London 2014

St. Pancras train station, 19th century:

St. Pancras train station
St. Pancras train station, fronted by George Gilbert Scott’s Midland Grand Hotel

21st century and many millions of pounds later:

St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel
St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel

Renovated, restored, transformed: the upper stories are actually the St. Pancras Chambers apartments, 67 condominiums occupying former staterooms.  We stayed in the multilevel clock tower apartment, and yes, the clocks are still in operation, and someone shows up every now and then and climbs the many stairs to maintain the works.  Our host invited us to dinner one night, and we ate inside the tower: amazing views, but the space is just about impossible to heat!

The last time we were at St. Pancras station was in 2009, and while the Eurostar was already using the station, the shops were not in place yet.  One of the great things about staying in one of the St. Pancras Chambers apartments is that you will never starve to death, given the wide variety of restaurants and cafes — as well as the two Marks & Spencer stores — in the train station.  And of course, King’s Cross, with its own slate of eateries, is just across the road.

Interior of the King's Cross train station
Interior of the King’s Cross train station

The arched dome was just amazing, and one of the most gorgeous piece of engineering and architecture I have ever seen.  The days we were there the NHS blood drive had set up a donation center inside King’s Cross train station; the campaign slogan was “Blood Does Not Grow on Trees.”  Maybe not, but outside the station, the trees had been yarn bombed:

Knitted "blood drops" for the NHS "Blood Does Not Grow on Trees" blood donation campaign
Knitted “blood drops” for the NHS “Blood Does Not Grow on Trees” blood donation campaign

I thought it was an effective way to publicize a blood drive.

One of the funnest things we did on this trip was walk around Westminster Abbey and explore the various courtyards behind it.  And, lots of pictures of gargoyles:

Westminster Abbey gargoyle
Westminster Abbey gargoyle
Westminster Abbey gargoyle
Westminster Abbey gargoyle
Gargoyles on the slide!
Gargoyles on the slide!

One day we took a walk in the neighborhoods surrounding Kensington High Street, and ended up at The Roof Gardens (owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition).  1.5 acres of gardens (English Woodlands, Spanish, and Tudor) on top of the former Derry and Toms department store building on Kensington High Street.  Among the permanent inhabitants are four flamingos named Bill, Ben, Splosh, and Pecks:

The Roof Gardens flamingo
The Roof Gardens flamingo

No idea which flamingo this was, but he went about his business without fuss.  Except when you get in his way, then he lets off a pretty loud call, somewhere between a squawk and a honk.

It was a mellow trip: we did not “do” much, but the experiences were priceless.


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