TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
When I lived in London in the 1980s, visiting King’s Cross was a necessary evil, a place I couldn’t avoid if I wanted a train back to Newcastle.
Today, King’s Cross and St Pancras stations look very grand in this revamped area of London. It’s become such a cool spot that I’m happy to spend much more time here.
On a recent trip Dougie and I chose a hotel near the station. No need to drag our cases onto underground trains: the Hotel Megaro is located just across the street. It’s a bright, hip hotel, with smart, spacious rooms and quirky additions such as free popcorn and sweets in reception.
A day spent at King’s Cross starts with a great value breakfast at the hotel, featuring very fashionable smashed avocado on sourdough bread, creamy scrambled eggs and frothy cappuccinos.
If you’re looking for free things to do in London, you’re spoilt for choice. Turn right out of the station and you soon stumble upon the British Library with the impressive sculpture, Newton, in the piazza. Step inside the library and head for the Treasures Gallery. Here you can see a vast collection of manuscripts from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Captain Cook’s journal. If you haven’t seen Magna Carta in Lincoln, one of the original copies is here too.
A little further down Euston Road is the Wellcome Collection, advertised as ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’, though you may want to open your wallet to enjoy a delicious lunch. Take a look at Henry Wellcome’s medical antiquities on display or find the relaxing space of the Reading Room where you can grab a bean bag and settle down for a quiet read.
Part of UCL (University College London), the Grant Museum of Zoology is definitely worth a look, particularly if you have children of a certain age who love anything gruesome. Some 68,000 specimens which have been pinned or pickled and numerous skeletons including the extinct quagga. There’s also a micrarium, three walls of microscopic slides to see all the ‘tiny things’. Again, it’s free to enter and gawp to your heart’s content.
Finding cafes and restaurants to suit your taste and budget is easy around King’s Cross. Try Pancras Square and Granary Square that straddle Regent’s Canal: the space created here is perfect for a spot of people-watching too.
On York Way, left of King’s Cross station, you’ll find Franco Manca, a fantastic pizzeria we first discovered a few years ago. There are a number of branches in London and the south-east, all featuring a small, simple menu of wood-fired pizzas. Using top quality ingredients, the pizzas range in price from about £5 to £8.
You can easily spend a weekend exploring all this area has to offer but when it’s over, hunt out the Harry Potter trolley at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross station. You never know, it might get you home in a jiffy.
• You can read Trish’s blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk