If you tuned in to London 2012, chances are you’ll have caught a glimpse of a cherry-red, spaghetti-like structure in the corner of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a fusion of design and engineering; an icon of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Back in September, Laurence and I headed to London to ride ‘The Slide’ (amongst other things), our birthday present from my thoughtful little sister. We swung by Aux Pains de Papy (279 Grays Inn Road) for a viennoiserie-fix before scooting over to Stratford. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is only a short walk from the station, and we arrived in good time for our slot.
Beneath the ArcelorMittal Orbit information boards tell the story behind the sculpture, from the very first conversation between Boris Johnson (then-Mayor of London) and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal through to its construction and the creation of ‘The Slide’ a few years after the Games. An impressive 60% of the ArcelorMittal Orbit is made from recycled steel, using components from everyday items such as washing machines and used cars.
Having stowed our belongings in a locker, we zipped up to the top in the lift and joined the (slow-moving) queue. Although you can’t have anything in your pockets (that includes phones, cameras and the like) while on ‘The Slide’, you can come back up to the top afterwards to take photos.
‘The Slide’ is a fairly new addition to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, and at 178m Carsten Höller’s creation is the world’s longest tunnel slide. I hopped into the sleeping bag-like sack and gripped the handle until I was given the green-light. Then: whoosh. There were stomach dropping sections (it’s definitely best to have lunch afterwards!), twists and turns galore and fleeting glimpses of the City through transparent panels. All in all, I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for skyline views with a shot of adrenaline on the side.
Laurence whizzed down after me – and, like me, stopped slightly short of the end and had to wriggle out by himself. We then retrieved our cameras and headed back up to the top to take in the views.
We checked out the Lego McLaren which was on display at Westfield Stratford City (and came away with a free Lego model) before grabbing a bite to eat. Our next stop was Stepney City Farm, just a couple of stops away on the Tube.
Stepney City Farm is home to donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, ‘small furries’ (that’s adorable guinea pigs and rabbits to you and me) and a flurry of feathered friends; a bubble of rural life in the heart of Tower Hamlets. When we visited, a ten-strong litter of piglets were rolling around in the mud and basking in the sun.
Before we knew it, closing time was upon us. We decided to make the most of the sunny weather and walk towards the City (detouring via Tesco for an ice-cold can of Coke and a punnet of raspberries; a winning combo). We popped into the Camera Museum, then meandered up towards Kings Cross to round the day off with a scoop of the good stuff from Ruby Violet’s (a lunchtime haunt for me in the summer months, and a spot Laurence hadn’t yet been to).
- Arrive in good time for your ride, though be aware you won’t be able to go on ‘The Slide’ before your timed slot.
- Stow any bags and coats in the lockers beneath the sculpture before you ride; tokens to operate the lockers can be loaned for a quid from the ticket office. Don’t forget to return the token and reclaim your pound before you exit the attraction. (We did. Oops.)
- Catch the Tube (Hammersmith and City or District) to Stepney Green, and Stepney City Farm is but a hop, skip and a jump away. Entry is free and, as of September 2019, it’s open 10:00-16:00 Tuesday to Sunday.