IT COULD easily have been some sunny riviera resort in The Med as I leaned on the railings looking out across the water, feeling the heat of the day settle on the back of my neck, gazing at the boats coming into view.
Colourful bunting flicked and fluttered on the soft warm breeze and all felt well with the world on the waterfront at Liverpool’s red-bricked and buzzing Albert Dock.
We were just a handful of the six million people plus who visit here each year making it the most-visited free tourist attraction in North West England, a fantastic place to drop anchor with the family and just a short whisk down the motorway.
Spot the brown signs and follow them down to the UNESCO World Heritage Waterfront, you can’t miss the striking red-brick Albert Dock.
It’s an impressive sight making up the largest single group of Grade I listed buildings in the UK and home to world-class galleries, museums and attractions.
Tate Liverpool, the Beatles Story, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Mattel Play! Liverpool all live here, as do more than 20 restaurants, bars and cafés and two hotels, world-class galleries, museums and attractions.
It’s close enough to home to make a day trip of it but a family of five can bunk down at the Holiday Inn Express in the heart of the Dock, where we stayed, for about £70 a night which includes a tummy-filling, slap-up, all you can eat buffet breakfast. It’s a snip for a staycation stop-over.
Just one night in our large room with dockside view and we felt we’d had a long weekend away.
There was so much to see and do, put it in the same summer treats league as a full-on knickerbocker glory and you get the idea, there’s loads to dip into and the cherry on the top is that lots of it is for free.
To give you a taste, Merseyside Maritime Museum has a summer of craft fun lined up inspired by tales of the Titanic, fearsome pirates and monsters of the deep, while The Beatles Story is running some free workshops making guitar and album covers, storytelling sessions, plus the chance to test your knowledge with a host of fun quiz sessions.
And then there’s Mattel Play! Liverpool, a new family entertainment centre featuring the worlds of Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam under one roof on The Colonnades and is the first of its kind in Europe.
Events coming up include the first-ever Folk Festival on the Dock this Bank Holiday August 26 to August 29, with BBC Radio 2 DJ Janice Long announced as the main stage host.
Contemporary folk acts The Lost Brothers and Laura J Martin and award-winning British singer/songwriter Blair Dunlop will be joining an already incredible line-up that includes The Christians, Henry Priestman, Gilmore & Roberts, Alasdair Roberts Trio, Tom Kitching, John Loomes, Merry Hell, Winter Wilson, ex-Bellowhead member Benji Kirkpatrick and Sam Winston.
Great news is this festival, supported by Liverpool City Council, is all free except for some ticketed gigs from The Christians, Henry Priestman and Sam Winston. Check out the Tate’s website for those details.
For swashbucklers fancying a bit of high seas adventure then the Pirate Festival on the Dock should tick all the boxes from September 10 to September 11, bringing thrilling live action under sail and breathtaking stunts.
This year’s event will be interwoven with local folklore and the fascinating heritage of the Liverpool privateers.
You’ll be spoiled for choice for places to eat.
We ate at Circo, a circus-themed restaurant where on Friday and Saturday evenings you can watch clowns, escapologists and trapeze artists while you eat.
My pan-fried seabass with creamy mashed potato and minted pea puree was perfection on a plate and I had food envy over my partner’s sauteed king prawns in garlic and chilli butter.
Dotted around the vibrant Dock are fast food treats, from ice-creams to cheese on toast, donuts and an American Diner in an old yellow school bus and a red bus cafe.
Throughout summer there are fairground attractions and just a few minutes walk along the waterfront is the Mersey ferry for a mini-cruise taking in an unmissable view over the city.
If you still have days out or a weekend to fill this summer, Albert Dock comes highly recommended.