London and Paris are now just about as close as Damascus and Beirut.
The Eurostar train’s launched a new service whizzing between the two world cities in just over two hours.
They’ve restored St Pancras station into one of London’s most attractive buildings.
The attention to detail is incredible. Even the metalwork has been painted in exactly the same shade of blue as it was when the station opened 100 years ago.
When it opened, it was the largest enclosed space in the world. Now, it has the claim of being one of the most impressive.
And the romanticism isn’t lost on this place. Stations are meeting places, scenes of rekindled love. That’s why I love this sculpture. It reaches almost to the ceiling of the building. And it’s in exactly the right spot to stare you in the face when you step off the train.
But seeing posters telling you Paris is two hours away doesn’t really mean anything.
It’s when you see hoards of people pulling suitcases.
It’s when you hear French voices mingling with English ones.
It’s when you see English staff speaking French.
It’s when you realise you can spend Euros in (a tiny corner of) London.
That’s when you realise Paris has arrived in London. The past and future working together.
I’m impressed that London has been able to restore this place. A few years ago they were threatening to demolish it. London doesn’t respect its history, because it’s been so obsessed with the future. I hope Damascus isn’t going that way. But when I hear the Amara plans, it makes me worried.
So it’s good news when private businesses restore Damascene houses in the Old City – more on that soon. And even better news when we hear that there are finally plans to restore the Hijaz station.
The back part is going to be turned into another shopping mall, with the front restored to its former glory – exactly what happened to St Pancras. It’ll be great to give such a fantastic building a better use than just a book fair.