AN EVENING TRIP TO ALICE MAGICAL GARDEN (PORTO BOTANICAL GARDEN)
I absolutely adore the Lewis Carroll’s books as they instantly transport me back to wonderful childhood memories growing up in the 70’s so I was over the moon to see this temporary Alice themed event advertised in Porto Botanical Gardens. Magical Garden is one of the creations of OCUBO and is running until the end of October 2022 – A lighting project that transforms the Botanical Garden of Porto into a magical place. A multisensory experience that puts us between imagination and reality, along more than 1 km of light path. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s two books – “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, this luminous adventure places us in a limbo between imagination and reality, where the public is, at the same time, spectator and integral part of the story. “Alice in Magical Garden” has several lighting experiences ranging from giant light sculptures, light design, sound environments, multimedia and interactive installations, such as an augmented reality application. Do you dare to enter Alice’s world?
We don’t visit Porto much as it’s quite a distance from our home in Central Portugal and the road tolls are quite expensive so we usually only visit this fabulous city when we are doing an airport pick-up or drop-off. We wanted to book Alice tickets for my daughter’s arrival night but unfortunately her flight was cancelled then the new flight we re-booked was significantly delayed then finally diverted to an airport in Spain so we were unable to go. We decided to visit on Teanna’s last day and attend the first show of the evening at 8:30pm after we dropped her at the airport at 7pm. It’s a shame Teanna missed it as it was awesome and I think she would have enjoyed it as much as I did. I always hang around until I know she is physically on the plane, it’s a mum thing, once a mother, always a mother! We usually visit Ikea near the airport until I can see her plane in the air or she messages me to say she is boarding the plane so it made a refreshing change to attend this amazing event rather than get lost in the crazy maze of Ikea. It was a super fun evening and a dazzling fantasy delight.
We purchased our tickets online in advance from the official website. It usually costs €12 per adult ticket but they are currently doing a special promotion for €8 which includes free admission to The Science and Natural History Museum of the University of Porto. You need to specify a time slot and we chose 8:30pm which is the first of the night. I have read that parking can be tricky but we managed to park on the street opposite for free at around 8pm with no difficulty at all. We entered around 8:10pm and visited the Museum first. Make sure you visit the Museum before the Alice event as when you complete the tour you exit through a different gate and have no opportunity to go back and visit the Museum. I am not a huge fan of Museums but I really enjoyed this one, especially the room with all the rabbits. I had way too much fun with the bunnies until hubby told me the 2 bunnies on the mans lap were stuffed, then I got upset! There was also a really interesting interactive Pantone skin diversity display where you can take your photo and explore DNA as well as change your race/ethnicity. Mine changed to Asian and it was very strange but cool too. Hubby loved the display where you sniff the aromas then guess what the smell is. We actually got some right. I was panicked at one stage as I thought hubby was going to let a big silent one rip which would mask the pleasant smells just to mess with me as he is a practical joker with an over average daily flatulence problem. I am very glad he didn’t as the security man was already following me around because I took way too much time in the bunny room taking photos. I think he thought I was some animal rights activist (ha ha).
After the Museum fun we entered the Botanical Gardens for the main event. There were no queues and it was very quiet and tranquil. I expected it to be more crowded with tons of screaming kids but I think there were more couples and small groups of adults than families. This event is definitely not just for kids, we saw many adults including a group of 3 adult men who were having the time of their lives. The journey starts with an impressive light display and smoke filled archway. You follow a 1 km pathway which zig zags through the botanical gardens and are instantly transported into a sparkly fairy tale wonderland of mystery and suspense. It truly is a sensory delight with so many giant illuminated moving sculptures inspired by the chapters of the books. There are multimedia light displays, interactive installations, pretty lights and music galore. It is such a perfect setting amongst an eerie forest, the trees looked very sinister and are all lit up and there are stunning glowing mushrooms and fabulous flowers. There was a lady dressed up as Alice interacting with the children which was cute. There was also a stall with a man and cookies. I have no idea if he was selling them or if they were free but we didn’t sample any on this occasion.
I had so much fun wandering around the gardens at night following the trail and discovering the awesome adventures of Lewis Carroll’s quirky imaginative world. You get to walk at your own pace and there is no rush. There were so many displays and some of my favourite were: The Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, Dormouse, Queen of Hearts and the Blue Caterpillar. I also loved the display which gave the most glorious mirror image on the beautiful pond. Hubby enjoyed the gigantic chess board display with characters as he is a geeky chess nerd and he loved the insects especially the mosquito. Near the end of the trail there is a huge light display which is projected onto front of an old building which was magnificent to watch. It was a perfect evening and the only thing which would have made it better would be food taverns. We were quite hungry and I assumed there might be some pop up street food available, maybe some waffles, crepes or hot dogs but the only stall available was one selling overpriced T.Shirts at €22. It would have been lovely to see a few taverns selling regional food and drink. It took us around 1 hr 30 mins to view Magical Alice and we spent 30 mins in the Museum. The trail can be completed in 1 hour but we like to take our time and savour every moment.
Afterwards we stayed in Porto to experience the evening and didn’t arrive home until 1:30am! We were going to go to a posh restaurant but I was hanging from my tooth pain and getting up at 5am, I was also wearing my trusty comfy trainers so we ended up in KFC, what can I say, I’ve said it before, I’m a cheap date (ha ha). Poor hubby had to do all the driving and then work the next day whilst I stayed in bed until midday. I’m a lady of leisure nowadays so can do as I please (ha ha). It wasn’t until the next day when I sent a few photos to a friend that I realised I wore a baby blue coloured dress to Magical Alice. My friend mentioned that I had wore the perfect dress for the occasion. I didn’t even realise, I just wanted something comfy and loose around my tummy as I’m bloated as hell from all the gluten, steroids and my IBS belly. So it turned out that I wore an Alice dress to the event so from now onwards this bargain £8 Warehouse dress will be known as my Alice dress. Maybe next year I will go in full fancy dress complete with Alice band in my hair and hubby can go as The Mad Hatter because he is as crazy as a box of frogs (ha ha). It really was an unforgettable, beautiful spectacle of light and colour and an amazing rare night out for us. A truly magical and incredible experience on a September night with scattered stars in the sky. The sculptures really came to life and all this glory amongst a tropical botanical garden, it totally exceeded our expectations. An absolute breath of creativity and surreal journey through childhood imagination.
The Science and Natural History Museum of the University of Porto
Alice Promotional Leaflet
Magical Alice – Porto Botanical Gardens
I just had to make these photos LARGE to share the pure joy!