, Liverpool Station

We do not feel hungry after our good lunch at the Crown Hotel but if we fell peckish later we have the choices of braving the wind and rain and looking for a curry house or walking along the corridor to the hotel cafe which stays open until 10 pm.

Candelabrum
Candelabrum, Walker Gallery

Today was rather frustrating. Not only did we fail in our plan to visit Chester but we also wasted a lot of time in the attempt, thanks to the railways being disrupted and little being done to help passengers reach their destination. Chester therefore remains on the list for another time.

In turn, our visit to Liverpool wasn’t as good as it might have been because it was unintentional and we had little time to spend there because it took us so long to get to it.

Nonetheless, there were some good moments too, such as our discovery of the beautiful station buffet at Manchester Victoria station and the similarly elaborate interior of the Crown Hotel in Liverpool, not to mention the vegetarian sausage and mash at the same venue!

Tomorrow is another day and now that the bank holiday weekend has ended it may be easier to move around.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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