Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The London Eye

The London Eye is basically a Ferris Wheel on a gigantic scale. Instead of a seat for 2 or 3 people dangling their legs, the Eye is made up of oblong transparent compartments that hold around 30 people who can sit on a bench or mill about taking in the 360 degree views.

It took me half a day to get tickets for the London Eye. That's not the norm (I assume!) but that's what happened to me. There was some sort of problem with my address. Zipcodes here are very specific. The first part (W11) gives the general area. Somehow the second part (2NS) pinpoints our actual flat. The website had a function to search for the actual address. The options were 26a or 26 Lansdowne Crescent. Neither one worked. I eventually ordered by phone and the fellow on the other end was kind enough to give me the internet rate.

But then.....we arrive at the London Eye. There are people queuing all over the place and no clear signage. Keith opts to take the boys to the loo while I pick up our tickets. I spent about ten minutes in the wrong line until the person in front of me asked someone which line they should be in. Turns out I should be in the same line. Another huge long queue. There was the option of using a machine to print out your tickets using your reservation number and name but it didn't work for me---again the address problem. Behind me in line was a woman wearing an adorable baby. She spoke English and French and was with the baby's grandmother who spoke only French. Fun to listen because i could actually understand the daughter-in-law--probably because she was speaking 'learned' French and slowly. They left to use the machine.

Next up, a young couple. The woman had done the Eye before. She told me that there was another queue after this one but promised that it would move quickly. She also said that it was great that it was sunny because one of her friends had ridden the Eye on a cloudy day and couldn't see anything.

I remarked to Keith that the British were supposed to be known for politely queuing. He pointed out quite correctly that almost everyone there was not British.

The final queue did indeed move quickly. The wheel does not stop moving when you board. It is rotating slowly. At one point they open the doors and let the previous passengers walk onto the exit ramp and at the next stop they usher a crowd forward and then lock the doors. We could see everything. I purchased the mini guide which showed the view 360 in day and night. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were the most obvious being so near by. We could see Buckingham palace in the distance, Charing Cross Station, boats along the River Thames, etc. The whole experience takes about 30 minutes which is plenty of time to enjoy the views and the cool shadow of the Eye on the river. I bet it would be a great experience at night. Keith wondered if anyone had ever gotten married on a ride.

Included in the ticket price was a trip to a 4-D experience. We lined up in the dark wearing the special glasses. There were the usual 3-D images but it became '4-D' when a bubble popped and we felt water on our face. Steam swirled at another point.

This day was quite harrowing with the crowds and the bright sun. Oh, and a mutinous Owen mid stair-way coming out of the underground. I kept trying to get to the railing to go down stairs safely but inevitably there would be a crowd stopped to take a picture that I would have to go around. Also, because I wasn't moving fast enough, people kept zipping around me which caused me to go even more slowly. Grrrr. This is an instance where using the cane would be helpful because it would indicate to other people that I'm struggling. I really need to carry that with me and whip it out more often.

While we were waiting for our train home in the underground, a little boy (2-ish) suddenly reached over, grabbed Lionel's shoulder, and shouted "HI!" Lionel was completely startled and moved down the bench. Owen moved down and Lionel moved even farther away. i sat down and said HI! After talking to his mother I learned that he speaks Italian and the only English word he knows is hi! "HI!" he shouted again. His mother is Italian and his father is from Mali but for some reason he looked like my niece Gem and I'm pretty sure she has no roots in Italy or Mali.

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