I love Liverpool.
It's my hometown and it sometimes comes in for a fair bit of flak in the media, although I suspect the most vocal critics have never even visited the city, because if they had they'd know how fabulous it is.
Liverpool is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, bursting with things to do and see. There's great architecture (including two contrasting cathedrals), fabulous restaurants, lively pubs and clubs; a plethora of theatres, museums and art galleries and of course plenty to keep the legions of Beatles' fans happy.
So apart from all of that (phew!) what else can you do in the city? Here's my pick of things to do in Liverpool this summer.
Walker Art Gallery for Rankin's photography exhibition Alive In The Face Of Death.
An inspirational, if somewhat emotional, series of photographs of people who have faced, or are facing, death. I loved it. To get to the exhibition you have to walk through the pre-Raphaelites room which is also well worth a visit.
There's also a Chagall exhibition at the Liverpool Tate on the Albert Dock, which I haven't been to yet but has been getting great reviews.
Take a ferry 'cross the Mersey. Cliched, yes, but still a real treat. Get yourself down to the Pier Head, have an ice cream, listen to the seagulls and then get on the ferry. And you can even sing along to the Gerry and the Pacemakers song if it makes you feel better.
It's the best place to be when the weather's as hot as it has been this summer, and it's also the best way to see the famous (but ever changing) Liverpool waterfront and skyline. And when you disembark back at the Pier Head make a beeline for the new Museum of Liverpool (right next to the ferry terminal) which has some brilliant exhibitions about the history and culture of the city.
Sefton Park is one of several parks in Liverpool but happens to be my favourite. It's a 235 acre historic park just a short drive/bus ride from the city centre.
It's a beautiful place to walk, sit, picnic and just generally enjoy the outdoors. There's a boating lake, an aviary, children's play areas, a café and beautifully landscaped gardens as well as a bandstand rumoured to be the inspiration for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper.
There's also plenty of free parking, and it's a short walk to the very popular Lark Lane area with plenty of bars and restaurants.
And no doubt you'll be wanting to eat while you're here? How about these for starters (pardon the pun...)
Delifonseca: this multi-award winning deli and bistro is my top choice. I should mention straightaway that this is owned by one of my closest friends, so you might think I'm biased but considering it's won dozens of awards, including the recent Readers' choice in the Good Food Guide, I don't think I'm the only one. Both the central Stanley Street site and the larger Dockside sites are equally as good, although the latter would probably suit families better due to free parking outside, no steps and a bit more space inside.
I've eaten here many, many times and I've never had a bad meal or even a mediocre one for that matter. The menus offer a wide variety of dishes, including an ever-changing specials board, so I'd be hard pushed to choose a favourite....although the Po' Boy steak sandwich deserves an honourable mention. The service is excellent too.
Free State Kitchen
Situated in a quiet side street just off Hope Street (which is the street linking both cathedrals) I love this little place. It has a very welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff and serves what they call 'modern twists on American classics'.
The outside eating area is lovely, set in a large courtyard with some borders and plenty of seating. The portions are large but the prices aren't.
Here's my list of great places to eat:
The Italian Club - rustic Italian food and one of the Independent's Top 50 Best Cheap Eats. Expect a warm welcome, friendly servers and good food at great prices.
Salthouse Tapas - trendy modern tapas restaurant, set lunch menus, right in the city centre.
Lucha Libre - serving 'Mexican street food', highly recommended by a foodie friend, very family friendly.
The Sidedoor - a continental bistro feel to this place, great service, again on Hope Street,
Choaphraya - next to the Liverpool One shopping area, Thai food with an early-bird menu.
Lunya - award winning Catalonian deli and bistro, and another of the Independent's Top 50
Nolita Latina - another one on Bold Street, serving American style food and offering a lunchtime happy hour.
TIP: There's so many to choose from! But if you're looking for somewhere to eat in Liverpool and haven't booked, you can't go wrong by visiting either the Hope Street or Bold Street areas, or anywhere around the city centre to be honest. Have a wander around and check out the different places and menus and take your pick.
There are also plenty of watering holes in those areas, including the famous Philharmonic pub on Hope Street
So, there you have it. There's plenty to do and see in Liverpool, but don't take my word for it - come and visit. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
You can get much more information about events and places to visit at the Visit Liverpool website.