Winter Wonderland

January 7, 2008

I have decided that it might be a good Idea to post a little about our recent trip to Saariselkä, Lapland, to see Santa. Mainly because it was a great trip, but the Google Juice wouldn’t go a miss either.

I have to admit, it made me cringe that, whilst discussing the possibility of the trip, we worked out that we could go to Disneyland for 2 weeks for about the same price as 4 days in Lapland. But my children are 7 and 4. They will always enjoy going to Disneyland … on the other hand Father Christmas only has so much time. This was back last March, before we had decided to try for baby #3 and before deciding that we wanted them to go to a private school, thus by the time we realised that maybe our finances are a little over stretched, the die had been cast.

The first thing we had to deal with was the need to get up at 3:30am to get to the airport in time for a 7am flight. I thought that this was my wife’s standard over preparation, but I wanted things to go well so I humoured her.And a good job too. I will admit now that I haven’t flown for quite a while, and the level of paranoia surrounding check in is now ridiculous. After 1½ hours in a queue for check in, with 2 over tired children, I was ready for the fun to start. And so it did. My kids have never been on an aeroplane before, so they were quizzically amused at the whole metal detector palaver, and they were in hysterics when my wife set one off and had to be patted down. It took a lot of restraint to not imply that she was some kind of terrorist. By this time my son had woken up and was as excited as a puppy drinking espresso. As the plane took off he actually shouted “WooHoo!!” to the amusement of everyone around him. And that is when I realised (I know I am a little slow on the up take) everyone was going to see Santa!

Reindeer Reception Committee
We were met by some “Elves” and a Reindeer Reception Committee at the airport who it would seem had been sharing coffee with my son. Having left Manchester in early morning twilight, we arrived at 1pm only to find that we had missed the sun for that day. We were soon on a bus off to get fitted with what my son decided were “Sumo Suits” courtesy of Lapland Safari. These were one piece thermal suits with Jumbo boots and gloves. Standard issue to all new arrivals.

After a brief moment to check in to the hotel and a dull orientation talk we were back outside with me being husky to the 2 kids. And then we found it. There is an immense toboggan run. Just shy of 2km I am told it is the longest in Europe (I am sure they all say that). We started simple, by going to the first kick off point which was about a 60m run, which alone was probably better than any toboggan run that I had been on, and it was not long before I had joined my daughter in wiping out the fencing going down the side.

That is when the obvious struck. I am now looking for my children amongst probably 30 other children that are dressed Identically from head to foot! There is something inside you as a parent that tells you that the could recognise their children in a heart beat, let me tell you, that little something is lying! After randomly approaching 4 incorrect children (behaviour that would see you locked up over here) I got them. The biggest tip I can give you is if you are thinking of going, take something distinctive, a big red hat, or a reflective cycle vest, because it is no fun playing where’s Waldo with your own children!

The solution we adopted was to take walkie talkies, with an alleged 5km range (2-3 is more realistic, but proved to be plenty). These made me Extremely popular with the kids but my wife, being the resident technophobe, was somewhat sceptical. Her I told you so moment is the reason for the next tip.

Remember to turn on the aforementioned walkie talkies BEFORE allowing your children to go off onto the slope.Our evening meal was translated as “Meat Stew” which whilst being absolutely delicious, the translation seemed deliberately vague and having seen very few cows in Lapland (i.e. none), left one with the distinct suspicion that we may have been eating one of Rudolph’s relatives.

Later we all went to the pool, followed by a sauna. My son seemed to love the sauna. I think he considered it a test. He was completely unphased by the No Swimming costume rule in a co-ed sauna and just wanted to prove that he could endure the heat for longer than I could, but in my defence I have a layer of fat that he has so far failed to develop trapping the heat.

Next day it was time for the first of our activities. Snow mobiling cross country to a restaurant to have lunch. This was again Awesome. If you haven’t tried it, you should (not overly practical in the UK, but still …). The children however, were in a sled pulled by a snow mobile. My son found it most insulting that he was not old enough to ride for himself (he’s 7, you have to be 18) then he noticed that they were sitting on what looked like a husky fur, he was not impressed. I fear he may end up vegetarian. My daughter was generally grumpy because we had to be up at 7am (5am UK time) for the whole thing, she doesn’t function before 7am, unless for some reason we are at home and I have the day off of work. I think she has decided to start the whole lazy grumpy teenager thing a little early (she is 4!).

All aboard
The following day gave us another early start, but this had the promise of a husky ride, a reindeer ride and meeting Santa, Even my daughter didn’t dare being grumpy today! As an English man who has now come to accept the English obsession with health and safety, it was strangely liberating to be given a sled and 7 huskies followed by 2 minutes of training consisting of to turn left lean left, to turn right lean right, and to stop stamp on the break and pray, and we got through it with no accidents.

This was the day that provided both the high and low point of the trip. The high came just after the huskies, and meeting Father Christmas when my son gave me all the reasons that “He was the real Father Christmas”, I really could not have asked for more than that, when he saw Santa pull out the letters that they had written weeks earlier, the look on his face was priceless.
With Santa

Now we had all been suffering from a mild cold since leaving England, it was around about lunch time that My Son upped the anti and really got ill. He had shivers and had basically run out of energy. So we took him into what the locals call a hot room, and believe me they are not kidding, again he displayed an ability to endure furnace like temperatures, this time whiles wearing a ski suit. My wife decided that she would therefore stay with him in this room, while I took my daughter out to enjoy the rest of our afternoon. And just to prove that no good deed goes unpunished he waited until they were getting on the bus to vomit into her hat.

So was it a perfect trip? Well that would not be our family’s way of doing things, but it really was a holiday to remember for all of us. The question now is does this count as taking Baby #3 to Lapland, or are we looking at going again in 5 years time (and if so does anyone have any part time work going)
The Family in Lapland