It’s been on the London skyline for some 14 years but for one reason or another I have never ever visited it. However my other selection had been around for over 200 years but the last time I visited was some 20 years ago!
Its rather obvious and you have probably guessed that I am talking about the London Eye or to give it its full name the EDF Energy London Eye, but I will keep you guessing about the other one? Well for a few paragraphs!
As a London tourist icon and must-do visit it can’t be too far behind The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London.
The overall experience is up there in both senses of the meaning. The views over the city and the ride to get to the top are calm but certainly fun. I joined a gondola along with around 15 other souls mainly oriental tourists but a few from the UK and EU.
Getting that number tourists on swiftly as the gondola glides sedately past is quite an art for the Merlin Entertainments team; who line up small groups of around 5 into neat rows and then shepherded them into the gondola making sure the pod doors were secured before it exited the ‘runway’ area.
The slow serene and smooth revolving giant wheel soon had you aloft as the gondola itself spins to keep the pod in the vertical position. Extensive views over the South Bank, Big Ben, the Thames and many of the city’s landmarks beyond are part of what you are paying for, so make the most of it and snap away.
There was an excited buzz in the capsule, as we got higher, the snapping of cameras and phones was at almost shattering shutter proportions when we neared the summit of the rotation.
If I thought that was of mega proportions then I had a shock in store when I went off to visit my second venue of the day.
Just a short walk from the Baker Street underground and I was standing by what I, and many of my generation k as the London Planetarium. No longer the case the exterior is still there but now incorporated into Madam Tussauds.
Oh how it had changed!
My visit some 20 years ago was to a somewhat dour and formal experience of roped off wax figures of the stars, the great and the good, plus the not so good, but once through the doors the world had changed and today you are in for a full-on red carpet ride.
The paparazzi seemed to have nothing on the visitors that I witnessed feverishly snapping away at film, pop and sport stars that I found myself suddenly in the middle of. No roped off areas here in the 21st century, this was a free for all ‘Pap’ experience for hundreds of excited visitors.
The no holds barred, well nearly, interactive policy of the venue allows you to touch, cuddle the stars in a way that you would get arrested for in real life, and years ago at Madame Tussauds would have too. The quality of the models is really excellent far better in my opinion than I ever remember in the past.
Posing with the Royal family was very popular along with film stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, plus all the current Hollywood hero’s and villains. Fans sitting among the boy band One Direction was another popular place to pose.
Once past these film star mobbing type frantic displays a more sedate ride through the history of London in a cut down taxi-cab followed and was a nice interlude. Until again more razzmatazz before entering the brand 4D Marvels Super Hero’s lair now sited in the old Planetarium building that had always adjoined Madame Tussauds but was now massive 3D cinema.
Here after a period of queuing we were ushered into this brand experience with added elements of jets of air and water sprayed at key moments during the 10minute film. Additional prods in the back or chairs moving were all part of the fun. Screaming youngsters and teenage girls seemed to dominate here but the 200 of us that watched The Hulk, Spiderman and his friends save London was out of this world.
In some ways it was a time warp rather like the stars and galaxies that were once shone over the giant dome in its past. Now the computer generated stars were right in front of your face as long as you remembered to wear the 3D glasses they give you.