My 48 hour Staycation in Liverpool

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My heart sinks every time I say this, as the Great British Pound is at its lowest for over 30 years, now is the time for you to discover how amazing some of our UK towns and cities really are. Liverpool is a place with an incredible history and it’s even home to some world firsts and maritime gems.

7 Scouse Facts:

  • Place of the world’s first railway, Liverpool and Manchester Railway
  • Home to Europe’s oldest Chinese community
  • Liverpool was previously described as the “New York of Europe”
  • The city was the first in the UK to operate an airport from 1930
  • Home to the first lending-library, arts centre and theatre
  • James Street and Hamilton Square stations are the oldest deep level underground stations in the world
  • Apart from London, Liverpool is the most filmed city in the UK used as movie and TV sets to depict Moscow, New York and even Rome

Where should you visit?

Don’t expect spectacular sandy beaches or pristine sunshine weather, however what Liverpool does offer in bucketloads is culture and history. Before visiting I had no idea that the city is home to the most museums outside of London and thankfully most of them are free!

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Museum of Liverpool

This place has everything! A really well laid-out museum that features information about the Overhead Railway, Liverpool’s Chinese community, The Beatles and even about the products that used to be shipped in from all around the world.

I’d recommend that if you don’t know much about Liverpool’s past, this would be the best place to start. You’ll feel absorbed into its past but also be intrigued by what will happen in the future.

The world’s very first train, The Lion, is housed here. It was built in 1838 and was used on the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, an incredible achievement for the city.

Liverpool OverHead Railway poster

Sadly the Liverpool Overhead Railway no longer exists but these incredible posters are featured in the Museum of Liverppol

St Johns Beacon / Radio City Tower

This place is an absolute must-see whilst visiting the city! At only £5.50 (2016 prices) it is such a bargain and if you pick the right day you’ll see as far away as the Blackpool Tower and even North Wales. When I visited there was barely anyone there which I thought was rather sad given how sunny it was. At less than a quarter of the price to visit the Shard in London and with a much better view make sure you add it to your to do list.

Liverpool Cathedral

If you follow my blog you’ll know I’m not religious, however I do like visiting places like this and discovering the history. Liverpool’s Cathedral was completed in 1978, so it isn’t particularly old but it does look incredible sitting on top of St James’s Mount.

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Maritime Museum

I genuinely didn’t know that the Titanic was a “Liverpool ship”, nor did I realise I could discover all about it in Liverpool. This museum is smaller than the Museum of Liverpool but is well worth seeing as with most museums it is free!

Make sure you check out the International Slavery Museum too, it’s linked to the Maritime Museum and even though incredibly sad it’s also a fascinating look into our past and how slaves helped drive the fortunes of not only Liverpool but the UK as a whole.

Albert Docks

After the docks finally closed in 1972 most of the area fell into disrepair and was in urgent need of some TLC, thankfully in the early 1980’s the area was given a regeneration makeover and is now the most visited multi-attraction site in the UK, outside London.

I found the Albert Dock to be the perfect blend of old vs new with its well-maintained heritage but also striving forward with new buildings like the Museum of Liverpool. I only remember the Albert Dock from when I was little and the TV show This Morning used to be broadcast from here, well it has certainly changed since then.

Make sure you check out the cute historical vehicles that are now used by food vendors.

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Visit the homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit either of them, but I thought I’d add it here for any Beatles fans amongst my readers.

Hidden Gems!

Often described as England’s finest Victorian city, Liverpool is home to more than 2,500 listed buildings and more Georgian houses than the city of Bath, isn’t it time you checked it out?

For me, Liverpool is home to a buzzing cafe culture and thankfully due to its history and multi-cultured society I was able to experience everything from Jamaican to Thai cuisines.

I really enjoyed trying the tasty sweet delights at East Avenue Bakehouse in the RopeWalks district and also trying out the amazing poached eggs at Cheese & Co. opposite the Queen Victoria Monument.

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Although not necessarily hidden, they are a gem. I love seeing all of the old vehicles that are now being used to serve street food and ice creams. A really nice touch.

Liverpool has to be one of, if not the most-friendly city I’ve visited in the UK. Ignore the pre-conceptions you hear, it is safe and very much welcoming to tourists.

Top tip: If you’re looking to buy property for investment in the UK, I’d strongly suggest Liverpool as this place is definitely on the up!

Liverpool LGBT scene

Don’t expect the gay scene hubs of London or Manchester, however you can encounter an intimate affair in the designated LGBT quarter. Stanley Street is where you’ll find bars including the Lisbon and the Curzon to name only a few places to visit.

