Monday, 14 February 2011
London Landmarks - London Eye
My friend is angling her blackberry around. When she points it south (hello Mum!) it tells us that we're in Lambeth. When she points it towards Big Ben it tells us that we're in Westminster. We're suitably impressed and set about tweeting pictures of ourselves suspended in the clouds. Self-promotion never stops. Even at 135 metres in the air.
It's an overcast day but the 'flight' (now sponsored by new partners EDF, as we are reminded fairly frequently) is still impressive. Half an hour passes in the blink of an eye and, aside from a slightly stressful moment during embarkation where I worry that I'll be tipped into the Thames, I rarely notice that we're moving. Everything is still and even though it's drizzly we're amazed at how far we can see. As residents of the fine city both of us come at the experience from a different viewpoint to the tourists we're sharing a pod with. They, understandably, see the whole thing as an exercise in naming and pointing out landmarks, desperately clutching at their guide books. Wasn't that where we were this morning? I wonder if the Queen's at home? I'm much more content just to stand and stare, master of all I survey, or something.
It's interesting to see a side of London that you only ever get to glimpse pulling into City Airport. The whole of the city's history, from St Paul's to the nearly completed Shard jostle for your attention, snaking around a Thames which looks from this height like a muddy vein or artery. The Olympic stadium looks suitably imposing. The glass roof at the back of Charing Cross station (something I've never really paid attention to) fans out majestically and is strangely striking. The Houses of Parliament are monumentally big (perhaps to house all those egos). These are the things that stand out more than anything. Below, the people are literally the size of ants. You feel like a giant. If you press your thumbs against the glass you can make believe that you're squashing them. Pretty cool.
It often feels like Londoners are too insular, too wrapped up in what's going on in their own area. I shocked a University friend the other day who was wondering whether she could go long distance with a guy in Birmingham by admitting that I would struggle to date someone who was right at the end of an opposing tube line. From this height you get a sense of London as a whole and you realise that actually, it's not that big. You also realise that there's a world beyond the city we call home, and that while London's not the centre of the universe, it's still the best place in the world.