Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lapland 2014 - Where do I start?

The Arrival:

We arrived home from Lapland on Sunday night and I'm still trying to get my head around the whole trip. With so much packed into such a short space of time it really leaves you spinning.
I had no idea what to expect before we left, so if you are planning a trip to Lapland or curious to know more, here's a (not so little) bit about how our trip went...

One overnight stay and hours of fun to squeeze in means that it inevitably needs to be an early start. We stumbled bleary eyed into Cork airport at 5am ahead of the 4 hour flight. I had expected adults and children alike to be tired and crotchety but in fact the excitement takes care of all that. We travelled with Sunway and from the minute we waited to check in to The North Pole we were taken care of. A goody bag for the kids with activity packs and selection boxes went down a treat.

The flight passed very quickly thanks to iPads, iPods and a super entertainer that travelled with the group. 

As the plane touched down in the snowy wonderland I for one was overcome with the excitement of it all. How the kids managed to stay in their seats I'll never know.

We exited the plane to a blanket of silence covering the land. Once through the airport we were met by our lovely 'elf' Snowball who would be our guide for the next 24 hours. We all piled onto the coaches and took a 10 minute trip to a warehouse area where we queued for snowboots, snowsuits, hats, gloves, scarves and even socks. The whole process was completed really quickly, but even so darkness had already descended.

Once we were all kitted out for the subzero temperatures it was back on the coach for another 10 minute journey to our Winter Wonderland. We were lucky that the temperatures only dropped to -1 as it's been known to reach -40. Brrr.

Once there it was over 4 hours of snowy delight ahead.

Day 1:

We started with a snowmobile ride where you can either choose to drive or get pulled along in a sleigh. As we dashed across the fields singing 'Sleigh Ride' fireworks began to go off in the distance. The first of many magic moments. Unfortunately one of the sleighs in our group got stuck halfway into the ride so we had a bit of an unscheduled pit stop, but after a bit of pushing and pulling they were free and we were off again, icy wind blasting our faces and snow flying past our ears.

From there it was onto an overdue lunch in a woodland cabin. Hot chocolate, cookies, chips and curry were gobbled up in hungry silence.

All the activities within the Winter Wonderland are within walking distance of each other which gives plenty of opportunity for the kids to go rogue with snowball fights and woodland disappearing acts.

Some clever parents had arm bands of flashing lights attached to their children making it easier to find them when they inevitably wandered off. With all the kids dressed in the same snow suits and constant darkness all around it's very easy to lose track of them - although they were never too far away. However there was more than once that I was deep in admonishing one of my three only for me to realise when they looked up that it wasn't in fact my child at all. Oops.

The husky rides were one of the highlights for me. Each family boarded a low sleigh together and off we went with the driver standing behind. It was only a short circular loop but so amazing to see them madly barking and pulling to get going and then the sudden silence once they got to 'work'.

My daughter loved the cookie decorating that we got to do inside one of the tepees dotted around the woods. A nice little rest and recuperate before moving on to the next activity.

After some snowball fights with Snowball and some warm berry juice to heat us up it was time to visit the big man himself. We queued outside his snow covered cabin until our names were called.

The door peeped open, the warm light flooded out and we stepped inside. I think we all audibly gasped, and I swear that at that moment I was star struck for the first time in my life. Santa Claus is truly alive and well. After some photos and a little chat he bid us all adieu. But not before reminding the kids to tidy their room. Thanks Santa!

With the darkness and reflective flashes it was tricky getting any decent pictures - but this dodgy camera work shows a little of Santa, the huskies and Baxter (6) riding his own snowmobile.

From there we spent a glorious half hour sliding down a big ice slide again and again until exhaustion set in.

Next it was time for one of the best moments of the trip. We chose a reindeer, hopped on his sleigh and then set out alone through the woods. Silence descended, the night closed in, and we looked up at the snow covered fir trees and bathed ourselves in the magic and moonlight. A-maz-ing.

Our day came to a perfect close cosied up in a tepee around a blazing fire as a reindeer owner in traditional Sami garb told an old tale in Finnish that Snowball translated to our upturned beaming faces.

Tired and happy we climbed back on our coach that finally brought us to our Hotel in time for a quick change, a basic dinner and some overpriced drinks.

Day 2:

The next morning we packed up, donned our snow suits for the final time and set off on the coach to Santa's Village, a short drive away. Here you have the option of purchasing extra rides on reindeer sleighs and snowmobiles, as well as wandering through the many gift shops.

We spent our time climbing snow hills, sliding down ice slides and having snowball fights. We also managed to send some hurried postcards to friends back home - marked with the all important Arctic Circle stamp of course. 

A sad farewell was then bid to the wonders of Lapland as the coach glided through the snow to return our suits and deliver us to the airport.

We were homeward bound laden with memories that felt like a dream. 

Huge thanks to Nana and Gramps for taking us all on the trip of a lifetime.

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