Riding the London Eye When You’re Scared of Heights
What do you do when you’re scared of heights, and you want to see as much of London as you can, in a very short space of time? Why, you book yourself a couple of tickets on The London Eye, of course!
The London Eye
The London Eye was my idea (Er, going on it was my idea, I mean. I’m not trying to take credit for its creation or anything like that, because if, for some reason, I’d been tasked with coming up with a new London tourist attraction, I’d have suggested something much, MUCH closer to the ground…), and I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, I wouldn’t class my fear of heights as a particularly bad one (It’s not even close to my fear of crustaceans, for instance…), but I DID almost have to be sedated once at the top of the Eiffel Tower, so, you know, I’m not GREAT with heights either.
Terry, meanwhile, gets fairly severe vertigo even when crossing some bridges, so when I suggested that “Hey, one great way to see London would be from the top of a giant ferris wheel, while encased in a small glass pod!”, he did look at me kinda funny. Terry is a great believer in facing your fears whenever possible, though (He is the complete opposite to me in that respect: I’m a great believer in running as far away from your fears as possible. Like I said, I have NO IDEA what I was thinking with this one. Maybe that when I got to London, I would magically turn into a normal person?), so he readily agreed to my foolhardy plan, and went ahead and booked us some tickets. (Get them here.)
Arriving at The Eye
With this done, I promptly forgot all about our plan to invest almost £50 in scaring ourselves witless. I guess I was too distracted by working out which skirts would get least creased in my suitcase, and which shoes would be the most painful, or whatever. I actually didn’t think about The Eye again until we rounded a corner on our walk through London, and there it was in front of us.
“Look, Terry!” I shrieked excitedly, “There’s the London Eye!”
And then, “OMG, TERRY! THERE’S HOW WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”
Folks, it’s HUGE. Like, really, REALLY huge. And obviously, I knew this. I knew it was big. I just hadn’t actually processed that knowledge through my brain. (I do that a lot: it helps me get through life.)
“That CANNOT be safe,” I said.
“BANG!” said the thunder.
“CRASH!” said the lightning.
Oh yeah, did I mention we were surrounded by thunder and lightning at this point? We were surrounded by thunder and lightning at this point. And now we’d get to experience what thunder and lightning is like when you’re trapped inside a glass pod, high above the earth! YAY!
Luckily our tickets were flexible ones, so we were able to continue on our way, and come back to the Eye later. “We’ll just come back when the lightning stops,” said Terry. “Or when the crippling fear stops?” I suggested. Of course, only one of those DID actually stop, and it wasn’t The Fear. The Fear continued, and, indeed worsened, the closer we got to the structure. It felt a bit like The Death Star was pulling us in.
We collected our tickets and joined the line, and that’s when the rain started again, although thankfully without the accompanying thunder and lightning – whew! The first surprise came as I attempted to board our “pod”, and realised they weren’t going to stop it in order for me to get on. When you look at the Eye from the ground (and when you’re inside it, for that matter), it doesn’t actually look like it’s moving: it’s only when you try to cross from the nice, safe platform over to the pod, that the movement of the thing becomes obvious, and there was a brief moment where it looked like I might get left behind. “You didn’t SERIOUSLY think they’d stop the London Eye just for you?” asked Terry, once we were on board, but yes, I guess I did. Whoops.
But how scary is it?
Anyway! Now we were on board, and all that remained was for us to sit back and enjoy the ride! HA.
It takes around thirty minutes for the Eye to complete a rotation, and the first 10 minutes or so were fine: because it moves so slowly, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d been expecting, and the sight of London, spread out before you, is enough of a distraction to make you forget you’re suspended in mid-air for a while. We quickly worked out that as long as we looked AWAY from the structure of the wheel itself, and out of the other side of the pod, we were both pretty much OK with the height: it was only when we glanced back in the other direction, and realised that all that stood between us and a free-fall towards the earth was a few slim white tubes, that we started to freak out a bit. I’m actually amazed I have any photos at all to show you, because for a while there THIS was my view:
Then our carriage reached the top of the wheel, and OH MY GOD, that was pretty scary. In fact, I actually had to close my eyes for a couple of minutes. “Talk to me!” I said to Terry. “Say something to distract me!”
“We’re RIGHT on top of the thing!” Terry replied. “Sitting RIGHT at the top. It’s really, REALLY freaky, and we still have to go all the way down, too!”
Which… wasn’t really the type of distraction I had in mind, you know?
Once we’d made it over the top, as it were, however, we both started to feel a bit safer. We even managed to stand up and go over to the window, although as you can probably tell from my hunched demeanor and general lack of hip-popping, I wasn’t exactly in my element.
We did it, though! And although there were a few hairy moments near the top, it wasn’t SO scary that I wouldn’t do it again if the opportunity presented itself. (And, you know, if someone else was paying for it…) The views, it goes without saying (Also without photographing, apparently…), are spectacular, even when you’re looking at them from behind your hands, so we were really glad we’d felt the fear and did it anyway.
We were also really glad our next stop on the trip was the restaurant we were meeting my friend in: that glass of wine was very, very welcome…