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Flying across the Thames in London’s cable car

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Looking down onto the famous dome of the 02 Arena with its spikes jutting out all over, it reminded me of those half grapefruits you used to get at parties in the 70s, covered in cocktail sticks – only someone’s forgotten to add the pineapple, cheese and tiny pearl onions.   I was gliding gently over the River Thames from the Royal Victoria Terminal in Docklands to the Greenwich Peninsula in the Emirates Air Line, London’s only cable car.

O2 arena from Emirates Air Line

Opened in time for the London Olympics 2012 it’s a really fun way to travel – and also very cheap.  If you use your Oyster Card you can cross for £3.20 and it’s only £4.30 for a standard adult ticket.

I’d been at the World Travel Market for three days and needed some fresh air – it gets very claustrophobic in the ExCel Centre and a friend suggested going on the Air Line.  Ten minutes later I was boarding one of the red and white gondolas and being gently rocked out and up into the sky.  The journey only takes about 10 minutes and from a height of 90 metres the views are glorious.

Royal Docks, Excel Centre and Emirates gondola

The zigzag roof of Excel Centre got smaller as we floated up, up and away.  It’s almost silent with just a swooshing hiss and the occasional Health & Safety briefing from a woman seemingly trapped inside the metal framework …  A sheet of sunlight flashed along the river illuminating the yachts, fishing boats, ferries and other craft on the Thames.

River Thames from Emirates Air LineIn the other direction St Paul’s Cathedral stands out, protecting the City and the newly opened Shard thrusts its way towards the clouds.  The white buildings of The Old Naval College Greenwich are laid out in graceful proportions below and the Olympic Park is a reminder of our summer of glory.  Framed in silhouette behind the O2 Arena I could see the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and somewhere in amongst them was the luxurious flat I was staying in.  (I can highly recommend Central London Serviced Apartments – a really practical alternative to a hotel.)  It’s an amazingly uplifting sensation to see London’s famous landmarks from this jaw-droppingly splendid perspective.

Canary Wharf and O2 Arena from Emirates Air LinePassing gondolas going the opposite way, everyone was smiling, waving and taking photos of the wonderful 360 panorama.  Each one can take up to 10 passengers, which could possibly feel a bit crowded.  In mine there was just one Chinese tourist and an Italian visitor to the WTM and the three of us enjoyed the journey in quiet delight.

As we slowly drifted down towards the Greenwich Terminal a disembodied voice thanked us for flying with Emirates and hoped we’d be joining them again.  Most certainly – I had to get back and there was only one way I was going to travel.  Now … where’s the Duty Free shop?

Did you know you can use your Oyster travel card on the London Cable Car? Buy before you fly and get 25% off.


Zoë Dawes aka The Quirky TravellerYou can read more of Zoë Dawes‘ entertaining articles on her travels around the UK and abroad in her blog Quirky Traveller’s Tales where she shares secret places off-the beaten track and travels in mind, body and spirit. Follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and ‘like’ her page on Face Book

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