A Palace Of Light


A little family of quackers

One final pre-Christmas activity to catch up on (as Covid prevented attendance at a few gigs, sadly). As Enchanted Parks seem to be a thing of the past, and Canary Wharf’s Winter Lights keep getting cancelled, Heather and I finally found a illuminated display at Crystal Palace, with Lightopia.


Giant gifts

Arriving at Crystal Palace station Lightopia was just a short walk down the edge of the park to the entrance, though perhaps we could have done with a bit more encouragement from the disinterested staff. Once in it would have been nice to have had more than just a couple of tiny huts, one selling Heather a mulled wine. In fact that could be a criticism throughout—there just weren’t that many food or other outlets around the route (and I feel sorry for those running the last little grouping, as there was no indication earlier on that they were there, and people were pretty much done by the time they came across them). What little food there was seemed a poor selection, and my Yorkshire pudding wrap was really disappointing (Heather didn’t much rate hers either).

The Tree Top

Tipped with a Christmas star

Anyway, the lights. Things began fine enough with a festive display of tree, giant bauble and oversized presents. All nice enough, if predictable. The first thing of major interest was a set piece large phoenix, set some distance from the path at the end of lines of changing light. It was fair enough, and Heather quite liked it, but I was a little underwhelmed. Just beyond the phoenix was the first food stop (and the disappointing wrap), besides which sat an interactive musical piece, a little too dark and mad surrounded to be enticing. Onwards into the dark we headed, flicking columns of light growing and changing up trees, giving the occasional impression of a grand building.

A Beautiful Sunflower

Made of light

That led us on to the almost inevitable garden of flowers—it’s not exactly an original idea; the aforementioned Enchanted Parks, and Lumiere London spring to mind, though I’ve seen pictures of quite a few others. Still, it was setting appropriate, and quite well done—I liked the sunflowers in particular. The next section was a bit more original and interesting, a field of coloured balls on sticks hosting butterflies, some of which were even animated to have moving wings. It was also here that projections onto the ground and swirling flowers made it a bit difficult to walk, and flittering fairies twinkled in the trees.

That was all very promising and entertaining, then things took a turn for the strange. The cube like “tree” with a pagoda on top was strange enough but frankly I have no idea what was going on with the very cartoonish collection of animals gathered around a book declaring “rebirth”. Perhaps I’m missing some tie-in, but it was a seemingly random collection with no clear message or sense. At least the egg timer thing just beyond, while equally strange, was at least interesting.

All Slightly Strange

Winged Heather

At Lightopia

Things got back to a bit of normality with a butterfly-wing flanked bench (more butterflies—was the previous section just a dream?), which Heather had to sit on of course. That was a prelude to the event’s big star display, a Crystal Palace of light. In the cold we stood and watched as the palace appeared before us, surrounded by probing lights. It rose and burnt in the story of its history, before the park grew through and Santa paid a visit. A good display, and certainly the highlight, but again a bit ethereal and distant.

Palace Beams

Diamond Ring


There were more wings for Heather to sit in front of, and some mushrooms, plus a giant ring (perhaps anticipating a proposal or two). Then things got weird again. A bunch of strange, amalgamated, half mythical creatures lined the path, again without explanation. Again, it felt like it might have worked better to have just remained more, normal.

Swan Heads

Staring back at you

Things did become more traditional with some (cartoonish) fish, and quite nice swans, and cute, amusing frogs. The park in real life is, of course, famous for its (less than realistic) dinosaurs, so when we reached the which forms their home it was no surprise to find a giant, rainbow T-rex. That was actually quite cool, but around it were some ill lit dinos, and no sign of the park’s actual sculptures, all of which felt like a missed opportunity. The best view at the time was actually of the clouded Moon hovering over the park.

Rainbow T-Rex

Green Monster

It’s not Loch Ness!

The dinosaurs were almost the end. There was some more random animals, which thematically probably belonged before, not after. Some ducks, and a family of pandas off to one side of the path, and what felt like some random swirls and lights to lead the way out (past the actual dinos finally getting a little bit of attention). It probably speaks a lot that it wasn’t even immediately obvious that we’d reached the end, just wandering out of the park without much sign and then away, back to the station.

So, a fair effort that could do with a but more coherence and originality—Three stars.


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