Arriving in the heart of London with Eurostar
It had been a question on my mind for some weeks: Take an airplane or take the train to London. Although at first sight a train ticket seemed more expensive and the journey seemed to take a longer timespan, in the end the advantages of travelling by train were outweighing the disadvantages.
Here are some reasons why I decided to take the train:
- Yes the train ticket is more expensive than an airplane ticket; but the costs of travelling by train to London are not more expensive than those you pay for travelling by plane. This seems in contradiction but actually it isn’t. Besides the price for the airplane ticket there are extra costs for luggage (especially when flying cheap), extra costs for booking. When taking a cheap ticket, it also means that you’ll be landing further from Central London. So extra transport costs to Central London have to be added too.
- Yes a flight is quicker than a train ride, but a travelling to London by train isn’t that much more time consuming than travelling to London by plane. Consider this: You need to be much earlier at the airport for checking in and border security checks than what is expected of you at the Eurostar train to London. The Eurorail arrives in London at Saint Pancras International which is right in the center of London. A plane delivers you at the best at Heathrow or worse at Luton, where you need to go through border control and afterwards it’s normal to wait at least half hour for the luggage to arrive. Then you still need to find transport to Central London.
So I chose the train. I began my journey at 6.15 CET and arrived in London at 12.05 GWT.
I chose for a simple but very clean and well equiped youth hostel (YHA London St Pancras) to spend the nights. I loved staying there because the employees were very helpfull and service oriented. The hostel was directly opposite of Kings Cross Railway station (5 minute walk from Saint Pancras) and I could drop my bags and have the whole afternoon to explore London.
Saint Pancras International and Kings Cross
My train arrived at Saint Pancras which is connected with Kings Cross. Pancras is the International railway station and Kings Cross is (as many Harry Potter fans will know) the station for trains towards the north (including Scotland). This is the famous station where Platform 9 3/4 is located, where the Hogwarths Express leaves and where Harry went after dying to meet Dumbledore. I didn’t actually go to visit Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross because I was told that there was a long row of people waiting to make pictures of themselves running through the portal from the Muggle world to the Hogwarts Express. Instead I visited Platform 3/4 at the Warner Bross Studios in Leavesden (but more of that later…).
A blue Ford Anglia
After leaving the railway station I walked past its very impressive front of Kings Cross railway station. And yes this also featured in the Harry Potter movies. In The Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron are being blocked from passage through the gateway to Platform 9 3/4, thus missing the Hogwarths Express. They decided to take their blue Flying Ford Anglia and fly to Hogwarths instead…
But Ron noticed too late that he hadn’t activated the invisibility booster…
The prototype of a classic london pub: Skinners Arms
After leaving his bags at the youth hostel, The Wandelgek decided to get something to eat and drink first (being somewhat tired from the journey that started so early). The hostel was situated in Camden and the Capitol Guide of the United Kingdom said it was a lively neighboorhood with lots of restaurants, shops and busy markets. It also boasted having lots of pubs and The Wandelgek was looking for and found a classic old London pub named Skinners Arms. It was actually just around the corner from the youth hostel past an Irish pub.
The Skinners Arms on Judd Street boasts an extensive array of Real Ales through 6 hand-pumps. The listing changes regularly and offers many small brewery’s beers. The owner and the bartenders are quite knowledgeable regarding these beers too. I asked for a Brownish/bit darker Bitter and they offered an Abbot Ale, which was a good choice.
They also offer quite an extensive choice of soups, small plates and main courses. It was still early afternoon and The Wandelgek decided to go for the Stilton Mushrooms, served with toasted crusty bread. This was absolutely delicious…
The pub has a classic somewhat dark interior with stained glass windows, big mirrors behind the bar, beautifull hand pumps for the draft beer, little drawings on the walls, dark wooden furniture and a dark green thick pile carpet on the floor.
The pub takes its name from the trade that thrived in the cattle markets and tanneries that used to be in the Kings Cross area many centuries ago. The surrounding streets give clues to the people from the past and some from the present, namely Sir Andrew Judd and the Worshipful Company of Skinners. Thus we have Judd St., Tonbridge St., Hasting St., and Hunter St. What more could you ask for.
I simply loved it! 🙂
More information on the Skinners Arms: http://www.skinnersarmslondon.com/
And more information on Abbot Ale at: http://www.abbotale.co.uk/home.php
Hyde park & Kensington Gardens
Because there was only half a day to spend today, The wandelgek had decided to stay in Central London. But he was on a mission too: Finding as many places as he could that were connected with the childrens classics of his own youth and those of the present. London is a place where lots of these books were drawn too. E.g. the Harry potter books (and movies) that were written by J.K. Rowling. There are several places in london linked to those books. But there are more great books from Children’s literature that used London, or rather its parks as a backdrop.
That’s why The Wandelgek bought a Day ticket for usage in the London public transport and took the underground from Kings Cross/Pancras to Knightsbridge using the Picadilly line.
