In keeping with the current Chinese New Year festivities, last week we paid a visit to the Magic Lantern Festival at Chiswick House. My friend managed to get us free tickets – which is just as well as the ticket price for a family of four is the best part of £60 an amount that is slightly out of my budget at the moment. So once the sun had gone down (you need darkness for lights to look their best) I put my two reluctant children in the car (she was reluctant cos she saw it last year, and he just wanted to stay in an watch Top Gear and as he says is ‘just not into lights…’), picked up my friend and drove to Chiswick House.
Although it was a quiet Thursday evening, the car park was full but we did easily manage to find parking in a nearby residential road. Having parked up we walked down the driveway to Chiswick House, which was flanked by beautiful light installations all the way down to the box office. It was probably the coldest night of the year so far – in fact the lake inside the gardens had even frozen over in parts which was eerie and beautiful, displaying plenty of logs sitting on the icy surface that were being reflected against the lights in a beautiful way.
The Magic Lantern trail was stunning, although some of the light installations were rather random to say the least. The Eiffel Tower complete with fashion show jostled for attention alongside a caravan of camels (yes that is the correct collective noun). A massive Buddha sat opposite giant pandas, whilst a life-size elephant stands on top of a tall column. And each installation has an explanation alongside it, translated charmingly from the Chinese to English in such a bad way that it brings a smile to your face.
Halfway round the trail we sampled the tastiest hot chocolate anyone in our party had ever tried – although at £4.50 for a small cup it wanted to be! Then at the end of the trail we enjoy some tasty streetfood in the warmth of a large marquee. All in all we had a great couple of hours walking the Magic Lantern trail, although don’t bother buying tickets that including the ice rink as it really is the smallest most embarrassing makeshift rink I’ve seen since the 80s! So how did it compare to the Kew Gardens Christmas lights that we saw just before Christmas? Well the jury’s still out on that one. The kids say it’s better, and I can see why it appeals to kids more as it is more fun, more bold, bright and beautiful in many ways – and definitely not at all high-brow. But in truth I would say I enjoyed both, finding them to be very different experiences from each other.