Week off (Wednesday): The Orbit
The Orbit was supposed to be Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's must-see, a lofty platform from which to oversee post-Games legacy and East London beyond. It hasn't quite worked out like that. Only 124,000 people visited during its first year (against a forecast of 350,000), and only 76,000 people have visited over the subsequent six months (suggesting this year's total will be even lower). The Orbit is losing the equivalent of £10,000 a week, and an ever-increasing series of special events isn't making much of a difference. When the weather's like this, it's not hard to see why. The windows stay splotched with rain, the upper storeys of Canary Wharfare shrouded in cloud, and you'll be lucky to see the City, let alone Wembley's arch. And yes, I know this because I've been up again. [7 photos]
A walk-up ticket now costs £12 (reduced from fifteen last year), but there's a much better price if you happen to live in a 2012 Host Borough. Just ten quid gets you an annual pass, and then you can come back as many times as you like. I'm on my third. The staff are always unfailingly polite, and pleased to see a visitor, especially out of season mid-week. They're also young and keen, and on-message, and up for a good chat (especially if there's nobody else around). I can confirm that it's impossible to see the field of play inside the Olympic Stadium, now that it's got a roof, but you will one day be able to watch the spectators during a West Ham home game. The Rugby World Cup Fanzone has packed up early, not because the Home Nations have been ejected, but because it was rubbish. The gardeners who planted out the Olympic Park chose their trees well to create a varied canvas of autumn shades. If a slide is ever added to the Orbit it'll start from the big square hole at the centre of the lower platform. And if you want to see some fireworks from above, they're opening late on Saturday 7th November. It's easy to be cynical about this white elephant, indeed its value as a tourist asset is increasingly under question. But, given that it's here, paying a few quid for half a dozen panoramic ascents across every season of the year still sounds like a bargain.