Orchids After Dark @ Kew Gardens

We've been members at Kew pretty much since we moved to London, primarily (I have to admit) because it's the best place within an hour of where we live to play Pokémon Go during big events, like the monthly Community Days. In spite of that ulterior motive, simply being able to access the gardens has been a lot of fun and I've really enjoyed the membership. However, in two years we've never attended any events at Kew; until, that is, today.

It's Valentine's Day and we're both pretty unprepared, but wanted to still mark the occasion somehow. Finally going along to the famous Orchid Festival at Kew, particularly with a membership discount making it an affordable £15 per person, seemed like a good idea. I was a little reticent about it as we could only get final entry tickets at 8pm, but actually that worked out really nicely. The gardens are open during "after hours" events until 10pm and it turns out that two hours is more than enough to wander fairly aimlessly around the greenhouse, grab some food, and just enjoy the ambience - which is exactly what we did.

The theme this year is Indonesia, so we had live Indonesian "tribal" music by a roaming band (lots of different drums, gongs, and whistles), Indonesian food stalls (delicious), and a focus on Indonesian orchids and wildlife. I really wasn't expecting quite so much information on the country and so little on the orchids themselves, but it worked well. Oh, and the main orchid displays had been setup in a formation vaguely approximating the island archipelagos and belts that make up the country of Indonesia, with the central bridge forming the Wallace Line of biogeographical and evolutionary history fame. On one side the big animal sculptures were of rhinos, tigers, and monkeys; on the other cockatoos and numbats. It was a neat idea and gave them a lot of scope for some truly ostentatious displays with the titular flowers, of which there were thousands on display from (I'd guess) hundreds of species. In short, it was impressive - seriously impressive!

My only negatives of the evening was that we "missed" the live cooking demonstration (I was hungry so opted for the food cart instead, which I don't fully regret) and that the drinks on offer were A) expensive and B) not Kew's own! Seriously, it feels like a completely missed opportunity for them to sell their own ales and gin, all of which I'd like to try out. Instead we got one (admittedly very nice) pineapple punch cocktail and Heineken; as I say, a missed opportunity. Oh, and from my own end I took along my camera but probably should have taken a longer lens. Ideally a 70-200 f/2.8 if I'm honest, so perhaps we'll go again in the future when I've a little better gear. That said the lighting was great and even with my 24mm prime I was able to get some nice photos, so if you're into photography I'd definitely recommend it.

Overall, a very fun evening and a completely different side to Kew that I'm glad we experienced.

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