Thursday, April 15

The Eye

Any blog from London at some point must include a description of the London Eye, one of the most surreal objects here or anywhere. It rises above the river with burnt South Bank, Lambeth and Southwark behind it. I snap this photo crossing Westminster Bridge on a clear, windy, night following a fancy, schmoozy, dinner at Whitehall honoring excellence in private equity. My friends at Astorg Partners take top-honours for France and we share a celebratory table. Bravo. The Eye, meanwhile, inspired by the Grande Roule which seems appropriate given my mates. It stands 135 meters and the largest Ferris wheel in Europe; it has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over three-million people each year. Good God. When built in '99, it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel, since surpassed by others, yet remains "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" as the entire structure supported by an A-frame on one side only. Still Number One, people. Still Number One.

A spin around the wheel takes 30 minutes and each 'pod' carries 25 people, who queue for hours to see London from above. It is also popular with local companies who serve champagne and prawns wooing Chinese clients. Or such. The views are, indeed, splendid and uninterrupted when facing north until the BT Tower or City Centre then the Millbank Tower west. The building behind the Eye, lending some perspective, is the Shell Centre at 27-stories. The last time I took a turn with Bill and Martine.

"The Eye has done for London what the Eiffel Tower did for Paris, which is to give it a symbol and to let people climb above the city and look back down on it. Not just specialists or rich people, but everybody. That's the beauty of it: it is public and accessible, and it is in a great position at the hear of London."
--Sir Richard Rogers, architect