Friday, January 2, 2015

All Eyes On London

The London Eye, illuminating the London
skyline since 1999
Just about every city has a distinctive landmark that dominates their skyline and in recent years London's landmark has been a giant ferris wheel perched on the banks of the Thames River. Alternatively called the Millennium Wheel then a series of corporate sponsored names tacked onto the term "London Eye" and at the moment simply called the London Eye, Europe's tallest ferris wheel has been a mainstay of this city's skyline since 1999. At 443 feet high and with a diameter of 394 feet it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world when it was completed (this record has since been surpassed by wheels in Singapore and Nanchang). Each of the wheels 32 climate controlled capsules can hold up to 25 people and allows passengers to sit or walk around during the 30 minute revolution. Once in motion the wheel only stops to allow handicapped passengers to enter and exit; all others hop on and off during its slow, almost motionless revolution. Today the London Eye is the largest tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, welcoming upwards of 3.5 million visitors each year.

The capsule ahead of us
The prospect of actually riding on the London Eye left me simultaneously apprehensive and excited. I was apprehensive because I have a fear of heights. A narrow flight of stairs is enough to make my head spin and send my heart plummeting into my stomach so the thought of being suspended that high in the air made me think twice. (I've been known to remain grounded while my family climbs through Europe's many towers and spires). But the thought of riding the Eye also had me excited because, simply put, it was so cool and was really a rare opportunity to see London from a bird's eye perspective. Before our trip I spent hours trolling the internet gauging just how bad the trip up might be for me. With the exception of a few outliers it seemed like the ride was both large enough and stable enough not bother most people who feared heights. Reassured that you essentially didn't feel any movement while on board I decided to take the plunge and join my family. And I wasn't alone......

London was packed with tourists during the week between Christmas and New Years and it seemed like everyone in the city had the same idea we did. The queue to board snaked forever with the wait time being several hours long. But we were in London so decided to join the throngs and hope for the best. As we waited in line I watched the capsules slowly make their way up and back down around the wheel and much to my relief the movement did seem negligible. When our turn came we hopped aboard and I can now honestly say the wait was so worth it. I really couldn't feel the movement as we slowly crept our way up and over the top of the wheel before making our way down. In fact, the only time I was the least bit nervous was when we came to a (short) but complete stop to let someone board when we were at the very top of the wheel. But the views? Oh my goodness were they impressive. Because we were on board after dark, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the entire city of London illuminated below us. The iconic image of Big Ben and Westminster Bridge reflected onto the Thames while Christmas lights from "ordinary" buildings only added to the atmosphere. The other capsules both above and below us looked as though they were suspended in the air. The images were surreal.
Looking out over London

So if you get a chance to take a spin on the London Eye, do so. Even if you are fearful of heights, the ride is worth it and you won't be disappointed.

and looking the other way...Big Ben and Westminster Cathedral

If you go:

The London Eye
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7PB
Walking distance to the Charing Cross, Westminster, Waterloo and Embarkment Tube Stations

Open daily from 10.00-20.30 (later during the summer)

29.95 BP for adults and children over the age of 4, group discounts combination tickets available

1 comment:

  1. I have a moderate fear of heights too, yet I loved the London Eye! Congratulations on taking the ride!