TRIP---A Guide to travel in the Beatles' world
Last Update: 1 July 1993
Over time, England changes very little. There are still some bargains to be had, and anyone contemplating a visit to the Beatles' homeland will find some substantial treats. The current exchange rate is one--- not among the best I've seen, but certainly (at $1.49 = 1 pound UK) a worthy conversion (better than the $2.05/pound I recall from a previous trip!)
Transportation remains expensive, but there are ways to get around this.
The tube (London Underground...the subway, that is) is best used on a
one-day (L2.60..."L" for "pound", pardon the lack of cross strokes) or
five-day pass. In Liverpool, ignore the underground and hire a car or
take buses; foot travel is recommended for close-in areas like central
Liverpool but for suburban delights like Penny Lane and the Fabs'
birthplaces, you must go by car or tourbus.
Note: If you're landing at Heathrow, you can take the Tube straight
from the terminal into the city. If you land at Gatwick, you can take a train (about an hour). If you have a lot of luggage, you might want to take a bus instead.
If you're flying to London and want to get to Liverpool, Britrail is still the way to go; one-way standard (second) class is $65 US, $95 r.t. from Euston Station in London. If you want to do a subtantial amount of train travel, before you leave the U.S. buy a 1-week or 2-week Britrail pass; 2-week is $339, but after a few trips you'll easily pay for it in saved actual fares.
For those planning or hoping for future travel to England, to see anything Fab, don't forget a few essentials:
Books and records/CDs are not a bargain, alas, unless you find things in the UK you can't get over here. I've found Lonnie Donegan, Helen Shapiro, and Joe Brown anthologies that American stores would *never* carry (blast it, I forgot to look for a Ken Colyer CD. :-) Record stores (especially used ones) are pretty well picked over for unusual issues and rarities. I found a plethora of reasonably priced red-label Parlophone 45s of "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me" for about $20 US at a record fair in Brighton (thanks to the esteemed Mr. Stephen Carter for arranging this outing), and was even privileged to hold a "gold label" Parlophone "Please Please Me" LP (holding as a substitute for owning, because it cost around $600 US!) Although standard prices for CDs in stores like HMV and Virgin Megastore are about $20 (vs. $9-13 dollars for the same item in U.S. shops), I was amazed to see a full complement of "rarities", "collectibles", (dare we say it?) "bootlegs" at this record fair for about L15 UK ($20 US), a price lower than standard U.S. prices for same; I imagine these were private sellers who had no fixed address and could risk such sales.
On the Beatles bookshelf, there was, surprisingly, nothing of note which is not already available in the U.S., excepting Bill Harry's flawed "The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia" (1992), which should have been proofread a little better. But check the music section anyway. The Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street near Charing Cross has lots of rock-related books; so do chains like Waterstones, and larger concerns like the famous Foyles.
Radio and television always provide surprises. Buy a copy of "Radio Times" (for the trivia-conscious, this was the publication technically responsible for Paul and Jane Asher's first meeting), which lists extensive (and excellent) radio fare as well as several channels of TV (bring a small portable radio if you can; your B&B will either have a telly in the room or in the communal lounge). Several exceptional TV compilations of British pop shows from the sixties occasionally air; my kind host in Brighton introduced me to some of these, which included appearances by the Fabs, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and others too numerous to mention. Utterly astonishing (and a tad unsettling) was stumbling upon a TV show broadcast in Scotland called "Surprise, Surprise" (one can only compare it to the Stones' song!), with NEMS' own erstwhile sweetheart of song, Cilla Black, as hostess. For American reference, it's a cross between "Candid Camera" and "Queen For A Day", with Cilla (now---hard to imagine---a spry grandmotherly type) selecting people from the audience to fulfill some sort of dream or another. You never know what you'll find on the airwaves.
And for all the things you'll inevitably buy, make sure you can carry it all; pack empty record sacks and folded baggage for the inevitable treasures you'll find in the land that gave birth to the Fabs!
Now, on to the sights themselves....
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