Friday, 27 June 2008

Kings Cross/St Pancras

First thing this morning I found myself in the vicinity of Kings Cross after a meeting. The area of Kings Cross isn't very high on London's list of tourist attractions. Although recent regeneration has changed the face of the area quite a lot is still a bit run down and shabby, and the whole area still has a reputation as a red light district.

At the centre of this area are the 'twin' stations know by Londoners as Kings-Cross-St-Pancras. These are actually two stations which sit next to each other. St Pancras has recently been transformed as at the end of last year it took over the role as London Terminus for Eurostar services (previously a role held by Waterloo Station) and the correct title of the station is now St Pancras International.

The initial most impressive thing about St Pancras station is the amazing Victorian Gothic architecture on the front of the station.

At one time the Midland Grand Hotel this building then became St Pancras Chambers and served as office space. After falling into disuse at one time it was slated for demolition, and was saved by being awarded Grade I listed status. Thanks largely (I would imagine) to the new international rail terminus the frontage is now being returned to its former hotel status.

Inside the station is probably just as impressive as the outside of the station. At the time it was built it was the largest enclosed space and the largest single span. An interesting side note (for me) is that the man who designed it William Henry Barlow was born in my very own Charlton!

Platform level looking through the security area to the Eurostar trains.

This statue is entitled 'The Meeting Place' and stands under the station clock. You don't really get a feel for the size of it here, but it is apparently 30ft high (and cost £1m!).

This shows the lower level of the station (so that's where all the people went!). Where there are all the facilities that you would normally associate with a station.

These are some of the original features of the Victorian Station, showing the bottom of one of the supporting arches and the ticket office.

Some more fantastic Victorian Gothic architecture, taking you back out of the front of the station.

The amazing vaulted ceiling of the station, just visible on the left the station clock.

Next to St Pancras the front of Kings Cross is nowhere near as impressive. The original station has been obscured by a 'temporary' extension (which is due to be demolished at some point during the regeneration of the area). Looking from the front there is no indication that another beautiful Victorian station is behind!

Kings Cross is famous these days for Platform Nine and Three Quarters, which fans of Harry Potter will know is from whence the Hogwarts Express departs. Kings Cross Station does indeed have eleven platforms, however, sadly, Platforms 9 and 10 (and indeed 11) aren't in the beautiful main station area but a rather less impressive side extension. There is a rather incongruous monument to the mythical platform as you walk between the sections of the station.

The trolley hasn't been abandoned by a frustrated traveller but is, on closer inspection, part of the 'art' being positioned half-in and half-out of the wall on the way to the 'hidden' platform!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Buckingham Palace and Green Park

During my lunch-break today I decided to take a trip to Green Park. This is the nearest bit of greenery to my office (although it is probably a close call with the garden in Berkeley Square). Green Park doesn't have the wildfowl of St James's Park, the sports facilities of Regent's Park or even any manicured flowerbeds. It is pretty much trees and sunbathers. The whole effect is pretty impressive though, and leaves you feeling you might be in the countryside!

There are quite a lot of paths through Green Park, many of which converge at a giant lamppost which always makes me expect to see the wicked Queen from the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Unfortunately nobody was walking past when I took the shot below so you don't quite get the scale of it, but it must be over twelve foot high!

Reaching the other side of Green Park (walking from Piccadilly) you reach the splendour of Buckingham Palace and the Mall. As you can see from the photo below the flag is flying over the Palace which means that the Queen is in residence.

This photograph shows Canada Gate which is at the entrance to Green Park; at the entrance of the Mall is South Africa Gate and over the other side is Australia Gate. Clearly a whole Commonwealth theme!

In front of Buckingham Palace (serving almost as a roundabout) is a monument to Queen Victoria. Fairly similar in style (if not size and scope) to the Albert Memorial over in Kensington.

Heading away from Buckingham Palace is the Mall (which if you follow along you will finally reach Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square) here you will find St James's Park to your right and an assortment of Royal Palaces (including St James's Palace and Clarence House) to your left.

Walking back up through Green Park I noticed this lovely circle of trees. You can just see in the distance some of the sunbathers, renting their deckchairs!

Friday, 20 June 2008

St James's

I decided at spend my lunchtime today taking a wander around my local environs. My ultimate aim was St James's Square.

In the morning paper I'd read about a sculpture which was going on display in the square. The sculpture by Jeff Koon titled 'Balloon Flower (Magenta)' is purported to be worth £12m. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see what £12m looks like!

Very shiny and rather peculiar was my final conclusion. I was more amused by the security staff and staff from Christies guarding it. I suppose you have to look after £12m.

St James's Square is a pleasant green oasis in the heart of a rather upmarket business/shopping district. I was particularly taken of the statue of William III on a horse dressed as a Roman general. A long time ago I was told that the position of the horse's feet in a statue indicate the manner of the death of the rider. Four feet on the ground indicate a natural death, one foot in the air indicates that the rider died of wounds sustained in battle and two feet off the ground indicate that the rider died in battle. I tested this with the statue of William III, and indeed (although not in battle) he died of injuries sustained falling from his horse (after it stumbled on a mole hill!).

Facing Piccadilly is the church of St James's. Designed by Christopher Wren the church was badly damaged by bombs in World War II although many of the original features survived. As London churches go it is a rather plain brick edifice, but it is well know for staging concerts and the markets held out front.

Walking back from St James's Square to my office took me along Jermyn Street, well famed for its shirts (much as Savill row is famed for its tailors!).

There are the back ends (as it were) of two delightful shopping Arcades (which connect you to Piccadilly). Both are full of delightful boutique type shops, and indeed Piccadilly Arcade has it's own website.

At the end of Piccadilly Arcade stands a statue of George 'Beau' Brummell, famous Regency dandy.

My travels ended at St James's Street (which pretty much marks the west border of St James's (the east being Haymarket, and bordered north and south by Piccadilly and Pall Mall respectively).

On the corner of Piccadilly and St James's Street is this building with some interesting statues at roof level (you miss so much if you don't look up!). After some research I discovered that this is Justice by a sculptor Herbert Binney.