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Millennium Wheel

It was my father’s 53rd birthday (October 2009). We booked a champagne flight on the London Eye via Internet (www.londoneye.com) as a surprise.

Price and booking

The champagne flight costs 35 pounds for adults and children older than 4 years if you buy the ticket in the ticket office and you get 10% discount if you book online. We had to choose from nine flight times (12.00; 13.00; 14.00; 15.00; 16.00; 17.00; 18.00; 19.00 and 20.00). We decided to get the one starting at 12 o’clock.

My hubby booked the tickets. He visited the official site of London Eye (www.londoneye.com) then pressed the Tickets and Prices button. Then he checked the Flights: the third is the Champagne Flight, you can find a short description about the content of the price and there is a link where you can book your tickets via Internet.

The London Eye

I’m sure that 99% of you know what London Eye is and probably 90% of you have already tried it. I’m writing this paragraph for those who are curious.

The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is located on the south bank of the Thames in London, between the Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. It was created by David Marks and Julia Barfield (they are married). It was constructed in 1998-1999 for celebrating the Millennium. Formally it was opened by Tony Blair on 31 December 1999 but due to technical difficulties the public could try it only in March 2000. Since then it is the most popular tourist attraction in UK.

The wheel is 135 m high which (in 2009) is the highest observation wheel in Europe. There are two higher wheels in the world at the moment: Singapore Flyer (165 m) and Star of Nanchang (160 m).

There are 32 sealed and air conditioned egg-shaped capsules which go around continuously at 0.9 km/h speed. The capsules are for 25 people. On the champagne flight usually there are less people (due to its high price).

The champagne flight

The flight takes about 30 minutes and on the champagne flight a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne is served in plastic glasses. The glasses actually look like normal champagne glasses made of glass. We just realised that it was made of plastic when we clinked our glasses. The champagne is cold and tastes good. I’m not a champagne fan so I won’t review the champagne is detail. You can drink orange juice or mineral water instead of champagne of course. A further glass of champagne can be bought for 10 pounds.

The normal flight

We tried the normal flight a few months earlier. There were a lot of people in the capsule but we had enough time to go around and take photos of the main attractions. It is forbidden drinking and eating in the capsules.

What can you see from the wheel?

As there are hundreds of famous buildings, statues, parks that can be seen from the London Eye I chose only a few of them and I list them according to their geographical location.

North

– Charing Cross Station which is a central London railway terminus known also as London Charing Cross. The station’s name comes from its location next to road junction of Charing Cross.

– The BT Tower is a 189 metres tall cylindrical building located at 60 Cleveland Street. In 2000 a seven coloured lighting was set all around so the building’s night appearance has become more distinctive.

– Centre Point is a 117 metre high office building made mostly of concrete and glass. It is located at 101-103 New Oxford Street. The building was constructed between 1963 and 1966.

– British Museum was established in 1753 mostly based on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane. It was opened to the public in 1759. It is the museum of human history and culture.

– Cleopatra’s Needle is an Ancient Egyptian obelisk re-erected on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges. There are three obelisks, one was re-erected in New York and forms a pair with this one. The third one is in Paris.

East

– St. Paul’s Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral on the highest point of the City of London. It is the seat of the Bishop of London. The building dates from the 17th century.

– OXO Tower is a prominent building on the south bank of the Thames. Originally the building was constructed as a power station for the Post Office. Later it was acquired by Liebing Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of OXO beef stock cubes.

– Tate Modern Gallery is Britain’s national museum of international modern art. The building originally was the Bankside Power Station and was closed in 1981. The gallery opened in 2000.

– Waterloo Station is also known as London Waterloo. It is a major railway terminus in London own and operated by Network Rail. It is a very large and crowded station with underground connection.

South

– Lambeth Palace is located on the south bank of the Thames almost opposite to the Palace of Westminster. It is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

– Millbank Tower is a 118 metres high skyscraper at 21-24 Millbank, London. It was constructed in 1963 for Vickers and the tower originally was known as Vickers Tower.

– Battersea Power Station has a four chimney layout. Actually it consists of two individual power stations. The A power station was built in the 1930s while the B power station in the 1950s. The building is located on the south bank of the River Thames.

– Houses of Parliament is also known as the Palace of Westminster. It is located on the north bank of the River Thames. The building mainly dates from the 19th century.

– Big Ben is the great bell of the clock but is often extended to refer to the clock or the clock tower as well. It is located at the north-eastern end of the Palace of Westminster. This clock tower is the third tallest free standing clock tower in the world. The highest is Old Joe in Birmingham.

– Westminster Abbey is located to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is mainly a Gothic church from 1546-1556 governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

West

– Her Majesty’s Treasury is the UK government department responsible for the development and execution of the British government’s public finance policy and economic policy.

– Foreign Office is the British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the UK overseas.

– Buckingham Palace is located in the City of Westminster. It is the official London residence of the British Monarch.

– The Green Park is one of the Royal Parks in London located between St. James’s Park and Hyde Park. There are fabulous big old trees in this park. Actually this is my favourite park.

– St. James’s Park is the oldest Royal Parks of London. It is situated near the Buckingham Palace. There is a small lake in the park with lots of ducks and swans. There are a lot of beautiful and friendly squirrels in the park.

– Nelson Column is a monument located at Trafalgar Square. The column is 46 metres high and on the top of it stands the 5.5 metres high statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson. The granite column was built between 1840 and 1843.

– Wembley Stadium is a 90,000 capacity stadium located in Wembley Park in London. It is the second largest stadium in Europe. The largest one is Camp Nou in Barcelona. In Wembley Stadium will take place the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final.

My opinion

Our goal was to make a surprise for my father. Actually he was very surprised and enjoyed the flight. As the champagne was served only a few minutes after the boarding it was a surprise as well. I have to admit that the champagne was not as good to pay 17 pounds per person for it but as it was our birthday surprise it was worth paying more.

I like watching London from the capsules. It is a beautiful city and there are a lot of beautiful buildings. I prefer the old ones to the new skyscrapers. The wheel turns around slowly enough to make great pictures. I made some again but mostly I concentrated on my father.

I think the London Eye is a fantastic tourist attraction and going up 135 metres above the ground you see the beautiful panorama of London. I can compare this experience to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I know that it is higher, but the view is fabulous from both of them. According to the media it is UK’s most popular tourist attraction. Not even the credit crunch had effect on its number of visitors. When my kids will be older we will go to see it again. My elder son saw pictures on London Eye while I made some research to my review and he shouted wheel. I hope my younger one will enjoy it too because this time he slept over the flight.

If you haven’t seen it yet pick up your camera and pop on it!