Monday, 16 March 2015

Kensington to King's Cross by Bus

The King is dead, long live the King!

London has a new red double decker and it's one of the few things that Mad Boris (our Mayor) got right. And I've just had my first trip in one. 
I flagged down the Number 10 on Kensington High Street, a reasonably posh up-market area of London. (Even the skate-board riding yoof wear a suit and tie around there). It's a place where achingly fashionable young things saunter along in their designer threads, wearing that strange pained expression beloved of top models. These people don't 'do' buses. More fool them.
The new bus is a gem. Individually styled to become a new classic. I liked it a lot. Swiping my Oyster (pre-paid travel pass) card swiftly past the terminal with a quick nod to the driver, I climbed the stairs and found my seat top front,with a splendid view of the sites through the panoramic glass. (I always love the slightly surprised expression of a driver at being acknowledged).
Those Masters of the Universe, Google, tell me it's a 30 minute journey to King's Cross. Hmmm.
The bus lurches it's way through traffic and suicidal pedestrians and cyclists with the usual sporting aplomb, narrowly missing everything by the smallest of margins. I wave at the windows of Kensington Palace as we pass in case Kate might be watching. (You never know). Then the great expanse of Hyde Park fills the left side as we pass by the splendid Albert Memorial outside the even more splendid Albert Hall. The next street along on the right is Exhibition Road, with the Imperial Collage, The Science & Natural History Museum, The V&A and The Royal Collage of Music. 
Soon we arrive at Knightsbridge, another Mecca for consumer excess. On the left is One Hyde Park, a very exclusive address with even more exclusive McClaren sport cars suitably on display. I watch as a cream Rolls Royce is received by sycophantic top-hatted doormen of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. (Room for night Sir? That'll be £950). 
Then we are at Hyde Park Corner, once a place for only the quick and the dead.  Many an American tourist was found a gibbering wreck at the wheel of his abandoned car right in the centre. That sport is now denied by traffic lights.
Down along Park Lane we go, Hyde Park still on my left, as we pass the London Hilton, adjacent to which used to be the Playboy Bunny Club. Ah, such fond mammaries. Into Marble Arch and the great green bronze horse's head. (Still Water) Marble Arch itself is rather less imposing, looking dwarfed by the modern buildings around it.
And into Oxford Street,  once a major Roman road into London, now it's supposedly Europe's busiest shopping street with over three hundred shops. Here the delicate toffs of Knightsbridge and Kensington would never tread their dainty toes. Well, maybe into Selfridges if they had to get a gift for the help. We bump over Oxford Circus killing the odd Lion and Elephant and wave at the edifice that is the BBC HQ. Finally, at the Eastern end we turn into Tottenham Court Road and move even further down market. To the right, walk down a little way and the British Museum can be found not far from the University of London.
At the top we turn right onto the Euston Road and pass by Euston Train Station, a great sixties architectural carbuncle. Moving swiftly past, we arrive at the British library, a modern carbuncle that is much nicer viewed from the inside. A wonderful place to visit as it has one or two decent books, some of which are quite old.

Then we are at our destination, King's Cross. And I am a bit, cross that is, because it's taken one hour not thirty minutes, to get here. But what a transformation has occurred! Once, KC was the most dangerous place to be, drugs and prostitution rife. They're still around (so I'm told) but the broom has been out and the place polished up. The station has been restored to its Victorian splendour as has the adjacent gothic masterpiece that is the St Pancras hotel. This very nearly had itself demolished... Now it's resplendent. As resplendent as the new London bus. I'm a happy bunny. Or I would be if I now didn't have to face another hour return journey.

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