London Eye - Fast Track
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London Eye Capsule rising above horizon against blue skyLondon Eye - Fast Track
by Chartreuse 2009/5/26 22:27

Fast track is not just for the impatient with extra pocket money. If you have, or have a friend who has, a mobility-related disability this is designed to facilitate access. However, either way, it takes a certain amount of planning. Step One: find out how much it costs and, if applicable, what proof of disability is required.

At the Official London Eye site under Tickets and Prices, if you are thinking Big Wheel, you will look in vain for 'Rides'. No, your journey around the Eye is a 'flight'. Doesn't that have to involve wings, you ask? Well, actually as it turns out the Oxford English Dictionary's sufficiently loose definition 'passing through the air' allows for this apparent distortion of the fact.

Fast Track will cost you an extra tenner on the Standard £17.00 fee and if you're disabled it's only £14 for both you and a friend to help out. What if you're not obviously disabled? How do you find out what proof to bring. I couldn't find it on the site and in the end had to resort to the telephone. A Blue Badge or a relevant letter from a government department will get you what you need. Interestingly, and rather worryingly, when the Blue Badge was handed over, the staff member didn't check the ID side so it could have been anyone's.

At first it was difficult to see what the advantage the Fast Track queue was giving us. At least the hand rail provided some support and gave us time to read Wordsworth's 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' displayed on the wall. A sort of UK equivalent to 'New York, New York' without the dancing. Our education wait also provided us with the chance to read, 'David Marks and Julia Barfield', the names of the husband and wife team of visionary architectural skills and delightfully PC gender balance. In addition, the now Slow Track gave us a chance to experience the people around us. The crying infant in front was balanced by a friendly American couple who were pleased we were between them and the noise pollution. We felt we were doing our bit for the Tourist Industry.

Finally staff then explained that this wait was unusual but was caused by a queasy passenger delivering their lunch onto the ramp. On the way UP to the ride? Sorry, flight? Once evidence of the accident had been removed Fast Track finally lived up to its name and in a couple of minutes we were on the 'deck'.

The capsule doesn't usually stop. You can request it to stop whilst boarding if you're either elderly or disabled. Without that there is all the excitement of the urgency to cross the inches wide gap to the Thames below. Once inside you can recover on the wooden bench that runs down the centre of the capsule so you can view and shoot (photographs) from there. The movement is barely perceptible with only the occasional judder as it occasionally stops.

Passengers politely allowed each other views and times at the windows to take pictures and even took photographs on behalf of each other. We clicked away at bridges, boats, greenery and buildings below. As I set up to photograph the neighbouring capsule an attractive young Japanese man co-operatively struck a heroic pose for me as it rose above the horizon. Click. Nice.

As the capsule descended the sunlight was shining in and the colours of the passenger clothing was reflecting off the glass so clear shots were more difficult. Coming in to land passengers are invited to stand at the north-east end of the capsule at the window and smile at the camera. £10 please, if you'd like to have a copy from the gift shop.

It was a clear day, blue sky, London looking bright and shiny with red buses usefully providing a splash of red amongst the blue and green and architecture. Thoroughly enjoyable with excitement compounded of the glorious view, boarding and disembarking and battling with height consciousness. Surrounded by tourists it was difficult not to have a sense of pride in the scale, beauty variety of my city. The Americans said how friendly people are here and they would be back.

If you only have one day or even a couple of hours in the Capital this is excellent way to 'do' all the sites: a visual and historical sweep of London, from St Paul's to the Gherkin.

Fast track? Normally a quick queue and a 30-minute coverage of the city. If time or access is of the essence this is the best, if unpredictable, choice.

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