Syon Park Enchanted Woodland

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One of the oddest times when living in another country are the opportunities that you have to re-think a tradition from home.  I’m reminded of this several times during the year, but particularly at Thanksgiving, when numerous people will ask me, “So are you making a turkey dinner to celebrate?”  And I will answer, “Nope.”  Because the truth is, it seems like Thanksgiving is about having a big turkey dinner on a Thursday with your family.  That is, until you are away from your family, and you have to go to school and work as usual, and you make a turkey, and it just feels like you had an elaborate meal on a weekday.  
Then you realize that Thanksgiving is about the all-day hanging out with your extended family lead up to the main meal.  It’s about going into the day knowing that you have a 4 day weekend ahead of you.  It’s talking about the various Black Friday craziness you’ve been hearing about and thinking how you can’t wait to get a few deals, or you wouldn’t go near a Walmart that day if your life depended on it.  
What Chris and I usually do on those occasions is try to be honest with ourselves.  There is no way that we can replicate “Thanksgiving” as we know it.  That is only at home in the US.  But there are other things that we can only do right now, here in London, so we do those.
One Christmas tradition from home that I miss is driving around to see lights with the kids.  We can’t do that here because we don’t have a car, people don’t really decorate their homes and yards with elaborate lights so it wouldn’t have the desired effect.  It just doesn’t really work.  But, there are plenty of other cool “Christmas lights” types of things that we can do instead, and this year, this was one of them.

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Syon Park is just down the street from us and when a deal for tickets to the Enchanted Woodland came up, I jumped on them.  We went on a weekend when Chris was away in the US for the SBL and ended up meeting up with some friends when we got there.  

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It was a perfect little outing.  
When we went to the Illuminated Trail at Kew Gardens there was lots of information about the various plants, and it was much fancier overall which makes sense because it is a Royal Garden that is open all year.  Syon Park, however, is the garden of the Duke of Northumberland, and the Enchanted Woodland was open for only a few weeks, so it was a much smaller scale. But the trees lit up around the water were particularly beautiful because of the mirror-like effect, and there were various little activities set up throughout the trail to keep the kids’ attention.  

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Like the fairy garden,

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shadow puppet area, 

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and a string of trees that lit up to match music from The Nutcracker that was playing over nearby speakers.

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It was a fun night.  The trail was a mile long, which sometimes seemed just a little too long and sometimes seemed just about right.  
There is something fun about stomping around in the cold and the mud, seeing a scene lit up like it only is at one time of the year, and turning the occasional grumpy thoughts of “it’s just colored lights on trees” into “yeah, but it really is kind of pretty…”

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The trail ended in the Great Conservatory, which was lit up beautifully from the outside…

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and a bit rave-ish on the inside.  

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There was a relatively elaborate light show mixed with music and special effects on the fountains.  

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It was pretty cool. We stayed and watched it twice.

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We capped the evening off with steaming cups of hot cocoa and a short but brisk walk home. We will be returning next year for sure.