After arriving at Knightsbridge The Wandelgek immediately walked into Hyde Park straight towards the Serpentine (a sepent like waterpond and then east and slowly moving north while following the south edge of the water. After passing a beautifull Tea House…
Feed the birds
Now Kensington Gardens were his first target because two of the most famous childrens books of all time used it both as a backdrop for the story. The first one I’d like to mention is of course Mary Poppins. This book full of whimsical stories of a nanny who flew on the westwind towards Cherry Tree Lane in London to visit the Banks family who were in need of a new nanny after the last one had quit her job because of the children’s obnoxious behaviour. Actually there had been a whole line-up of nanny’s that had all worked briefly and had left in a hurry. But this new nanny was there to stay for a long time…until the wind changed.
Of course Mary Poppins was also made into an awesome movie which is still one of my absolute favorites by Walt Disney with Julie Andrews playing Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke playing Bert. The movie character of Bert was actually drawn from more than one character from the book by P.L. Travers.
Besides the book text there were also the marvelous drawings by Mary Shepard.
Now there is no and there has never been a Cherry Tree Lane in London, but from deduction it is possible to narrow down the area(s) where the story could have been situated to a street just outside of Kensington Gardens on Kensington or in South Kensington, especially in Spring when the cherry trees are blossoming…
One of the bookchapters and alo one of the most delightful parts of the movie involves Mary Poppins and the Banks Children going on an outing in the Park. But they meet Bert who has made these delightful chalk drawings and one of them is of a typical English country side. This Park must have been Kensington Gardens.
Another scene from book and a very memorable scene from the movie involve a birdwoman who feeds the birds around Saint Paul’s Cathedral (I had decided to not visit the Cathedral this time because I had done that earlier in 1998).
Near Kensington Gardens was also the hme of the author J.M. Barrie who was unlucky in marriage and who befriended a beautiful but very sick woman. Her children were still very young when she died and Barrie adopted them. But they had also become an audience for his beautiful childrens stories which he read to them before creating theater pieces from those stories.
One of these stories in particular became a favorite of many children and adults as well: Peter Pan and Wendy.
It was the story of a boy who refused to grow up and become an adult. He lived far away up there towards the second star to the right, and straight on till morning, in Neverland.
In the Park, where Barrie and the children have walked and passed many hours playing, there is now a beautiful really awesome statue of Peter Pan. Not awesome in the sense of being huge though. It actually is a small statue which only fits a little boy. No it’s awesome because of all the intricate detail molded into the foot of the statue. Little fairies, rabbits and mice, th Darling children and of courese the Wild boys. They’re all there.
Meeting fellow travelblogger Maaike from @travellousworld in London
After visiting the statue, The Wandelgek walked back to Knightsbridge and took the underground towards the Waterloo station where he had an appointment with fellow Dutch travelblogger Maaike from http://www.travellousworld.com. The Wandelgek already was an admirer of her photography of all these little known places in London. While sitting in the underground The Wandelgek suddenly saw a woman standing and in her hands she carried a yellowish book which seemed to be a Harry Potter book. At first he thought that it had to be the new book for the new movie that was coming up. But the title didn’t fit.
We met at the Starbucks in the Central Hall of Waterloo Station. I was quite late on the appointment because I underestimated how crowded the London underground could be during rush hour. Maaike decided to show me London from the Thames embankment. She actually works for a firm that runs boats for tourists and business men on the Thames. After a short walk we first went for a drink to the National Theater terrace which has a great view over the Thames and they have a stage for live music performers. We talked about my plans for this journey through England and she tipped me to walk some more along the Thames towards the west. When I referred to the Harry Potter book I saw in the metro she told me it was from the hugely succesfull Harry Potter musical which was sold out for months. In 1998 I had visited a musical near Picadilly Circus by Disney. The Beauty and the Beast which was a magnificent experience. She advised me to buy that book whle still in London.
Flying a broom across the Thames
There was also a small bookmarket and I saw the Eye of London for the very first time. Last time when I was in London in 1998, the Eye of London didn’t exist yet. It is a huge ferrieswheel build for the Millenium change in 2000.
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben were also the backdrop for the awesome broom flight scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Harry was transported from Privet Drive no 4 (house of the Dursleys) to the safe house at Grimauld Place in London…
I decided to follow up on Maaikes advices regarding the HP book and the walk along the Thames, but not immediately. We said goodbye and I walked a small distance passed the National Theater but I was already getting hungry again while it started tio get dark and colder too and I decided to return to Camden to the pub I visited earlier.
Then I walked towards Waterloo Station again and made some pictures in the beautiful great hall. I don’t know what it is with British railway stations but they have a typical English quality to them and I cannot lay my finger on what exactly makes them typical. But I love that.
Then I went underground again to take the Victoria line metro towards Kings Cross/St. Pancras International. When walking through the entrance gates putting my dayticket in a slot and the pulling it from another slot, another Harry Potter movie memory popped up. It was that of mr. Weasley and Harry taking the London Underground towards the Ministery of Magic. The joyous bewilderment of Weasley Senior and his honest marvelling about the ingenuity of muggle inventions while trying to copy muggle behaviour unsuccesfully in order to get through a closed gate is hilarious.
Return to Skinners Arms pub
A decent English pub meal