I took an overnight flight, which was fine. I didn't sleep as deeply on it as I slept going to Lithuania, but enough so that I was moderately functional when landing in Manchester. This was a good thing, because the British are just as pissy about security as Americans, and I got quite the grilling at immigration. The official had to have the concept of "I am presenting a paper and then leaving on Monday because I have a rehearsal in the United States on Tuesday" carefully explained to him. I then took the train from Manchester to Liverpool, a nice ride of about an hour. So far, so good.
I had a piece of paper with directions telling me how to get from the train station to the hostel where I was staying, but no map. This was a bad thing, because here is British Lesson Number One: The British apparently do not believe in street signs. If a street has a sign at all, it will be a discreet little plaque located high on a building such that you can't actually see it from the intersection. Plus, many streets change names every three blocks or so. British Lesson Number Two: Nobody has city maps for sale, and nobody knows where anything is except for skeezy convenience store owners. Finding this hostel was far more of a challenge than I'd bargained for, it was rainy, I was tired, and hungry, and then . . . I saw this sign:
I know that it probably has something to do with traffic right-of-way, but it was just the perfect sign for that moment! Anyway, it's not too far from the hostel, which is called Nightingale House. I think it must have been a house where Florence Nightingale lived. There's a little monument to her on the corner of Princes Road, and then you venture a few steps further (seeing, at last, the street sign that confirms that you are, in fact, on Princes Road) and see the hostel itself:
Nightingale House is a lovely place to stay, as youth hostels go. The desk staff aren't exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they're very friendly, and the beds are comfortable and the bathrooms are surprisingly nice.
The room wasn't quite ready yet, so I hitched up my backpack (this is why I like to travel light to conferences) and headed over to the university, pausing on the way to note the subtle signs of modernization among the traditional features of the British urban landscape:
It wasn't too hard to find the Dean Waters building, where I would make lots of new friends over the next few days.
Right across from the Dean Waters building is Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, where we had receptions and meals. It's the second-biggest Anglican cathedral in the country, right after Westminster Abbey, a ginormous Godzilla-like building that fills up your entire range of vision and can be seen literally from a mile away. Nevertheless, the undergraduate conference assistants were very helpful and gave us detailed directions as to how to get from the Dean Waters building to the Anglican Cathedral, in case we got lost on the way!
Inside Godzilla Cathedral, you could fit about four or five separate ballrooms in each wing of the building. Bits of it are charming and lovely:
And bits of it are kind of tacky. That is, in fact, a horrible pink neon sign inside that reads "I Felt You And I Knew You Loved Me."
Here's a shot to show just how close the two buildings are to each other, and also to prove that it wasn't grotty and gray the entire time:
Next post: A few sights around town.