I’m reflecting on the places I’ve been to instead of the ones I can’t get to at the moment. One place that every tourist seems to go to is the London Eye. And so too I made my way into one of the pods last November for my own check on the tourist checklist. Opened to the public in 2000 to coincide with the new millennium, it also goes by the name Millennium Eye. According to Wikipedia, it’s “the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3.75 million visitors annually”. It was once the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world but has fallen to fourth place on the list. That might be true, but I don’t have a burning desire to go on the other three ahead of it. The London Eye has a certain charm the others haven’t earned. Location helps, of course, but there’s also a level of cultural history the London Eye has spun through that makes it feel more timeless than its twenty years.
It takes 30 minutes to make the trip around, and that feels about right to me. It’s slow enough that you can take your time getting a picture but fast enough that you aren’t getting restless. I took the ride with some random strangers and some close family. It’s interesting to experience the trip through other’s eyes, one very uncomfortable with heights who chose to stay right on the bench in the middle, the rest of us walking about to the edges of the glass pod looking around at seemingly all of London. Circling slowly to the highest point, you’re struck by the magnificence of the city around you, and the beauty of the Thames River as it flows below. It’s worth the money to experience this, and I’m grateful that I went.
March was the 20th birthday for the London Eye. It sits empty for the first time since it opened. Tough way to celebrate your birthday, I’d say. By my math, there have been roughly 75 million passengers in that time. That’s a lot of souls spinning around in that bit of sky. Mine amongst them. It’s a staggering statistic, and one the architects and engineers who built this magnificent machine can point to with pride. The experience was just as amazing for me in year 19 1/2 as it was for the first passengers in 2000. A chance to fly above the city, marveling at it all. But I took some of that time in our glass pod in the sky to examine this extraordinary structure supporting us on our slow turn. This amazing time machine of glass and steel and wondering, wandering souls collectively awestruck for two decades and counting. Surely a generous share of awe must be given to the London Eye?