The London Eye has always been an attraction for the photographic possibilities, but queuing which can be a problem at peak times and the cost and discomfort of rail travel has always put us off. So when Kirby Coaches put on an autumn day trip including the Arab Emirates Cable Car and a boat trip it seemed the ideal solution. The pick up route was Route D, new to us and worked well. The only bad hold up was the notorious light controlled pedestrian crossing in Shenfield. Becky was a superb coach driver, always picking the right lane and optimum route.
The last time out of Woodham, we had to queue for the Shaw Farm roundabout, and so we left early and went via the Burnham exit. We had little problem, and arrived early, so sat in the car listening to the mp3. We noticed several people had the same blue coats and it turned out it was the Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir off to Wales. We saw that our Mayor, Sam, was a member, though he didn't see us as we pulled away in the coach. We only had four stops, Rayleigh Station, Billericay, Brentwood and Harold Wood. We used the M25, A13 and Blackwall Tunnel to arrive beside the O2 and take the cable car for a return trip. The first map shows our route and the second gives the London part on a larger scale
The cable car (Google, web site) is a means of crossing the river but it is really a tourist attraction. You do get a good view of the east end of London with the Greenwich peninsula, the Thames barrier and Docklands, but photography is hampered by shooting through glass which can give troublesome reflections. On previous trips I think Kirby's have done it from the Essex side, this time we went from the Kent side. The original description indicated that there would be free time at the O2 to get lunch so Carol researched what was available using Google Earth and made sure she knew the way around. She also checked on permission for photography in the O2 since this can be a problem, but it is OK with small personal cameras, only SLRS with big lenses are a problem. The research was not helpful, as the coach took us down to Greenwich for our free time (2 hours) and this is where we caught the boat. Carol did some photography in the market; some stall holders were rather snotty, but others were friendly and helpful, thanks Nicky.
There are boats from the O2 but these are the catamaran "clippers" which go quite a bit faster. From Greenwich pier we had an 8 knot river bus, run by City Cruises which gives you more time to see the sights, helped by a Waterman commentary. It was not as sunny as it was on the Pocahontus, but it didn't rain and sometimes flat lighting can be easier than high contrast full sun. This time we went all the way up to Westminster, the tide not being on Spring and the boat being flat without a tall funnel, there was no problem with the bridges. There was a stop at Tower pier where a whole load more got on, then on to Westminster pier where most got off again and more got on. We stayed on board and were taken across to the other side to get off at the Waterloo millennium pier.
Tickets had been bought for us while we were at Greenwich, so didn't have to queue for those, but just for the London Eye itself. The queue moved quite quickly and took about fifteen minutes before we got in to a pod. There are seats in the centre and these quickly fill up with the first on board, but the best views are from the end, and once people realised this, with later arrivals standing there, there was a rush for the window positions and seats became vacant The trip round the circumference takes about half an hour, and there is plenty of time to see every thing. People move about to see the different views and everyone gets a chance to see. The wheel keeps revolving very slowly the whole time, but it does stop occasionally to let wheel chairs on or off. The tickets included entrance to a 3D (called 4D?) film but we didn't bother with this.
The coach was waiting for us in Belvedere Road, just outside Jubilee Gardens. We got from the Festival Hall to the Tower, via Waterloo Bridge and The Aldwich in just over half an hour, and that was despite Tower bridge being closed. We came out of London on the Highway, such a boon since the closure of the docks, and to my surprise, instead of a snarl up at Limehouse where we used to have to go back to the Vommerial Road, there is a tunnel, the Limehouse Link, which brings you out on the A13 by Canary Wharf. That would have been useful in my days, when we had to go through London to get to the M4, before they built the M25.
The images are all reduced to about 25% for the web, so not as much detail can be seen as in the originals. Click on a thumnail for a page size image.