Thursday, September 12, 2013

Britain from A to Z: E


Everywhere I went in Britain, there were eyes. Deep dark staring eyes watching my every move. Well, not really. The eyes I am talking about are what we in the US call Ferris wheels. And, actually, in Britain they are mostly called simply “wheels”. But the biggest and boldest of them all is the one in London, which is called the London Eye. It stands on the edge of the River Thames (pronounced Temz) keeping watch over the good citizens of London as it rakes in huge amounts of money from tourists wanting a bird’s “eye” view of England’s, and the United Kingdom’s, capital city.

Wikipedia says that the London Eye has about 3.5 million visitors each year. Based on the crowd that was there when we arrived, I can believe it. Regular adult tickets were about 20 GBP each. If you didn’t want to wait an hour or longer, fast track tickets were available for an extra 10 GBP. These shortened the wait time to about 10 minutes. With the limited time we had in London, we opted for the latter. For the three of us, the final cost was about 140 USD, given that the exchange rate was about 1.55 USD per GBP. (With 3.5 million visitors each year, you do the math.) For your money you get to take one rotation on the wheel. That’s a 30-minute ride. And it was one fascinating ride. Since the passenger capsules are all glass, except for the floors, great views were available in every direction as you ascend to almost 450 feet above the ground. When the London Eye was completed back in 2000, it was the largest in the world. It has since been superseded by wheels in China and Singapore.

Typically, the Eye never has to stop. The rotation speed is slow enough to make that unnecessary. At the base of the wheel are three stations. The first is for unloading passengers, the second is for the clean-up crew to sweep out trash, and the third is for loading passengers. Quite efficient if you ask me.

The London Eye is not the only wheel in Britain. Other larger cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, York, and Cardiff also have them. Apparently, UKers like their wheels. We saw a few of these, but not all. The London Eye was the only one we had an opportunity to ride.

If you ever get to visit Great Britain, be sure to keep an eye out for the eyes.

London Eye on the River Thames

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