Wednesday 18 June 2008

London Eye, South Bank, London

A gleaming white bicycle wheel rising high above the south bank of the Thames, the London Eye is a magnet for tourists and everything that entails. Coming towards the Eye from the east you pass a dozen or more statuesque street entertainers painted as kings, sinners, chameleons and other imaginative characters. Up close, you can check out the handful of slim cables preventing this vast structure from crashing into the river. Although there are a lot of people milling around the base, you can generally board quite quickly, particularly if you bought a ticket in advance. Stewards ensure you move fast enough to step into the continuously moving glass pods, which hold about 20 people each. Your pod, with a central seating area and just enough space to avoid alarming the claustrophobic, then rises slowly into the sky. On a clear day at the top, you can see right to the suburban edge of south London. There are also fine views of the Victorian-Gothic spires of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the more distant Buckingham Palace surrounded by trees and other greenery. Vertigo-sufferers will want to avoid looking straight down on to the array of boats on the river or the tiny people strolling along the South Bank. As you descend, cameras automatically take photographs of pod passengers, which you can buy at the base. Book online (£13.95 for adults and £6.95 for children) for the best value tickets and make sure you go on a bright sunny day 8/10