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Staying put this summer?

Peering out of sunglasses at your expensive hanging baskets and rotting garden furniture through rivulets of rain? Cheer up, you're on staycation, says Liz Lacey

Published on July 30th 2009.


Staying put this summer?

THE ugly-sounding word “staycation”has entered our vocabulary since the economic sky fell down; meaning to spend your two weeks of summer holiday at home, encouraged by the odds-on forecast of a “barbecue summer”.

Now there may be people who have already dedicated the next five weeks to finishing off DIY jobs begun in the last recession, or those who simply intend to have more quality time shouting at the kids and ringing the swine flu hotline.

However, for those who are too impoverished even to consider a Ryanair flight spent clinging to a three legged stool, strapped in with gaffer tape, here are a few ideas for your holiday in your home city.

Liverpool is now a popular tourist destination. Do bear that in mind. People have paid huge sums of money to come here. Not always easy to believe, but try pretending that you are Japanese, or from Slough.

I am now going to be sincere for a few moments, but normal sarcasm will be resumed as soon as possible.

Liverpool is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it is best viewed from Birkenhead. Failing that, St John’s Gardens or the top of the Anglican cathedral. I have never been up to the top of the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral because it looks too pointy.

But when I have dragged people from That London up here, who have never dared to cross the line before, that is the aspect that always shuts them up for a while.

We take it completely for granted, like someone who has been long married to a noted beauty, and now only sees the faint lines around the mouth and eyes, rather than the spectacular bone structure.

Roaming around the city just looking at things is one of the immense pleasures that would not be afforded to people living in, say, Basingstoke. There are still many novel and peculiar shopping experiences to be had, not as many as I would like, admittedly, but wandering round the surviving small bookshops in Liverpool, and poking around in Lark Lane still has charm.

We also now have proper shops, like every other city. Whatever you think of Liverpool One and, frankly I love it, it’s only what practically every other sizeable city has had for ages. Only newer, cleaner, and more pleasingly placed. Go for a coffee at the top of John Lewis, and you can see the most breathtaking views. Do that in Oxford Street and what you see is Oxford Street.

All our tourist websites, council magazines, artinliverpool.com (the best arts blog in the UK according to The Sunday Times), and indeed, this very organ, will tell you what’s happening, and how you can get it cheaper or free.

There is also a great organisation called Culturepool which organises loose, informal visits to the theatre, cinema, galleries, and all manner of diverting events. They wangle free or cheap tickets, and often negotiate additional benefits like meeting the writers of a play, or give you the opportunity to discuss an exhibition with the artist. The bliss of this is that you can go alone and meet likeminded people, and also that drink often plays a significant part.

There are other gems to unearth on staycation: the E Chambré Hardman museum being one of them. Tucked away in Pilgrim Street, it is a perfectly preserved Georgian terraced house –

the former studio and home of the renowned local photographer E. Chambré Hardman, and a unique time capsule of Liverpool life in the mid 20th century.

An additional, very different visual delight is Sound and Vision, Francesco Mellinas’ exhibition of previously unseen pictures of Liverpool clubland during the 1970s and 1980s at the National Conservation Centre in Whitechapel. Take the kids, ensuring good behavior throughout the school holidays by threatening to dress like that again, in front of their mates.

There really are some wondrous things to do and see in Liverpool now. For the next few months you can’t move for culture, live music and art is coming at you from all over the shop. We have festivals galore; The Hope Street Feast, The Liverpool Shakespeare Festival, Mathew Street Festival, with new improved Fringe.

Mind you, if I did have a bit of cash, I would treat myself to a couple of nights in one of the new “Boutique” hotels. Not the Hard Day’s Night, you have to be prepared for hot and cold running Beatles in every room. I would go for cocktails and dinner in the Malmaison Brasserie on a Sunday and then stay the night on Sunday for a tenner a room with this offer.

The only drawback of which, for the short-sighted, is the deep plum decor of the bar. Mind you, it is called the Plum Bar. The combination of low lighting and a tiny-fonted menu ensures several dashes to the nearest toilet, and that's just to read the menu.

If you feel over cultivated, though, and simply want to pass time people watching in a cheaper fashion; why not try the queue at Church Street Primark? Or try and call BT for some advice... half a day can pass rapidly in this way, and you can make many new friends as you tell and re-tell your story to a selection of their staff around the Indian sub continent.

But if you really can't do without sea and sand, catch the quick train up to Waterloo or Hall Road and gaze out to sea at sunset with an iron man or 100, and a Satterthwaite's pastie. Dropping in for a few liveners to get rid of the chill in The Volunteer Canteen on the way back.

The best thing about “Staycationing” in Liverpool since European Capital of Culture 2008, is that we can unselfconsciously enjoy our city again. We can troll about in the Tate, go for a drink in Dr Duncan’s or eat at the Everyman Bistro without having to be on our best behaviour.

So stay in Liverpool this summer. A bit of spray tan and a handful of scattered sand in the hall, turn up the heating, pick a quarrel with your family and your simulated holiday experience is complete.

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