Well, it wasn’t really our first tourist day in London. We had given Karen and Miles the brief to introduce us to a side of London the average tourist did not get to experience. They have been beavering away, whilst doing house renovations, on coming up with a plan.
Before we start on what we did today, we will give you a quick tour of our new “narrowboat” accommodation in the northeast suburb of Southgate. This is our view from our second-floor bedroom down into the garden. You don’t get a view like this from any five-star hotel. We have our own ensuite where we don’t have to empty the elsan bucket every couple of days and you are not limited to three squares of toilet paper. Such a different world from where we have been for the last three months.
Having said all that though, narrow boating does show you how to live minimalistically and so when you come back to “normal” living, you appreciate it greatly. This is Karen and Miles on their front step as we set off for the day.
It was down to the tube and onto the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross.
Kings Cross is a passenger railway terminus on the edge of central London. It is one of the busiest stations in the United Kingdom and the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line to North East England and Scotland. Adjacent to King’s Cross station is St Pancras International, the London terminus for Eurostar services to continental Europe. Beneath both main line stations is King’s Cross St Pancras tube station on the London Underground; combined they form one of the country’s largest and busiest transport hubs. The station was opened in Kings Cross in 1852.
Once there we went to an area called The Coal Drops. The coal drops sheds were used to receive coal from South Yorkshire and trans-ship it to narrowboats on the Regents Canal and to horse-drawn carts; they processed 8m tonnes a year. Coal was the only form of energy available to heat and light the buildings of London, either directly or after having been converted to coal gas in the adjacent gas works. See, we just cannot keep away from the canals.
In July 2001, construction work started on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the restoration and extension of St Pancras Station. Since then, the area around King’s Cross has seen an investment of over £2.5 billion on transport infrastructure.
Many more millions have been put into rehabbing the area around the two stations and it is a very pleasant inner-city development. Miles and Karen both remember when this area was very dicey, and you would run between the two stations or into the tube to get away from it as quickly and safely as possible.
It is now very much a pedestrian hub with a covered market and of course lots of café’s and boutique artisan shops.
After a while of wandering around the area on our own, we met up with a tour guide called Ian. Karen had organised for us to meet him for a personal in-depth tour of the area.
It was great to have such a knowledgeable person show us nooks and crannies plus give us a good rich history of the place.
It was vastly different indeed to the umbrella hoister who drags you around giving you inane facts and being treated as a number. We got the chance to ask lots of questions and also stray from the topic.
By now our feet were very much worn down to the ankles. We had a dinner booking at the Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras Railway Station. Karen had tried to book us into this magnificent old “Booking Office” which was part of the original station. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday and Mondays for dinner, so we went into the hotel foyer where there was a dining arrangement. It was still very splendid.
By now we were truly done in, so tubed back to Southgate and upstairs at 9.00am to retire.