With a weekend of promised sunshine, we decided to make it our first proper bike-run of the year together - and so we packed light, pulled on our best and most comfortable Leathers, and headed off.
We decided to take the long-road: up to the Trentham Estate for a break, then on through the A roads and beautiful countryside of Cheshire (making a stop at both the gated community at Wychwood Park, and a lovely Marina on the Shropshire canal). It was a perfect day for riding: sunny but not too hot, with scudding clouds and empty winding roads - and my Man chatting and laughing away in my headset...
We got to Liverpool early in the evening. We were staying at a newly finished Premier Inn at Birkenhead - it was so new you could smell the new paint and carpets! We had a great room too - with a lovely big bed, at just the *right* height ;)
I made Sir a cup of tea, whilst I unpacked for Him - then we decided to make a little bumble around to see what we could see: heading first to the ferry terminal at Woodside, to gaze across the Mersey at the Liverpool docks and skyline...
From there it was a zoom along to New Brighton and a Tapas supper - watching a wet-suited free-swimmer bravely ploughing through the waters of the dock below us - then it was home for a hot chocolate and a proper pup-snuggle...
We had planned to spend Friday 'bike-free', so the morning saw us pull on denim and tackies as we headed back to the docks to catch the world famous "Ferry 'cross the Mersey" (and yes, they did play *that* song at every stop...!). Despite growing up just outside Liverpool, I've never ridden the ferry, so it was quite an emotional and proud-filled journey; it's also a fantastic way to see the city - with its new 'Liverpool One' New-York styled skyline - and the twin-hurled catamaran ferry to Ireland..
I dragged Sir around the Albert Docks, looking at the Tall Ships getting ready to join the welcoming flotilla for The Queens later in the weekend - then we hopped an open-topped bus for a tour of the city. I learnt more about my old home-city in that hour than I did in 10 years of living there.
We planned to go around a second time so we could hop off to visit some of the sights - but, unfortunately, the bus sprang a fuel leak, so we all had to climb off and go by foot...! We didn't mind though, as it gave us a chance to stretch our legs as we made a visit to the famous Cavern Street, had a leisurely stroll though Liverpool One, took a genteel afternoon tea at John Lewis - and picked up some interesting cheeses at the International Food Market on the docks. Finally, it was back to the ferry terminal to hop the ferry back to our hotel, and then out for a fantastic Chinese at a Restaurant the pup found on Trip Advisor, just around the corner from our hotel.
Saturday morning we headed back to New Brighton, so Sir could take me out to Fort Perch Rock. Sir has some incredible memories (and stories!) of when the Fort was tidal - and occasionally used by the MSC club for overnight parties, free in the knowledge that any Police raids would require the coastguard to help them gain access. We had immense fun climbing around, enjoying both the view, and Sir's memories; we even had a fascinating chat with the current owner when he overheard us chatting and came over to ask Sir about some MSC insignia he'd found in one of the old storerooms...
Saturday afternoon was then dedicated to seeing my Mum and Dad.
Both are proper 'Northern' - despite us Kids spending much of our formative years 'down South'; my Dad comes from a deeply religious family in Liverpool (with uncles, cousins and brothers all taking Holy Orders), my Mum from a farming and Trade family in Ormskirk; Dad skipped the church and joined the Jacobs biscuit firm (of Cream Crackers fame) as a distribution Exec - which meant us moving around a lot as kids whilst he set up automated warehouses for them all over the country. When they came to retire, they decided to return up to Lancashire to be 'amongst their own folk' - and settled in Formby, just a mile or so from the incredible Formby sands, rare dune habitat, and the red squirrel reserve.
It's a beautiful spot - but a good 4/5 hours up the hideous M6 from us, which is why I don't get to see them as often as I should. And why I had spent the last four months crocheting my Mum a shawl, 'so you can wrap yourself in my love, even when I am far away...')
Sir met both my parents last year - both on our last jaunt up to Manchester, and at Geoff and mine's handfasting last Samhein. He is such a gentleman that they both fell in love with Him, just as I have (even if my Dad still hasn't quite worked out the *full* nature of our 'friendship' - or quite why I wear a locked chain collar whenever I'm with Him ('Better not to ask, dear...' is all my Mum will say when he asks... ;) ). Dad insisted on taking off for a drive to Southport in his newest car - with Sir trying to show adequate levels of enthusiasm for MPG, suspension, and every other little piece of auto-excitement my Dad enthused about (my Dad does love his cars - and even made Sir look through the photo album and spreadsheet of every one of the 23 cars he's owned in his life... Sir was very good at feigning interest in that too...! :) )
Southport was an eye opener: Lord Street is beautiful, with Victorian colonnaded shops and covered arcades, and several nice hotels; Sir and I recon we will stay there next time we play to run up to the North - there even looks to be a weekly bike night on the Sea front.
We ended the day with my Dad treating us to a surprisingly pleasant meal at their local 'carvery' pub - and parted promising to come back again soon.
Sunday was originally planned to be the day we saw The Queens - however, they must have changed their sailing dates after we booked our trip, because most of the full festivities were now organised for the Monday and Tuesday - long after we'd left.
We did get to see the Cunard flagship Queen Mary in dock though - which was an incredible sight!
The trip home was a little cloudier than the one up - but even more scenic.
We stopped off at Port Sunlight, to see the amazing 'garden village' and civic buildings - built by the Lever family to house the workers at their factory in philanthropic comfort and civic pride - then stopped at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port on the Manchester Ship Canal (to take a quick piss break, and let the pup ogle a few canal boats...) We kept the canal theme running by taking the long road underneath the stunning Pontcysyllte viaduct on the Llangollen canal - and then took a lazy tea by the river in Shrewsbury (were my lovely tattooist Jo and her gorgeous partner Matt now live, and have their new Un1ty private tattoo studio) - before a lazy zoom back through Shropshire and home to Gloucestershire.
It was a wonderful weekend. Thank You Sir!