London: Fine art in a flash


1 Britain

Waiting for the train is an art form at Eurostar's new London terminal, St. Pancras International. In its lofty, marble-floored departure area, passengers get their last taste of British cultural life before boarding the high-speed train to Paris or Brussels.

Seated at glass-topped coffee tables that also serve as interactive computers, passengers can project images of masterpieces from London's National Gallery onto facing walls.

On a recent afternoon, passengers were gazing at "The Ambassadors," painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1533. Another wall showed a flirtatious detail from the raucous "Marriage a la Mode" series by William Hogarth, the 18th century English artist.

On still another wall, two screens display interactive Google Earth maps. You can virtually whiz along the train tracks of Europe, looking at cities, wandering through the French countryside and exploring the ski runs of the Alps.

"We didn't want to trap people in the usual retail environment," said Richard Hill, Eurostar's brand and design manager.

At the coffee tables, the computer controls are so discreet that they're easy to miss if you lay a newspaper or laptop on top.

"It's a fantastic idea," said Margarite Hallssen of Iceland, who was on her way to Paris with her 10-year-old daughter, Alexandra.

There's at least one drawback to the project, which premiered in April.

"If people miss their train because they're looking at pictures, in one sense, we'd be delighted," Hill said.

-- Janet Stobart

2 Spain

A medieval church, mostly submerged for decades, has emerged from receding waters and is drawing tourists to a Catalonian village in this drought-stricken nation. Until recently, only the bell tower of the 11th century church in Sant Roma had been visible in a valley that was flooded in the 1960s.

-- Reuters

3 South Africa

Authorities stepped up security at Table Mountain in Cape Town to fight crime, including muggings of hikers and cyclists, that has caused a drop in tourist visits to the scenic overlook, said a Cape Town councilor. The new measures include foot patrols, closed-circuit TV and better lighting.

-- Reuters

4 China

As the death toll continued to climb from the devastating 7.9 earthquake, officials at the Wolong panda reserve in stricken Sichuan province said that five staff members had been killed. In addition, three giant pandas were missing of the 144 bears kept at facilities.

-- Christopher Reynolds

5 Argentina

Scientists said ash from the Chaiten volcano, which began erupting earlier this month for the first time in thousands of years, may harm people and animals in picturesque Patagonia and cause long-term environmental damage. The ash has spoiled lakes and rivers, coated plants and altered sensitive habitats.

-- Reuters

Caution spots

The State Department recently issued warnings or alerts for these areas:

* Myanmar, because of widespread damage from Cyclone Nargis.

* Nepal, because of sporadic incidents of terrorism and politically motivated violence in urban areas.


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