It was raining cats and dogs with occasional thunder and lightning last Saturday – typical London weather, some would say, and you will regret if you have left your umbrella at home. Defying the weather, I however decided to do some sightseeing since a French salsa friend of mine, Ludovic, was visiting London. Neither of us had ever been to the London Eye, the huge observation wheel on the South Bank of the river Thames.
The observation wheel is about 135 m high and apparently the largest ever built. Opened in 2000, the wheel was meant as a symbol of the turning of the century according to the married couple of architects who designed it.
I have never been close enough to study the construction of it, but I had somehow imagined it to be like one of the “Paris wheels” you usually find at an amusement park with the cabins swaying in the wind. The London Eye however spun silently around and so slowly you couldn’t even feel its movement from inside the egg-shaped cabins, spacious enough for 20-25 people in each.
You can see quite far in the distance and many of London’s landmarks are clearly visible from up there, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey across the river in the City of Westminster. You have a great view over the Thames and several bridges, Victoria Embankment, South Bank with the Waterloo Station and the County Hall.
Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament with Big Ben and Victoria Embankment
The view over London from the wheel during its full-circle flight taking ca 30 min was marvellous, but the experience on this particular occasion was dampened by the wet weather. I also thought that the price was a little hefty, almost £14. I wouldn’t rush back in a hurry but on a sunny day I suppose it’s a nice experience and great photographic opportunity for the many tourists visiting London.
Left: Ludovic on Westminster Bridge with the London Eye and the County Hall in the background. Right: Big Ben.
After the London Eye tour, Ludovic and I walked across the Westminster Bridge, passing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, chilled to the bone and in search of a café where we could warm up with some hot chocolate. Westminster however consists mostly of old buildings and hordes of tourists so we ended up walking to Covent Garden via Trafalgar Square. Not that Covent Garden has fewer tourists visiting, but at least you can watch the bustling street life in the square while sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a coffee. We ended our afternoon sightseeing at a small café / pizzeria in the Covent Garden Market.