The weekend saw Heather’s birthday and so to celebrate, with her mum and Gemma, we headed into London. There we took in some of the Lumiere London festival of light, before dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, followed by a bit more of Lumiere.
We started off down at Westminster Abbey, the great west door lit with remarkable granular detail, each statue picked out as well as the features of the doorway and the wall washed flanking towers. It was an excellent and impressive way to start our little tour of installations.
We caught a tube from Westminster to wind our way up to Oxford Circus (no elephants!) and more Lumiere. Emerging from the station gave the first hints that crowds may be a bit of an issue, stewards shouting to try and keep people moving. It’s not the quietest part of London at the best of times and even with road closures it was certainly packed. Undeterred we began squeezing our way down Regent Street, a strange, shimmering mesh of colour strung above our heads.
Further down Regent Street, as the crowds began to tighten further, we found dancing light stick figures high up a building. They were vaguely amusing but, in all the crowds, not as impressive or compelling as the other installations we’d seen so far. We moved on, heading for the surreal floating creatures we could see above the heads of the crowd. The strange, alien fish floating high above the street like peculiarly evolved Zeppelins. Their quiet, slowly colour changing presence was calming, surreal, joyful all at once.
The crowds became even worse as we went round the curve of Regent Street towards Piccadilly Circus, though at least this time there was an elephant. Unfortunately the crowds were of such epic proportions it was basically shuffle where you were taken and so it was hard to more than glimpse Eléphantastic—which promptly vanished as we drew level.
We’d reached Piccadilly Circus just in time for dinner at least. My impressions of Rainforest Cafe aren’t particularly good ones. They seem more interested in their shop at street level than the fact there’s a whole restaurant below, and I never approve of a place which routinely makes you hang around the bar waiting for your (pre-booked) table (complete with unintelligible announcements). Being seated in a corner with a draft coming down the entrance stairs didn’t help either. The food is average, overpriced for its quality. Hey, ho, what can be expected for central London?
After dinner we headed round to Leicester Square. There we found a wondrous garden of light filling the square. Strange alien blooms burst forth to shine their foreign light on cinema goers and Lumiere chasers, glowing grass and blinding flowers abound.
We circuited the garden (not daring the queues passing through) and worked our way around the back of the National Gallery to Trafalgar Square. Past the fourth plinth, with Hans Haake’s Gift Horse on it, someone had filled one of the fountains with a load of bottles (not much different to any other Saturday night then).
Finally there was time to walk along the road and see Neon Dogs in a window (the glowing spiral of poo was amusing). Then back to Charing Cross for the train home.