Last Thursday Freddie and I were lucky enough to experience a whistle-stop tour of Liverpool, courtesy of Virgin Trains. Leaving Sasha with Nanny, we hopped on the train up to London Euston, excited by the prospect of travelling in first class and spending some 1-2-1 time with my boy (me), and journeying on a rather swish Virgin train (Freddie- he’s a massive train geek!).
Liverpool isn’t somewhere I’d visited before, yet had been on my ‘UK must-see’ list for a while. I knew that the city had been vastly regenerated, especially since it had become the European capital of culture back in 2008, and is widely thought of to be the cultural capital of the North-West, and beyond. Home of The Beatles, Cilla, and with more buskers than anywhere else in the country, who am I to argue?!
We were also to be partaking in the nationwide ‘Where’s Wally’ hunt, an endeavour by Virgin to encourage families to get out and about this summer. 100 replicas of the much-loved character have been hidden across the UK and are waiting to be found near famous landmarks, cities and stations up and down the Virgin Trains West Coast route (London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh are cities where eagle-eyed travellers can get wally-hunting!).
After arriving in the first class lounge early, we made the most of the facilities available to us (hello, free tea and coffee after an early start!). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the lounge, as first class travel is not something we get to experience that often, but I was quietly impressed. The area was spacious, with enough room for Freddie not to annoy other passengers when playing with his trains, whilst I kicked back and sipped on my coffee whilst watching the news on the big screen tellies.
One very excited little train traveller! When I received the email from Virgin, inviting us on this trip, I jumped for joy, as I KNEW Freddie would be beside himself with excitement. He is a huge train fan, and has watched videos of different trains on You Tube, including Virgin ones, and it is something he’s mentioned frequently that he would like to do, to travel on one, so this trip really couldn’t have been more perfect for him!
After being introduced to our travel companions (the lovely Charlotte from Berice Baby, her partner Rovi and little Hayden, and Bianca from Little Scandinavian and her girls, Beatrice and Amelie), we went on our first ‘Wally Hunt’ of the day en-route to the train. The hunt is running until the end of the summer holidays, and to join in, families can snap themselves with a Wally, and tweet the total number of Wallys they’ve found to @VirginTrains using the hashtag #FoundWally or enter via the Virgin Trains Facebook page by August 31st. The family who finds the most wallys will win a luxury Virgin Trains Escape Weekend in London, courtesy of Superbreak.
Our first hunt in Euston was a great ice-breaker, with Freddie and Hayden having a chat and trying to find some of the Wallys together.
After we were settled on the 10.07 to Liverpool (which only takes just over 2 hours, a very ‘doable’ length of time for a 4 year old which I was surprised about), we enjoyed the fantastically friendly table service. F and I tucked into bacon rolls and juice, with a perfectly brewed cuppa on the side for me.
Freddie and Hayden were kept occupied with their Virgin Trains activity packs and a couple of ‘Where’s Wally?’ books that reminded me of my own childhood! I have to say, I think first class when you have young children is a godsend and something I wish I could do all the time. You don’t have to trek to a buffet car with bags/a small person or two in tow, and there is a different (impressively varied) menu for all hours of the day, meaning no one would ever go hungry.
Two of our lovely bloggy travel companions! It was lovely to have a natter with Charlotte.
We arrived! Liverpool Lime Street Station is right in the heart of the city centre, and it was only a few minutes walk before we landed at the swanky ‘Liverpool One’ complex, home of some rather glam shops, entertainment and great family dining.
Liverpool ONE has been built on the site of an old park that was a hub of anti-social behaviour, and this brilliant development has completely changed the area and given it a new lease of family-friendly life.
We were guests of Liverpool ONE, and enjoyed a tasty lunch at Pizza Express, which is our go-to family meal out back home. What made this visit extra special was that Freddie and Hayden got to sit and make their own dough ‘pizzas’ using rolling pins and cutters whilst waiting for our food order. I hadn’t seen this anywhere else before, and thought what a great idea it was!
After lunch we took a stroll to the Albert Docks (only a 10 minute walk away from Liverpool ONE). There are lots of cafes/pubs/bars round here, and I made a mental note of a couple, should I ever come back here sans-children for a night out! The area is so attractive and steeped in history- an attractive mix of old cobbled streets and sympathetically restored buildings with modern twists.
I was looking forward to our visit to the Liverpool Tate. In London we sometimes visit the Tate Modern on The Southbank, so I was eager to see how here compared. I wasn’t disappointed.
The children were loaned special rocket ‘explorer’ backpacks to take around with them containing an array of ‘explorer stuff’ (yes, I know, descriptive 😉 ).
We headed up to the Action Stations drop-in paint lab for children where Freddie and co got stuck in (and rather messy!) with the paints.
Stepping inside the lab room, I was seriously impressed with what was on offer for the children art-wise, and thought how lovely it was that they were given the opportunity to try new things with paint and be creative in a way you just couldn’t be at home (archery painting anyone?!).
Freddie couldn’t get enough of painting using an old plug chain and straws…
…and I was pretty impressed with the finished result!
Some of the other young artists’ work on display!
Post-Tate and after a very busy and exciting day, we went Wally Hunting on the way back to the station. Fred was super-chuffed to spot a couple, and is now officially hooked on his ‘Where’s Wally?’ books 5 days on!
We had a brilliant day in Liverpool, and I’m keen to come back for a weekend with the whole family, and take our time to explore even more. It appears to be a city constantly ‘on the up’, and from a Mum’s perspective, there is lots to do with young children, and most importantly all is easily accessible (as a city, Liverpool is very compact, great for little legs!).
We can’t wait to return!
For more information about the ‘Where’s Wally?’ hunt and family tickets, please visit Virgin Trains Facebook and Twitter pages, or their website.
A HUGE thank you to Virgin Trains and Liverpool ONE for looking after us so well. We were treated to this day out, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.