Estação de São Bento

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A small but tremendously decorated station in the centre of Porto (see map). Its walls are covered with traditional Portuguese tile work called azulejos showing scenes of the Portuguese history.

Azulejos is painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work widespread in Portugal and Spain. In Portugal, you will find them outdoors and indoors on walls in private and public buildings. (For somebody, who is used to tiles only as decoration in bathrooms or on floors as in many other European countries, it is a bit unusual). The variety of azulejos reaches from simple reproduced white-blue tiles to big detailed pictures that are indeed real pieces of art (like those at Sao Bento station).

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As far as I can recall, a similar kind of tile work has been traditionally produced in some other European countries (like Italy and Netherlands). Nevertheless, the tile work in Europe origins from Moorish culture and first it was applied on the Iberian peninsula.

If you want to know more about azulejos and during your Portugal journey stay in Lisbon, just go to the National Tile Museum (>>>). It is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (convents were banished from Portugal some time ago, so it is a state museum). Even if you are not an art fan, following the visiting route you will see how the art of azulejos and its technique developed with time. By the way, inside the gallery you will have to cross a chapel. Opulent and rich. Shining with gold, with beautiful paintings and tile work pictures on walls and ceilings.

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A day at St. Pancras

Last year, as I realised that I was stuck on St. Pancras International for some hours I was not worrying too much. St. Pancras is located  near King’s Cross Station. As a Harry Potter fan I wanted to use the occasion to look for the Platform 9 3/4, which I found by the way (>>>). But it also turned out that St. Pancras is quite nice place to walk around, too.

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St. Pancras International is a huge London railway station hosting Euro Star trains (trains at the first floor, entrance at the ground level), Thameslink connections (underground) and high speed trains (ground level). It is located near the Kings Cross station (practically across the street).

The station was generously refurbished a couple years ago to accommodate the Euro Star trains. It is a combination of modern solutions and Victorian architecture. A huge and very beautiful building, Victorian style is neighbouring the station at its front. It is considered an integral part of the station. It is a hotel (St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, formerly Midland Grand Hotel), in short called ‘the chambers’ as for some time the building was turned into railway offices.

There are some nice pieces of art inside. A huge sculpture of a couple in love is located exactly at the front of the Eurostar platform on the station upper level. The official name of this 9 meter tall bronze statue by Paul Day is ‘the Meeting Place‘.  Was unveiled 8 years ago during a re-opening ceremony of the station and the official launch of the Eurostar trains in London. Its foot is decorated by reliefs. You can also see a man in a hurry, who – seemingly – looks up to check the train timetable. The St. Pancras website says the man was a famous poet and a railway enthusiast, who engaged himself to save the Station from demolition. At a ground level you can listen some piano music performed live – a piano, bit used but still in good shape, is available to those who would like to play publicly.

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