On Wednesday we went to the opening of this year’s Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick House Gardens in West London. For the second year, the park is a riot of colours from the many illuminated outdoor installations of amazing lantern sculptures, inspired by the traditional Chinese festival marking the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, which go back to the Western Han Dynasty ( 206BC-AD 25).
This year’s theme is Explore the Silk Road, with the journey taking you from Europe through the Mediterranean, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India, and Central Asia all the way to Ancient China. Scenes representing this important trading route for spices, tea, gems and silks, which also dates back to the Western Han Dynasty, depict scenes from modern day Europe, like a fashion show in Paris to Aladdin in One Thousand and One Nights, from Indian elephants to one of Admiral Zheng He’s legendary ships with which he sailed the Maritime Silk Route.
Of course there are also lanterns and sculptures reminding us, that we are about to enter The Year of the Rooster on Chinese New Year next weekend. The rooster represents the tenth of the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac and it is said that people born under this sign are observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented, as well as active and healthy. All great attributes, so we can forgive them for sometimes being moody, sensitive and stressed!
Other attractions include an authentic ice bar, the Eis Haus Ice Bar, where you can drink shots from ice glasses in temperatures of -9°C and marvel at the fantastic ice sculptures, which include a polar bear, a life size throne you can actually sit in and, of course, a rooster. Don’t worry about the cold, they are happy to hand out ski suits, warm hats and gloves to anybody who needs them. Outside is another bar and plenty of seats to enjoy the après-ski ambience.
Food and drink is supplied by a variety of quality street vendors, making sure that your culinary experience is as unique as the event itself. Game Keeper serve their famous venison burgers, Cattle-Axe have steak sandwiches and crispy chilli squid, at Notso you can try katsu chicken curry and teriyaki noodles or what about a taste of the Alps from Le Rac Shack and their wonderful Raclette with melted cheese, Toulouse sausage, crushed new potatoes and cornichons? Or what about roasted duck on noodles, a healthy salad with duck or duck gyoazas and spring rolls from Simply Duck ? Still hungry? Los Churros Amigos serve fresh churros with delicious melted Belgian chocolate, The Marshmallowist has boozy gourmet marshmallows for grown ups you can melt yourself over an open fire. Drinks? Lakwatsa serves bubble tea in traditional and unique flavours and Beltane & Pop are on hand with winter warmers like hot chocolate, mulled wine and hot whisky.
A special shout out to Lemon Celli, who have come all the way from Totnes in Devon to Chiswick with their little French van, to serve crêpes, waffles, coffees, shakes and a truly luxurious hot chocolate. Paul ‘Mr. Lemon Celli’ and his helpers are charming and we had a lovely chat. Do say ‘hello’ from us if you go and visit!
There is also a virtual reality gaming experience and a mini funfair with a Ferris wheel. There is also supposed to be an artificial ice rink, but that was not up and running when we visited.
The party itself was in a giant marquee in the food village, looking out on a giant illuminated tea pot and cups and it was attended by many dignitaries, both local and from China, celebrities, journalists and bloggers. The canapés were delicious and so were the cocktails supplied by the Blue Bottle Gin guys from Guernsey. The Gin & Tonics and Martinis were excellent. Thank you!
The festival is on until February 26th, 2017.
Opening times are Thursdays to Sundays, 17.00h to 22.00h and every day during half term.
Tickets are £16.50 (+ £1.61) for adults, £10.50 (+ £1.21) for children (4-16) and £14.50 (+ £1.49) for concessions. There are also group and family tickets available.
Extra tickets need to be booked for the Eis Haus and other activities.
For more information and bookings go to:
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