Event review: All change at King’s Cross

Seema Rampersad recently attended the walkabout Termini Tour of King’s Cross with Rachel Kolsky, and shares her experience with us.

I was thrilled when it was announced that our events group had arranged a guided tour of King’s Cross by SLA Europe Member and Go London Tours founder Rachel Kolsky.  A consummate professional from the start, Rachel gave us instructions on the format and told us to follow her ‘flower’ that was used to guide a group of about 30 people through a busy central London station and area.

ArmadilloI’m familiar with King’s Cross but the difference is that from the offset Rachel started sharing facts, history and features of the station.  Fresh eyes took in its Victorian origins to the transformation to a modern concourse by architect John McAslan and Partner.  Rachel fondly referred to the redesigned roofing as the ‘Armadillo’ with a magnificent luminous blue lighting.

Rachel energetically and impressively told us the stories of the rail companies, hotels and the development of the stations that was based on the arched façade of continental stations at the time it was built.  We then trekked ensemble through the station out to the fabulous front of St Pancras International and it’s vista of the surrounding area. It was obviously that we were witnessing a lot of new building work and we were also reminded that not too long ago the area was a Red Light district and run down.  The Great Northern Hotel still stands and is quite functional in it’s design compared to the more ‘Audacious’ and newly revamped St Pancras Renaissance Hotel by George Gilbert Scott.  Still very expressive from the outside – where you can rent a suite in the 1000s pounds bracket.

John Betjeman
John Betjeman

Next we made our way into St Pancras International from the red arches of the hotel to ‘The Meeting Place’ better known as ‘The Kiss’.  What is surprising is the height and huge size of the bronze statue and one can’t help but think of the romance of it.  Rachel then guided us over the poems designed on the floor to the less grand but still super statue of John Betjeman, who was a fellow North Londoner like our tour guide.  There was no better way to celebrate this poet than for Rachel to read us a rhythm poem by this talented gentleman.  Soon after we were told to notice the Champagne Bar and just in case you visit in winter, a tip was to try their heated seats for your derriere.

We scampered on just outside the Eurostar terminal and there was no doubt that Rachel was a big fan as a seasoned traveller to the continent.  The glamour and the joy of boarding a train in London and ending up somewhere seamlessly in Europe is a winner.   We were then shown the British Library and under-construction Crick Institute to the west, moving then east to the German Gymnasium.  Several stories of the area were told – one being the giant canopy by Quentin Blake used to beautify the area when it was still under renovation but due to open in fanfare.  Next, we went underground to look at the London Underground 150th anniversary map made entirely of Lego and Platform 9 3⁄4   where the schoolboy Harry Potter boards the train for Hogwarts, which seemed to be a popular tourist spot right next to The Parcel Yard Bar.

We headed north to the panorama from the temporarily installed ‘Viewing Point’ with vistas of the soon-to-be open Google UK head office, the Granary University of Arts, Camley Street Natural Park and Regents Canal.  By this time the two hours had flown by as we passed the restaurant ‘The Filling Station’ to our final destination at the swanky Kings Place and picturesque Regent Basin.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and I personally would recommend Go London Tours.  Rachel heightened my awareness of the buildings, architecture, the history, charm and massive regeneration of the area happening now.  In a most intimate and engaging way, she not only shared her research and knowledge during the tour but her passion and personal stories to bring the tour alive to our imagination.  I tell you – it was very impressive all the facts Rachel was able to tell us from the head and heart on the go with so much distraction and activity around us.  We would like to thank Rachel for her generosity and wish her well in her business.  We would also like to thank Justis Publishing for sponsoring this event and for making this a successful tour.  Please see our Flickr page for all of the photos taken during the tour.

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