Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Postcard from St Pancras

In the 1960s there were plans to demolish St Pancras station.  The big idea was to replace it with something modern, something less hideously old-fashioned.  Times change; and so do tastes.  It's unlikely champagne will ever go out of fashion though.

A couple of years ago, the Victorian gothic splendor of St Pancras was refurbished.  As part of the new, slick station facilities the longest champagne bar in Europe was built.  How long?  Um, about the length of one of the Eurostar trains that pull in alongside to deliver passengers arriving in London from Paris and other points European.

Sipping champagne on a draughty platform might not sound immediately appealing.  Wait though: the booths are heated - press a couple of discreet buttons and the seats begin to warm.  Pink champagne was the decadent choice while the tartan blanket provided by the attentive (and feeling the chill himself) waiter gave a uniquely British twist.

Literary connections are essential for any station intending to make its mark.  King's Cross next door has the magical Platform 9 and 3/4.  Paddington has Paddington.   As you sit alongside the Eurostar, nestled in your warm blanket, the arched roof naturally draws the eye, as it did for John Betjeman whose statue, caught gazing up in wonder, stands nearby.  The experience is almost sublime.  Almost.  If only the platform announcements were for Paris, rather than imminent departures for the East Midlands.


Lexi said...

Hey, that sounds great! Heated seats, tartan blankets and champagne!

Does one have to be going somewhere by train to experience this?

postcardsfromk said...

No, sadly the champagne doesn't come with a free ticket to ride. The bar is open to anyone with a taste for extravagance.


altguy3 said...

Good to see you’ve got access to your blog again.

I don’t know – destinations like Nottingham and Leicester seem sublime enough to me… then again I’ve never visited these places so perhaps the reality would sober me up.

True sublimity would be the champagne bar combined with ‘the Best Sandwich in the World’ (see postcard below). You'd never even need to get on a train!

Sarah Waters (yes, her again… but you’re the one who brought up literary connections) says that there is something uniquely British and romantic about stations. They represent the movement in our lives, the flux and change: moments of hope, celebration, moments of saying goodbye.

By the way, did you know they were going to do the same to the Foreign Office – demolish it in the 60s that is, not build a champagne bar in it.


postcardsfromk said...

Yes, the gods of the firewall seem to have deemed that Blogger is no longer a threat to the decency of the internet. For now.

I imagine that quite enough champagne is drunk at the Foreign Office as it is, without installing their own specialised bar!

Birmingham is in the process of planning to demolish one of its more hideous 1960s buildings: the Central Library. A new library is being built so we'll have to see what future generations think about current architectural ideas and whether they regard the demolition of an important example of brutalist design as a crime. There is a romance to stations, but libraries can be rather atmospheric too.

Birmingham's New Street station will not however be featuring on a 'Postcard' any time soon.


Timberati said...

Nicely told K.

As I work at becoming a storyteller, I see two champagne glasses, in a rail station, I am forced to see a couple meeting. One needs to say goodbye, "I'm just here for a bit while they take on water and passengers," he says. Their fingers touch...

postcardsfromk said...

Hi Norm
I am a sucker for Brief Encounter, and Birmingham's Moor Street station now has an Edwardian styled cafe where such scenes can be re-enacted. Would love to read your story when you finish it.

It's been pointed out to me that my international visitors may not be familiar with Paddington. The thought that he may not be globally famous is sad, but, just in case there is any confusion: he's a bear. From Darkest Peru. Who enjoys marmalade.