6 February 2017

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival - a magical mystery tour down the Silk Road

Something all of the long-term expat guidebooks don't tell you, is how one of the problems living in London is how simply much there is to do. Literally every night presents a cornucopia of options - shiny new restaurants to eat in, recently launched clubs to try out, established theatre performances to re-watch and the wonderfully terrible problem of decided whether to go back to an old favourite or try something untried. How do you pick what to do in London?

Hello FOMO my old friend.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

On any given weeknight - let alone the offerings on the weekend - it's possible to spend a night at the opera, partake in a variety of art exhibitions, wander through museums, chortle in comedy clubs, pop to the cinema or sing along to a musical. It can be so overwelming that you miss things out due to sheer choice.

Well, this year we FINALLY managed to visit the Chinese Lantern festival in Chiswick House Gardens.

 Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Disclaimer: It was cool in every sense of the word.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Wrapped up in a fair few layers (and warmed through from a lovely dinner earlier) we made our way down to the London Borough of Hounslow in West London - which is actually much closer to central than everyone thinks - and stepped into another world.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

We've visited the beautiful house and gardens of Chiswick House a regal Palladian villa designed by Lord Burlington, on a sunny later summer afternoon years ago and woven through the giggling families having a kick about, but our recent visit recently was an entirely different experience.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi
Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Arriving early in the evening, just after sunset (the best thing about Winter) and making our way along the entrance pathways, I think my camera fell into my hands in roughly a nano-second later.

Apparently there are links between pyschedelics and their historical use in shamanic rituals. I'm just going to leave this thought with you.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Rooster 2017 (a "powerful one, with no middle of the road when it comes to moving forward and where impressions will matter") with a major lantern festival - England is one of the first countries outside of the Far East to host this one apparently - begins the year auspiciously. The theme for this year’s festival is: ‘Explore The Silk Road’ highlighting the historically significant route of trade and culture from Europe to Ancient China.

It was just so pretty!

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi
Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Lining the fairly muddy pathways, the incredibly ornate displays range from Aladdin to Flying Apasaras (a spirit in Dunhuang art) and managed to keep us entertained for over an hour as we made our way around the grounds. These are only a few of my favourite sections - I managed to take over 120 photos (of varying quality) in the time we wandered through. That's how pretty.

Goodness. What must she think?

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

Of course mid-way round and at the end of the displays, to take the chill off and empty your wallet there were food trucks, cocktail bars and a brilliant 'toast your own marshmallow' stall that had festival go-ers gathered around a fire pit trying to simultaneously chatter and avoid dropped their smokin' mallows on the coals. This is my kind of festival.

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi
Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

(The 2017 festival runs until the 26th Feb, but if you can't make the dates, a visit to North London and the brilliant - pun not intended - Gods Own Junkyard in Walthamstow might just be the ticket.)

Is this something you'd go to? Have you been to a Chinese Lantern Festival before?

Chiswick House Chinese Lantern Festival Adventures of a London Kiwi

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