Majestic and graceful, the London Eye dominates a London skyline full of universally recognisable, iconic structures. Opened in March 2000 as a temporary attraction to celebrate the millennium, its popularity has ensured that it remains as a permanent attraction that is visited by 3.5 million people every year.
I had long wanted to ride on the London Eye, so when my chance came, I was quite jittery with anticipation. As your ‘pod’ – the enclosed glass capsule which you take your ‘flight’ in – arrives it does not actually stop for you to get in. A little nifty footwork is required here, especially if there is a large group of you getting into the pod. (It can be stopped for disabled or elderly passengers to embark and disembark safely).
Step inside, and you are enclosed almost completely in glass that allows you a 360 degree view of London and beyond. You may be relieved to hear however, that the floor itself is not glass. I like heights but a glass floor would have rattled even me.
Before your flight you are handed an intriguingly-designed booklet which identifies many of the buildings that you can see from your pod. My flight took place on a clear sunny day with only a hint of haze in the far distance, perfect weather for such a trip.
The view was every bit as magnificent as I had hoped. Look downwards and you see the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall and the Thames meandering its way down to the sea. Look out further and see the BT tower, Centrepoint and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf rise above the bustling streets of London. It is a London which seems strangely peaceful and still from such a high vantage point, except for the boats scurrying along the river.
The journey lasts around half an hour, plenty of time to drink in the splendour of such a glorious city and yet hardly time to even start to see anything. The time races past as you spend almost every moment engrossed in searching out favourite buildings. Is that Wembley Stadium over there? Battersea Power Station? The Gherkin?
All too soon the London Eye had travelled a full circle and it is time to disembark from the flight. Stepping out carefully as the pod moves slowly along the landing stage once more, you feel that you have taken the journey of a lifetime.
For more information visit www.londoneye.com. Buyagift offers bargain London Eye ticket deals and packages which include boat trips along the Thames and lunch cruises as well as themed London Eye flights.
About the Author: Jacqui O’Brien is the editor of eParenting.