What ‘da heck is a Fire Garden? Doesn’t really sound refreshing or serene but it is quite a one of a kind experience. While my wife Cindy and I were on a trip to London with our daughter Wendy and her husband Jack, we unexpectedly ran into a most unusual event. Much like the surprise we all bumped into in Cordoba, Spain two years ago. In the latter instance it was a huge religious procession that contained many enormous man powered floats, large numbers of clergy, altar boys, and lay people moving through the downtown streets of the city until dawn. We had no idea we were going to be experiencing such a treat on our visit there. The one in London was the 350th anniversary commemoration of the great fire of London! We had no idea we would be seeing this one either.
The festival did not appear on our research/planning radar prior to the trip and only after we arrived and decided to stroll the Thames the first evening did we get any hint that a party was about to begin that weekend. Some of the cool attractions were the fire image projected onto the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the oversized “dominoes”, and the Fire Garden.
The dominoes were thousands of large breezeblocks that snaked though the city streets to recreate the path that the fire took back in 1666. There were over 25,000 of these blocks used and the paths linked historic districts together that were affected by this catastrophe. Some contained quite elaborate structures that would fall to replicate buildings destroyed.
The flames projected on the dome of St Paul’s reminded everyone that the original structure was consumed by the fire but a new cathedral was rebuilt by the king and the city using Christopher Wren’s architectural vision.
But I think the star of the show was the Fire Garden. The French fire artists Compagnie Carabosse created fire burning metal structures that contained burning fires throughout the night. You were free to walk among the various pieces of flaming art and feel the heat of the flames and see the fire burning through the grates and wire mesh. It was so inviting and fun to participate in such a unique art display. The evening had been a bit misty earlier so the streets were wet and added a beautiful reflection of the flickering light. The fire blossoms twinkled in the fire pots. The spinning cages dropped embers and allowed some to escape upwards into the dark night sky. The whole picture was eerie but beautiful.
We all felt extremely lucky to have been at the right place at the right time. These types of experiences are part of the reason we travel but to have it added to your trip unexpectedly is twice as nice. Maybe even appreciated more than if it had been planned.