London Eye review
I'm quite a fatalistic kind of guy and I can't help wondering what will happen if one of those flimsy little spokes snaps. I mean, look how flimsy they are. They are like wire cost-hangars. Are we 100% sure they knew what they were doing? The London Eye was built by some Italians, wasn't it -- the same country that built the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (I'll have to check that before I get on.) But I suppose I'll have to man up and ride it because I've got a review to write.
Normally I'd buy my ticket online because I know how huge the queues can be, but I've decided to buy one at the gate today and time it. First of all you have to queue up in the ticket office (that took me 25 minutes), then you have to join the actual boarding queue (another 15 minutes). During this second bit I felt like I was in a group of mountaineers assembling at base camp. All the different nationalities were standing around me laughing and joking and snapping pictures, but if you looked into their eyes then you could see their nerves were building. It's the way they gripped the railing that gave the game away: they were holding on so tight and vice-like that it was sucking all the blood away from their skin. On the outside they were happily chatting with their buddies but every few seconds they chanced a glance upwards, at the mad mountain above them, awe-struck as the human-filled glass globules flew over the summit.
When you finally enter the pod you'll have another twenty tourists milling around the windows, zipping around, sitting down, standing up, leaning on the glass (I wish they would keep still!). Normally I'm dismissive of daft health and safety rules but on the London Eye there should definitely be one that says nobody's allowed to move a single inch, not even to blow their nose, because the pod is very definitely wobbling -- it wobbles enough to feel it.
The first part of the ride just lifts you above the river so you can see the people on Hungerford Bridge, the traffic on Waterloo Bridge, then the metal palisade of cranes around the Square Mile. St. Paul's stands isolated in the middle of everything, still benefiting from its protected view.
When you climb a bit higher up you can drop your eyes down onto Horse Guards parade ground and see Buckingham Palace beyond, nestled behind the trees of St James's Park. Try and find Downing Street and Nelson's Column. If you can spot the top of The Monument then you're a genius. I tried to find Tower Bridge as well but it seems to be hidden behind The Shard.
When the pod comes over the top of the wheel the wobbling will be at its absolute worst. I actually had to sit down for a few minutes until we started descending down the other side, and I must admit that I didn't like the feeling at all. (But I'm a wuss when it comes to heights.)
It's when you're coming down the second side that you get the best view of Big Ben and Parliament. Normally I'd label it as one of the best views in town, but Big Ben is hiding behind some black scaffolding at the moment and he looks like a sooted-up chimney turned inside-out.
I’ve been here before…
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