I spy with my little eye … the London Eye!
One tourist attraction in London that I’ve wanted to visit is the London Eye. The last time I was in London in 1998, it wasn’t built yet. The Eye opened in 2000 and was originally named the Millenium Wheel.
In my part of the world, we call them as we see them. The London Eye is a really big Ferris wheel.
Apparently the actual term for this ride is cantilevered observation wheel.
Yup, let’s just stick with Ferris!
My father rode the Eye
My father didn’t like heights. He didn’t like flying in airplanes much either, but due to necessity he did.
I remember visiting Toronto years ago and we got in line at the Toronto CN Tower. It was about half an hour in the line to buy tickets. When we got to the cashier my father was willing to buy tickets but didn’t want to go up. Eventually he was persuaded to. When we arrived at the top, he sat down on a bench in the center and didn’t go look out the windows.
Due to the fear of heights, I’m surprised he went on the London Eye, other than his significant other probably wanted to do it.
And he ended up with an interesting story.
Just as the pod they were in was nearing the end of the ride, the wheel began to go in reverse. Back then there was a staff member on each capsule, I suppose pointing out the sights. And there was a phone system for the staff to be in contact with the ground crew. Apparently a passenger on the other side of the wheel was having a medical emergency and it was quicker to put the Eye into reverse and bring them back down to street level than to continue forward
My father said they got almost all the way back to the top before the Eye stopped and then headed back down again. So he got an extra long ride.
Scoping out the Eye
I did an advance check of the London Eye to see what to expect for whatever day I would choose to fly on the Eye.
I was a little perplexed by the website to buy tickets in advance. Too many decisions! Choose a date. Choose a time. Pay extra to jump ahead in the line. Buy tickets to other attractions.
What if I choose a date a few days from now and it’s raining and the visibility is crap?
If I choose a time and I sleep in or otherwise delayed, have I just lost my money?
And how come the prices keep changing?
Once I arrived at the South Bank of the Thames River, near Westminster Bridge, I took a peek inside the ticket office. There’s a bunch of self-serve kiosks where you purchase your ticket from, so you can buy a ticket when you arrive and then stand in line for the ride.
There’s no need to buy a ticket from the website in advance.
I checked out the line up and it seemed to be moving relatively good, like a 20 minute or so wait to get on board the Eye. I saw no reason to spend an extra £20 for the fast track line up. In Canadian dollars that’s an extra $35. I’m too frugal for that!
The reason the prices keep changing is supply and demand. If the Eye is busy with eager to ride tourists, the prices increase. Oh well, what can you do?
I decided on a day that was sunny and not too cloudy and took the Tube to the Waterloo Station. According to the TfL Go app, it’s an 11 minute walk to the Eye.
I don’t know what it is with all these instructions in minutes. And it seems to consider that people in London must be the slowest walkers around.
You know, maybe they saunter and chat and sip their tea and push a stroller.
And speaking of strollers – they’re everywhere in the tourist areas in London. And the people pushing them are very slow. I have to wonder at the wisdom of bringing a stroller into places that are packed with wall to wall tourists walking around.
Or maybe the real wisdom behind it is using the stroller as a battering ram!
But I digress.
I’m not the fastest walker around by any means. It took me 3 minutes to walk to the London Eye. And I stopped to take a couple of photos and that video above!
Right across from the Eye is a building that says lastminute.com in pink lettering.
Walk inside and there are a bunch of self serve computer kiosks. Although it appears some people might be standing in line, there are empty kiosks. Just look for one.
There may have been staff assisting customers with the kiosks but I didn’t notice. All around me people were cursing out the kiosks.
I didn’t find it particularly difficult. It’s a touch screen. I purchased one standard entry ticket. There are options to purchase tickets to some of the other attractions along the Thames River Walk that are owned by the same company.
Then I chose a form of payment. I’m finding that I’m pretty much able to use my Visa Debit card everywhere, though I can’t tap it. I have to insert and put in my PIN. The money comes right out of my bank account.
And how much in Canadian dollars?
Try not to gasp, and remember that everything in London is very expensive.
That’s 40.00 GBP @ 1.757250000 exchange rate.
Let’s just get back to the machine for a moment.
When I purchased my ticket I had to choose a time to get in the queue. OK, call them as I see them – the line up. The next available time to line up was 11:15 am. It was just before 11am when I walked into the building.
A ticket printed out of the kiosk with the details. And a second paper with my receipt. Seemed kind of redundant to me.
The line up, ahem, the queue
Even though I’m 15 minutes early, I headed over to get in the line to ride the Eye. There’s a roped area for the line and several employees checking for tickets before entering. They don’t look too closely at the times on the tickets. Ha ha. I just got in line with everyone else.
And the line does move fairly quickly.
We go through security where quite a few staff are working. It even has one of those x-ray machines like when you go through airport security. I didn’t have a bag with me, so they herded me into a different line up. Passengers with backpacks and camera bags were checked.
That’s a good thing. England is a country that has had plenty of bombs go off. I’d rather that didn’t happen while I’m stuck in a capsule way up in the air.
As I got closer to the pods, there’s an area where people off-loading hustle out. And then another area where new passengers hustle inside. The Eye moves very slowly so there’s plenty of time to get on and off the platform, but the staff are still urging us to haul ass and get inside.
Staff will stop the Eye momentarily if wheelchairs are boarding. The Eye came to a complete stop a couple of times on my circuit, but it was very brief.
As the line snaked closer to the boarding platform, staff ushered us into three smaller lines. All of us would be boarding the next capsule.
Hustle, hustle, and we’re in. And off at a snail’s pace. The Eye moves 26 cm every second.
Here’s what I saw.
I spy the London Eye
It takes about 30 minutes to take a spin on the London Eye.
From the time I arrived at the ticket booth until I stepped off the Eye, it was about one hour. So that’s not too bad. I didn’t see any advantage to shelling out an extra $35 to get in the fast track line.
Been there. Done that. Enjoyed the ride. Probably won’t shell out the big bucks to do it again.
For some fun facts about the London Eye, check out this post about 23 London Eye Facts.
Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on August 18, 2023.