With many other gay scenes in the UK slowly dying of death, Liverpool prides itself on being the first city in the UK to identify its LGBT quarter by installing rainbow street signs to highlight the area as gay-friendly.

Probably the most famous Liverpudlians in the world. The Beatles

Probably the most famous Liverpudlians in the world. The Beatles

How to get here?

Liverpool is one of the easiest cities to visit in the UK, situated on the west coast of England it is ideally situated to arrive by air, rail, ferry or road.

Air: Liverpool John Lennon Airport is one of the fastest growing in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, thankfully there’s plenty of domestic and international connections, mostly from Eastern Europe.

Rail: Liverpool Lime Street is the main hub with regular trains from London, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and North Wales.

Road: At the most Western point of the M62 (a.k.a the biggest parking lot after the M25) it’s really simple to drive to the ‘Pool.

Sea: The Port of Liverpool offers regular ferries to the Isle of Man and Dublin, you’ll also have access to a wide variety of exotic cruise destinations.

Further information?

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Travelling the world as an LGBT citizen

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Firstly let me start by saying that being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person (LGBT) is not a choice, it is something you are born as and contrary to some religious beliefs it cannot be cured. Love is love, no matter whether it’s between a man and a woman, two women or two men. Simple!

Sadly even in 2016 not everyone thinks the same and having travelled to some of the world’s most remote countries I can begrudgingly say that gay rights still have a long way to go.

Often seen as a “Western ideology”, being gay in some countries can get you imprisoned, fined or even horror of horror, killed. You might not realise it but there are still 7 countries in the world where adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal and punishable by death.

Whilst many condemn Russia for its rather open-opinion of LGBT relationships, you must remember that it isn’t in fact illegal there. My visit to Moscow several years ago certainly opened my eyes as to how much of a scene exists, albeit underground, but for me I was just relieved that it simply existed!

Whilst trawling the internet I found some interesting facts about being LGBT in different countries around the world:

  • 62 countries protect their LGBT citizens from discrimination
  • 118 countries have legalised adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct
  • 75 countries have made it a criminal offence for adults to have consensual same-sex sexual conduct
  • 7 countries including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen can punish their citizens to death if found to have adult consensual same-sex sexual conduct

Just before I travel many of my friends say to me, “Do you feel safe, aren’t you scared or worried you’ll be targeted?”

Well, I think there are a lot of pre-conceptions about travelling to places that aren’t so friendly towards my community. Many are sadly correct but some amazingly couldn’t be further from the truth. For example when I visited Iran, I was incredibly relieved to discover LGBT life does exist and although Grindr and many other hook-up apps are banned, the joys of using a VPN can easily get you linked up to the local community. I’ve never had so much attention before, but I think it helps being fair and having blue eyes *cough* man-magnet!

I decide to visit these places based on the fact that many religious leaders state that no gay people actually exist in their countries. Well I’m sorry to crush that “statistic” but even in far-flung places like Turkmenistan, Iraq and Eritrea I have experienced gay life and local residents who are trying to make the most of their lives, even if their own government wishes to persecute them. I respect these people because it’s likely that they have no choice but to stay and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them to try to live openly in a homophobic society.

When I arrive in a new country where I don’t know anyone, anybody could literally do anything to me. Maybe that’s part of the excitement, for me it is also part of the adventure and forms a part of my own personal development. Where would I be if I live my life the way I’m supposed to, right? By travelling to a country and meeting people; many of whom have never met a gay person before, I’m broadening their horizons and teaching them that I’m not one of their pre-conceived ideas, I am also simply just a human being like them.

I’m thankful to say I’ve never encountered any remorse or animosity towards me as a gay guy whilst travelling (that I’ve noticed), however I’m more than aware of some of the horror stories. I think the recent Orlando terrorist/hate attack proves that sadly nowhere in the world is safe anymore, but you can stand up to hatred and thankfully the most unlikely people have been standing side by side with the LGBT community in their grief.

Before you begin to think this post is an attack on the straight people of the word…believe me, it isn’t. However if you are straight, have you ever stopped to think what would happen if being straight wasn’t the “norm”, if you went to kiss your girlfriend/boyfriend but it was frowned upon in society, what would it feel like to fear being attacked? This is why gay pride parades around the world still exist.

After travelling the world my advice to anybody LGBT thinking of visiting a country that may not be best friends with us, simply plan your trip very carefully, read forums and blog posts regarding the latest news and updates and try to connect with the local community who will no doubt be incredibly pleased to see and welcome you.

