TBTravel: King's Cross + The British Library

Friday, March 20, 2015

This week's throwback travel is for all the Harry Potter fanatics out there. It's no secret that a visit to King's Cross Station is a must for any devoted Potterhead, and I'm not alone when I say that this station represents where it all began. 

The station plays a central role throughout the books: being the home of Platform 9 & 3/4 - gateway from London to Hogwarts on September 1st every year at 11 o'clock sharp, the place where Harry first met the Weasleys, the kickstart to Harry's troubles in the Chamber of Secrets, and of course acting as Harry's setting in the Deathly Hallows while he's in limbo, a symbol of his entrance to the wizarding world. 

It plays an important part of the books in the muggle world as well: JK Rowling's parents met in this station before boarding a train to Scotland, and the infamous dream that she had which inspired the books occurred on a train from Manchester to London, although she doesn't specify which station.

King's Cross has undergone an intense series of renovations over the years and the Platform 9 & 3/4 sign itself has moved several times due to construction and overcrowding by fans. The first time I ever visited in the early 2000's, we were able to go right up to the actual platform column used in the films (there was no actual brick wall between platforms 9 & 10, Jo has stated she actually visualised it wrong and confused it with Euston Station) and there was a separate room off to the side with a Platform 9 & 3/4 sign along with the infamous trolley going halfway into the wall. Sometime between then and 2011, it was moved along with the construction and the actual platforms were kept from fans behind barriers. To the dismay of many, the station had to have a paper wall put up in lieu of the actual wall. 

When I went again in 2012, the new permanent location was set along with a new shop. The only difference between these photos and the current setup is that props are now included; you get to pick a house scarf to wear and the employee pulls a string to make it look like you are whooshing through the platform and takes a photo. It's a bit more organised that in year's past - last time I went it was just a disorderly group of excited fans jumping in when there was a chance, but everyone was always respectful of some type of queue order. Don't worry about it being shuffled around over and over again like the past few years, they've insisted that this is its permanent resting place.  

Platform 9 & 3/4 is easy to find, located in the main departures concourse. You don't need a train ticket or to go through any barriers to reach it! Alternatively, follow the groups of people running through the station squealing with excitement.

The shop nearby may be commercialism at it's best, but I think it's certainly worth a visit. Books, sweets, merchandise, wands - what else could you want? Perfect for those who can't make the trip out to Leavesden.

On your way out, be sure to marvel at the gothic architecture of its neighbour, St. Pancras station. Not only is stunning, but it was also featured in the films, specifically while Harry and Ron were making their escape to Hogwarts on the Flying Ford Anglia.

Minutes down the road from these two stations sits The British Library. A great stop for any book lover or history buff, this library regularly houses two Gutenberg Bibles, original printed plays by Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

While I was studying abroad in 2012 it hosted an exhibition called "Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderland", which showcased some of the best literature that has emerged from the British Isles. Nestled among over 150 different pieces including John Lennon's handwritten manuscript for "In My Life", Tolkein's original artwork for The Hobbit, and Charlotte Bronte's manuscript for Jane Eyre, laid the holy grail. In my opinion, anyway.

JK Rowling's original manuscript for Chapter 6 of Philosopher's Stone, "The Journey from Platform 9 & 3/4" - could they have picked a more fitting chapter to display a stone's throw from King's Cross Station?! Although photos were not allowed inside the exhibition, I refused to leave without sneaking a snap of this. Displaying an embarrassing amount of excitement is nothing new when I visit a Harry Potter related spot, but this was on a whole new level. My friend and I scurried around the exhibition in a silent frenzy, looking through each pane of glass trying to find it. I practically felt my heart burst when I saw the book sitting there innocently, hands shaking and at a loss for words as I looked over Jo's actual handwriting of the actual manuscript that went into the actual book.

Although the exhibition isn't running any more and I feel like a bit of a tease for telling y'all about something no longer available, I couldn't mention a trip to King's Cross without day dreaming about what is arguably of my favourite Harry Potter moments to date.

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