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New Beatles-themed lodgings in Liverpool

Special to The Times

Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you a night with the Fab Four, now that a Beatlesque boutique hotel has opened in the northern English city where it all began.

Liverpool's 110-room Hard Days Night Hotel, which opened Feb. 1, is an artsy homage to the band that changed music history.

Beatles nuts from around the world may be saving up for a starry-eyed pilgrimage, but you don't have to know your Octopus's Garden from your Strawberry Fields to enjoy a stay here, asI found when I checked in for a night recently.

You won't find a tacky theme-hotel approach; staff doesn't dress in mop-top outfits, and there's no grubby gift shop. The property is a refurbished Victorian merchant building, complete with polished exterior columns. The first of the site's many original artworks perches outside, with statues of John, Paul, George and Ringo cheekily peering down on pedestrians.

With a stylish, contemporary feel, my luxury double combined a mod striped carpet, yellow and red walls and a round leather easy chair that would be ideal for a baddie in a James Bond movie. The large marble-floored bathroom had a full-sized tub with a raindrop shower, plus a generous array of bath products.

The room's dominant feature was its expansive bed -- big enough to accommodate at least three groupies. Above the headboard, a large Beatle portrait seemed to be a picture of Pete Best, the band's pre-Ringo Starr drummer, but I wasn't sure because it was unidentified. On the opposite wall, a picture-framed plasma TV doubled as a free-access Internet computer. (Free wireless is available for those with laptops.)

The hotel's other room configurations include slightly larger deluxe doubles and the swanky Lennon and McCartney suites, the equivalent of penthouses. Aimed at fans with money to burn, these are lined with artworks and memorabilia: The McCartney room has a suit of armor, reflecting the musician's knighthood; the Lennon suite has a white piano where you can hammer out "Imagine" to your heart's content.

Because of its art-gallery approach, the hotel's interior is worth trawling if you have a spare hour. A central stairwell houses large monochromatic photos of the band; the lobby includes a painting of Lennon in his round-glasses heyday; and bronzes of the local lads who made good colonize surfaces throughout the property.

For such a small hotel, it has a surprisingly wide array of drinking and dining options. Blakes, named after Peter Blake, the artist who created the Sgt. Pepper cover, is the fine-dining restaurant, offering well-executed modern British cuisine (main courses $24 to $40) in a classy but non-snooty setting. Try the roasted Cheshire pork.

The adjoining Brasserie (main courses $20 to $30) covers breakfast, lunch and dinner classics: Think high-end fish and chips. And Bar Four is a sexy wood-paneled drinking nook specializing in cocktails.

The cobbled, labyrinthine streets of the adjoining Cavern Quarter area include dozens of lively bars, clubs and restaurants, plus plenty of Beatles souvenir shops.

I took in the excellent Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum Liverpool -- both a five-minute walk from the hotel -- and then strolled to the Albert Dock area, where Tate Liverpool's collection includes impressive Picasso and Mondrian works. The gallery is staging a blockbuster Gustav Klimt show from May to August.

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