If you’d like any advice on any of the countries I’ve visited and what LGBT scene (if any) exists, please message me via my Facebook page.

Love Wins.

Love is Love.

Be proud of who you are.

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Explore Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital and city of the future

Kazakhstan might be best known for its vast barren landscapes but since 1998 when Astana became the capital city, it has rapidly developed into a city of the future. Known as the Dubai of Central Asia, Astana is growing at an alarming rate but is it always for the best? Let’s find out…

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Exploring Astana:

Most people have probably never even heard of Astana but believe me in the future you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about it. Thankfully I visited in the summertime when it was a beautiful 26 degrees, however this city is officially the second coldest capital city in the world, after Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.  

The only way I can describe Astana is odd, one minute you’ll be walking past a gold, sparkly new 5* hotel and then directly next door is a run down house that has been there for years and is about to fall down. However this city has some of the most futuristic buildings that I’ve ever seen and for that I’ll always remember it fondly.

Here are some of my favourite places that I visited:

Bayterek Tower

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The jewel in Astana’s tourism crown, standing at over 105m the Bayterek (meaning popular in Kazakh) Tower provides a picturesque panorama over the city and to the steppe beyond. Amazingly it only costs 500 Tenge (Approx. £1) to visit, so it’s incredible value-for-money. Sadly someone decided to tint the glass yellow and therefore your photos from inside will end up looking slightly odd.

Khan Shatyr Entertainment Complex

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This crazy tent-inspired structure is the largest marquee in the world! Designed by British architect, Norman Foster, it should be far more famous but sadly most people have never even heard of it. I found it similar to the shopping malls of the Middle East as the whacky Khan Shatyr houses its own water park, indoor river, monorail and even an indoor beach with sand specially imported from the Maldives!

Hazrat Sultan Mosque

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After completion in 2005, the Hazrat Sultan Mosque is now the largest in the whole of Kazakhstan with the ability to house more than 10,000 worshippers. In a country where 67% of the population identify themselves as Muslim, for me it was nice to see that the Kazakh people are tolerant of other religions and thankfully it also isn’t illegal to be gay here. There’s still a long way to go but I’m pleased that I was able to visit and roam freely.

Kazakh National University of the Arts/ Shabyt (aka the Dog Bowl)

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I’ve worked at several Universities in London and I can easily say that none of them looked like this! Please can I get a job here?!

Metropolitan Circus (aka the Flying Saucer) 

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Wow! The aliens have landed and built a flying saucer for a circus, well weirder things have happened. As one of the most futuristic-looking buildings in Astana this place certainly catches your attention. It simply looks like a UFO just landed, all credit must go to President Nazarbayev, who came up with the initial idea.

Duman Entertainment Complex 

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This place is just insane, at over 3,000km away from the nearest ocean, it houses the world’s largest oceanarium that’s furthest away from the sea! With sharks, turtles and even local Kazakhstan fish you’ll be amazed at the wonders of the deep. Oh and although it’s mostly for kids, there’s even a mermaid who comes along every hour or so and dives in!

Once you’ve had enough of the fishes you can also check out the 5D or 8D cinema or maybe even the fake jungle. Quite literally like nothing I’ve ever seen, advanced isn’t the word.

Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall

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What would a concert hall be if it wasn’t shaped like the layered petals of a rose? Well Astana has built just that and it houses some of the most prestigious classical music and dance performances.

There are several other incredible buildings/structures that sadly I didn’t get chance to visit but these include a musical fountain, an entire suburb called Family Town designed specifically only for couples and their children and even three amazing apartment buildings called the Northern Lights that illuminate the sky at night inspired by the Aurora Borealis.

Travelling in Astana

Sadly when the town planners got involved in making Astana a city of the future they failed to factor pedestrians into the equation as many of the pavements that should be there, well aren’t! The distances between things are also pretty far so you might want to hire a car or take taxis everywhere, however you’ll need to speak a bit of Russian to avoid being ripped off.

I paid 2,500 Tenge from the airport to my hotel and as a general rule anywhere south of the river costs between 500 – 1,000 Tenge or north costs up to 1,500 Tenge.

There are city buses but every time I saw one they were completely full with people squashed against the windows, however they are cheap at only 90 Tenge per journey.

I couldn’t resist but add this to my article, during my time travelling in Kazakhstan I discovered there’s an airline called Scat! You just can’t make this sh…tuff up.

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Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions.

Explore Kazakhstan’s former capital city Almaty in my previous blog article here.

You can also visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.