While only in England for a short time I feel I was able to accomplish a lot. I visited a number of tourist locations outside of London like Windsor Castle, Bath, the medieval village of Lacock and Stonehenge. Then while in London I did the usual tourist stops like Buckingham Palace, St. James Park and Big Ben. My favorite stops in London, however, were Hyde Park and the London Eye.
Hyde Park was special in part because visiting parks is one of my favorite things to do. I also really wanted to see it becuase its name was mentioned in a few of my favorite British Comedy shows. Hyde Park did not disappoint. It is one of the largest parks in London and on the day I visited the sun was shining strong amid puffy white clouds. An equestrian rider was practicing jumps with his horse and a mother and daughter also took horses for a casual stroll. Birds lined the pond as groups of people paddled along in the distance. I walked through gardens, took pictures of sculptures and nabbed a warm waffle with Nutella.
As a lover of the hazlenut spread, I originally thought I wouldn’t be satisfied by the ratio of sweet spread to waffle that I received. Ultimately, I was wrong. There’s a first for everything and on this day it was the first time I didn’t clean a snack completely of its Nutella contents. Enough about sugar, onto the London Eye!
I love the idea and the experience of observing a place from high up so I seek out height-based excursions. For visiting England, the London Eye is a great way to accomplish this. I hadn’t purchased a ticket for the ride in advance but had plenty of time on my first day in London to get one. My flight landed in the afternoon and I wasn’t checking in with my host until 8pm that night, so I dropped my backpack with Left Luggage at Victoria Station and began sightseeing!
While walking through a park I got my first glimpse of the London Eye and figured that as long as it was in sight I would be able to walk to it without directions. I didn’t know how long the walk would take but I figured it would present a good opportunity to view London on street level. As I walked the length of the park I slowly grew closer and closer to the iconic ferris wheel, which from my distance away didn’t seem to be moving like a ferris wheel at all. It looked like it was standing still. Once my path of land hit water I looked around and realized there was a bridge that would lead across to the side of land where the London Eye stood. I took time to soak in the views on my way across and took a few photos as well. Right in front of the wheel at this point I let myself take in how massive the London Eye appears from just below it and then went about getting a ticket. Even with no pre-purchased ticket the queue to buy one didn’t take too long. Then when I walked over to the line to join the ride I was lead up to board immediately.
Before visiting the London Eye I didn’t know that the pods of the wheel move continuously. I thought it was like a normal ferris wheel: people board, it goes around, people depart and the steps repeat. The London Eye will only stop shortly to allow passengers with mobility needs to board and exit. Not knowing this, after I was prompted to board onto the pod in front of me I said to ride attendants, ‘it’s still moving.’ Humored, the attendants again told me to get on and that’s when I noticed it was just business as usual. For a quick moment I traced the pace of the pod strolling along the boarding ground, gathered my nerve, and stepped on.
Once onboard it is a slow, gradual build to the top of the wheel. A sign in the pod reassures passengers that if the wheel stops it is only to let a passenger with a mobility need to board. Essentially saying, ‘there is no need to panic, you probably aren’t stuck.’ I circled the pod’s glass windows that encapsulated me and looked out 360 degrees at the city of London. One woman took the ride as an opportunity for a photo shoot, getting friends and family to snap picture after picture of her against the London landscape. I just continued to look out of the glass pill from every angle. At times I could see the people in the pod below us, in a space our pod occupied only seconds ago. Other times I took videos, zooming all the way out and all the way in, to show our distance from the ground.
After seeing the London Eye from various places around the city I thought about the certain kind of excitement involved with looking at a structure from afar and then finally being apart of it. The toil and subsequent rush received at the top of The London Eye may not be the same as what mountain climbers must feel when they reach a summit…but then on second thought, for some people, it just might be.
What are some of your favorite activities in London?