1.48pm, Friday 18th March, Pret a Manger, Euston Road, London, England.
Afternoon folks, and it’s fab to be back in the big smoke – London is a manic city state all of its own……and I’m staying in a new part of town this trip. For the last however many years, I’ve stayed at London Bridge, and become quite a staunch ‘south of the river’ gal. I got to know London Bridge, Waterloo, Borough and Bermondsey really well, and I feel like I’ve ‘left home’ now that I’ve been booked into a hotel on Euston Road, near St Pancras Station. So I’ll have a whole new neighbourhood to learn, but at least I’ve got my favourite – Pret A Manger – right across the road. Thanks enormously for the free wi fi, the drinkable coffee (I’m not a coffee snob by any stretch, but some of it in the UK can be pretty dire!), and the great soups. Today’s lunch is the Smoked Beans and chicken soup, with a mini Wiltshire ham baguette. Actually, what the UK loses in the coffee stakes, they more than make up for with the ham!! Wow….id forgotten how good the breaded / Wiltshire / honey glazed Scottish ham is like.
Any rate, the reason that I wanted to jump on to the blog straight away was that as I was coming down in the lift, I happened to see the spires of an old building just along Euston Road from my hotel…..
And guess what? That folks is the Renaissance London St Pancras Hotel – renovated five years ago after lying dormant and locked up for seventy odd years. But….once upon a time, this was the reigning queen of railway hotels – The St Pancras London Midland Grand……with the gothic facade designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott – who won a Midland Railway Company competition to design it’s new hotel next door to their bustling London St Pancras station terminus. Now why would this interest us at Yalumba? Because our intrepid traveller ‘Indiana Jones horticulturalist’ family ancestor Fred Caley Smith – grandson of Yalumba founder Samuel Smith – stayed here whilst touring the world on behalf of the business back in 1894. The hotel was opened in 1873 and our man Fred stayed here in 1894….probably when it’s was in all its Victorian ‘golden age of travel’ prime. So how spooky is it that 122 years apart, doing much the same job in the sixth generation of the same wine producing family……I’m staying about 500 yards up the road from where Fred did!! I’ll definitely find some time this trip to go in have a look ……