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When you live in London, it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of forgetting there’s a huge, ever-changing city out there to explore. I’m certainly guilty of it. The enthusiasm with which you once absorbed every piece of information you read or heard about a new exhibition, a weekend-long food festival or an exciting part of town you’re yet to visit fades away in the daily bustle of busy crowds and just trying to get to places on time with your make-up still firmly on your face. Exhibitions become just another thing to add to your overwhelming to-do list, trying new food just means trying a new dish at your favourite restaurant and any place you haven’t visited is just that – a mere fact rather than a potential adventure.
Sorry if that all sounded a bit… gloomy. I promise it’s still me here. I guess I just felt like a slightly dramatic introduction today.
Because everything that’s to follow is anything BUT gloomy. It’s one of the nicest surprises – and a slight wake-up moment, if you like – that I’ve had in a while. You see, another thing about living in London is that you begin to think you know the city. Like, really know it. You forget that your initial enthusiasm for discovering new things might not be what it was and take it for granted that things are still happening. That there are still heaps of places you don’t know at all.
The area surrounding the Emirates Airline was one of those unknown places for me until I discovered it last weekend. Taking a trip on the airline has been on my London bucket list (anyone want a post on that? Holla at me) since I moved here, but I had no idea that there was more to do than just travel by cable car and then head back home.
In fact, it was over an hour before we actually hopped onto the airline because there’s a small-but-really-cool exhibition called the Emirates Aviation Experience next to the station. Inside, fellow plane-loving freaks (and everybody else) can watch the processes an aeroplane’s engine goes through to get us off the ground, watch a plane in Dubai go through the entire process from landing to take-off, including refueling, unloading, loading and maintenance, before playing the interactive game to see if they can get a plane ready in the same amount of time. (Spoiler: I can’t.)
You can also – and this is the BEST bit of all – take a 30-minute flying “lesson” in one of four simulators. Yes, you get to be a pilot!! As I quickly learned, that doesn’t mean you get to be a good pilot who can actually land a plane, but if my dad and I can avoid crashing into the ocean then anyone can. You may just hit a few stationary planes while doing so. Oops.
Flying lesson drama over, we ascended pressure-free on the airline itself. My first thought was something along the lines of, wow, this is high. I took the above photo while we were on our way day into the Victoria Dock side of the cable car line, but the first two photos in this post should give you a good idea of just how high we were going. If you don’t fancy a trip up the Shard, or even if you’ve been, this is a great way to get a 360-degree view of one side of London.
Once we landed in Victoria Dock, we headed to the ‘Crystal’ building next to the station. Inside, to my surprise, was one of the best museums I’ve been to. And even if you hate museums, stay with me here, because this wasn’t your ordinary museum. It was a hybrid museum exhibition and it’s all interactive. You know all that boring stuff you used to have to read about at school in PSHE classes? Somehow that all becomes super interesting and fun at The Crystal.
I’d never heard of The Crystal before Sunday so I entered with zero expectations. The building itself is pretty futuristic-looking, which is a clue as to what you’ll find in the exhibition inside. It’s one of the most sustainable buildings in the world and uses solar power and a ground source pump to create all its own energy.
As someone with far too much “stuff” (yep, I admitted it!), I was amazed at how much you can find in the building’s small museum. You could walk around the museum in about 2 minutes, but could easily spend an entire day there exploring everything it has to offer, broken down into 10 “zones”, which range from healthy life to creating cities.
One of my favourite zones was the “Keep Moving” section, which is all about transport. You can put your stamina to the test and see how much power you can create from pedalling a Boris bike or see how much CO2 your journey to the museum would have used. I was surprised to learn that the underground is so energy-efficient that the escalators into it emit more CO2 than the Tube itself!
I also loved the “Safe and Sound” section, where you can learn all about the systems used to keep us safe. I gave my recognition skills a try on the ID check game but clearly won’t be getting a job in passport control any time soon…
My favourite part of all, however, was the cinema screen-sized film showing what three of the world’s biggest cities could look like in 50 years’ time. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you do go, but if you can’t make it you can also watch it here (but seriously, go if you ever get chance!).
For anyone interested in the world and human life (all of us I hope!), the Emirates airline, Aviation Experience and The Crystal make a really fantastic day out.,whether you’re planning a family outing or a girly weekend in London. Especially if you’ve exhausted all the usual London spots or fancy checking out somewhere a little less touristy. I’d love to hear what you think of it if you go!
Have you been on the Emirates Airline before? Where are your favourite lesser-known places to go in London?