Eye Eye

It had been reasonable weather during the week, so knowing that every other weekend of April had something planned, I’d booked tickets for the London Eye. We had a voucher to get two tickets for the price of one, and neither of us had been on the Eye for several years. We had collected tokens to get free tickets last year, but never got around to booking the tickets in time. We were determined not to miss it again this year.


The plan had been to get up to London early and have a wander about first. However, there were many things conspiring against that happening. First up there was the quite usual issue of the trains not being any use. Lots of rail replacements meant that only half of the normal trains into Blackfriars or London Bridge were running.


Then there was Sniffles. He’d been involved in some kind of skirmish earlier in the week, and although he’d appeared to be getting better, he was limping, not wanting to put any weight on his rear left paw. So, it was an emergency trip to the vet. There was a brief panic as he disappeared, but he was hiding on one of the patio chairs under the tarpaulin out the back. I managed to coax him into the cat carrier, and despite him seeming keen, I was told not to give him the loop-the-loop ride in it. Of course, when he got out of the carrier at the vets he was walking normally. Little sod.


We got the Victoria train, so we could change at Clapham Junction and head into Waterloo, and the five-minute walk from there to the Eye. It was the only way we would make our time window. Not that it seemed to matter when we got there. There were more people checking tickets than at one of Brick-Top’s fights. And not one of them cared what time the tickets were for as we snaked our way through the queue and barriers. Including the section that turned out to be unnecessary queuing.


The last time I went on it, it had been the EDF Energy London Eye, now it was Coca-Cola, and that meant lots of sub-standard drink choices every couple of yards along the queue. Plus, their tie-ups with Cadbury’s, Pringles, and Walls. All of which we ignored. We also ignored the bit where you stop in front of a green screen to get your photo taken. No point in stopping when you know full well there isn’t a hope in hell of buying the overpriced piece of crap when we got off the Eye. But, you have to feel sorry for the pressure it puts on beleaguered parents.


There has been a hell of a lot of building work gone on in the five or so years since I last went on the Eye. A whole host of new tower blocks and distinctive looking buildings can be seen all over the city. There are so many new tall buildings up in the actual square mile of the City, that you can’t see the Gherkin from the Eye anymore. Because of all the new buildings that surround the Shell building, we are more than halfway up the circle before we can see the tip of the Shard. The Oxo tower is lost amongst new buildings, especially the new curved shiny one just behind Doggett’s Coat & Badge off Blackfriars’ Bridge.


What had promised to be a sunny day ended up being a bit overcast, but there wasn’t any rain, or low cloud, so the view was good. I couldn’t quite make out Wembley’s arch this time. Though I wonder with all the building work there has been in that area recently whether it can actually be seen from the Eye anymore.


The smoothness of the journey always impresses, the only time you really feel movement is when the wheel stops for a few seconds to let wheelchairs on or off, as the pods sway slightly as they come to a halt. The height the pods get to at the top always surprises me as well. Such are the size and scale of a lot of the buildings you look over, you never realise just how high up you are until you look down at the people. They really do look like little ants, scurrying around.


As the pod starts on its long lazy descent and focus is changed on where we look, the House of Parliament and especially the clock tower housing Big Ben looks strange covered in scaffolding. By contrast, the light colouring of Westminster Abbey behind it shows what a good job they have done in removing centuries of city grime from its walls.


The half hour journey goes by so quickly. We ignore the calls within the pod to go and stand in the designated areas for the phot opportunity, instead taking the time to look at the various boats on the river. To look at the colours that Westminster and Lambeth Bridges are painted to match the colour of the seats in the Commons and Lords. To wonder what the display in the raised area of what is now the aquarium in County Hall. And then the doors to the pod are opening and it is off we go. Exit through the gift shop.


We headed along the south bank, looking for food, but were distracted by the arena set up for the Underbelly Festival next to Hungerford Bridge. There were an array of bars and stalls there, and the variety of acts and shows look good. Something to consider for later in the year. We carried on down the river, under the bridge, and found a little Mexican street food shack opposite the well graffitied skate park under the Festival Hall.


Burritos crammed with rice, beans, chicken, salad, cheese, salsa, and guacamole (and extra hot sauce in my case) were ordered and consumed. Great taste and value for money, for what was a quite late lunch.


When we got to Waterloo bridge, it was good to see that even if the BFI café under it was closed for refurbishment, some things never change. The usual Saturday book market was going strong. Plenty of old and new books to sort through. Plus, maps, lots of old maps, genuine original Victorian, and Edwardian colour lithographs. It always had the possibility of being a time suck, but I thought I was reasonably restrained. Less than half an hour and I didn’t buy anything. (My temperature is fine thanking you very much.)


We carried on heading east, passing the brutalist buildings housing the BFI, IBM, and ITV before coming to the older setting of Gabriel’s Wharf. With there being a lack of sun, it was quiet compared to the lunacy of summer weekends. We were able to take a slow amble around the shops and check out the prices of the various eateries there for future reference. We also had a wander around the other side of the Oxo tower building where there are now new shops and additional exhibition space. Some of the future exhibitions looked interesting. So many things to do, in such a finite amount of time.


At Blackfriars we decided to head home, we needed to be back by six as we were expecting a friend, so wandering all the way along to London Bridge would have been pushing it. As it was we only got home with a quarter of an hour to spare.


We finished the day off by going for a curry. Yes, I know, such a surprise. We wandered up to the top of the road and across to the Downsman, where lots of curry and a few drinks were consumed, to the extent that rolling home was considered the best option. Thankfully it was downhill.


Sniffles was still walking normally when we got back. Let’s hope it remains the case. Especially with the price of vet’s bills.


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