Monday, August 1, 2011

Station survival

4 tips for escaping the crowds at King’s Cross station

Right now King’s Cross station is a challenge. Building work means there’s even less space and fewer facilities than there used to be, so it’s crowded most of the time and on hot summer days this can test anyone’s patience.

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If you have more than a few minutes to wait, the best thing to do is get out of the station. Here are some tips:

1. Check your platform on your phone or laptop

Find out what’s going on with your train without having to stay at the station. If you have a smartphone or laptop (St Pancras has free wifi - see below), bring up the King’s Cross live departures board and use it to check whether your platform has been announced or if your train has been delayed.

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If you don’t have a seat reservation and there is going to be a scramble for your train then you might want to head back to King’s Cross in time to join the rush.

2. Go to a quiet part of St Pancras station next door

Unlike King’s Cross, St Pancras has free wifi (network name: “StPancras WiFi”) and free toilets as well as far more places to eat, drink and shop. The best places to head for are:

The Circle

This is the area on the ground floor near the domestic rail platforms and it has a good sized Marks & Spencer, a Boots and branches of Starbucks, Pret a Manger and Paul with decent amounts of seating.

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The toilets up this end hardly ever have queues (unlike the ones near Eurostar arrivals).

Upper Level
This area of St Pancras tends to be less busy than the floor below, and the high roof makes it feel quieter.

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Cafés such as AMT Coffee, Camden Food Co or West Cornwall Pasty Company have seats outside, or up the other end there’s Carluccio's and the The Betjeman Arms.

You can easily get to both of these areas by going down into the Underground inside King’s Cross, turning right at the bottom of the steps and following signs for St Pancras which will bring you to the Circle. For the Upper Level, turn left past Sourced Market and go up the first set of escalators you come to.

3. Go to Argyle Square

If it’s not raining, Argyle Square is a pleasant open space the other side of Euston Road, just two minutes away from King’s Cross. This is a good option for groups of students or backpackers or anyone else who wants to get some fresh air and avoid spending money in a café.

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There is a small climbing frame for children and even an outdoor gym. You may find you are sharing the square with a few local characters, but it’s unlikely that they’ll give you any trouble.

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To get there, enter the Underground outside the front of King’s Cross station, turn left at the bottom of the steps to go through the underpass. Turn left to exit the underpass by McDonald’s and go up Crestfield Street to reach Argyle Square.

4. Nearby pubs, restaurants and cafés

From outside King’s Cross, the busy Euston Road doesn’t look that promising, but there are places to be found if you zoom in on the maps in our restaurants, cafés and pubs pages or try these suggestions:

Pubs and bars: The Fellow, Camino, and McGlynn's all do food and have outdoor space. Millers only does food during weekday daytime but drinks are quite cheap, while The Lincoln Lounge doesn’t do food but is a pleasant place to go for a pint.

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  • Camino

Cafés: try Pompidou Café or Costa Coffee York Way which is one of the quieter branches of Costa round here.

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  • Pompidou Café

Cheap eats: there’s a nice branch of Nando's or Chop Chop the other side of Euston Road does very cheap Chinese food.

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  • Nando’s

…plus many more in St Pancras (see above) or listed here on KXLDN but a little further away.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Killer line-up

King’s Cross music scene’s fine start to summer

Mirroring the area as a whole, Kings Cross’ live music scene is small but wonderfully diverse. It’s also really buzzing at the moment, nowhere more so than at the 1150 capacity Scala which this week was chosen for two warm-up gigs by stadium and festival headliners The Killers. The concerts are next Wednesday and Thursday and not surprisingly sold out in minutes.

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  • The Scala

Our other famous old venue - Water Rats - hosts indie bands nearly every night of the week and on Wednesday (while The Killers are on down at the Scala) will be witnessing a gig by Deaf School, credited by veteran music journalist Paul du Noyer as being the link between The Beatles and the Liverpool music scene of the early 80s.

Apart from the warehouse clubs and DJ bars, that used to be all there was for proper concert venues until along came Kings Place, whose two concert halls host an amazing range of musical genres, which their Songlines mini-festival (23 - 25 June) exemplifies perfectly with a line-up including Bulgarian folk, Portuguese Fado and a Finnish harmonica quartet.

Next up is St Pancras Old Church, a site of Christian worship since the 4th Century, which started hosting live music last year and is where Emmy the Great just kicked off her latest tour. Next week it’s visited by Canadian singer Dan Mangan.

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  • St Pancras Old Church recently acquired an alcohol licence
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  • Emmy the Great, St Pancras Old Church 10th June

The St Pancras Station Sessions began in 2009 and returned this week with their most ambitious programme to date: a 6-week festival of free concerts taking place every weekday evening on several stages around the station. Tonight’s performance is by Nerina Pallot.

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  • Guillemots, St Pancras Station, 15th June 2011

Finally, the British Library’s calendar occasionally includes live music and tonight their Out of this World sci-fi season is the theme for an amazing-sounding Late at the Library night that includes Global Communication, The Radio Science Orchestra, Rob da Bank and Jon Hopkins. Sadly I’ll be missing that, because despite spending this morning writing about the King’s Cross music scene, I already have a ticket to see Half Man Half Biscuit at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

What’s new 10 June 2011

Here’s a round-up of what’s changed in King’s Cross St Pancras and what’s new on KXLDN.

Opened

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  • Coffee to Go on Caledonian Road. It doesn’t look much from the outside but this is a smart little coffee and sandwich place from the people who also run the café attached to the main Post Office.

Closed

The Ruby Lounge on Caledonian Road - one of the first DJ bars in the area in the 1990s. A sign outside says that a branch of B@1 bars is on its way.

Crêpeaffaire at St Pancras

Kings Café & Sandwich Bar on Chalton Street

New on KXLDN

Transport section - information and links on trains, tube, buses, cycles and taxis.

Bigger events section - as well as the listings at the main venues we now have a Club nights & smaller events page: DJ bars, boat trips, cult film nights, Scrabble sessions - you can find all of these happening in King’s Cross.

Why not subscribe to the RSS feed to get more updates likes this?

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Olympic torch unveiled at St Pancras

Seb Coe. PR people with clipboards. Schoolchildren. Yes it’s another Olympic event at St Pancras - this time the unveiling of The Torch, a slim gold perforated cone (someone’s already tweeted that they want a Flake with theirs).

I popped down and took some pics:

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How much espresso will Lord Coe get through between now and summer 2012?

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Presenting partners: Sir John Betjeman and Coca Cola

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Platform 9 and 3/4 moves again

Update: August 2011
Platform 9¾ has moved yet again. See the Platform 9¾ page in our Attractions section for more details.

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Original post:
Important news for Harry Potter fans and anyone else travelling to Hogwarts.

Official Network Rail document refers to “muggles”

As the construction of the new King’s Cross station concourse continues, Network Rail have produced a leaflet explaining how the station layout will be affected by the renovation of Platform 8 (which is where Platform 9¾ was until recently).

As well as affecting access routes and bicycle racks, the work also means that Platform 9¾ has moved again and - just to keep me on my toes - will probably move again over the next summer months, as the leaflet explains:

Magical Platform 9¾
The legendary entrance will relocate itself several times between now and September, materialising in a number of locations around the station to accommodate this short phase of work. Any muggles trying to find Platform 9¾ should ask station staff to point them in the right direction.

You can find this information in a PDF on First Capital Connect’s website.

So, Platform 9¾ is now at the front of the station where it’s getting noticed by many more people than when it was hidden away in a quiet corner. It still has a pretend wall but with so much re-location going on we can probably live with that.

Find more photos and directions on KXLDN’s Platform 9¾ page.
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