When Jacob was born I promised him I would take him to meet Santa Claus. A trip to Lapland has always been on my bucket list and this Christmas we were lucky enough for my dream to come true!
During our trip I cried 3 times. When we landed at Kitilla airport and i looked out of the window - it was truly magical. When we walked through to collect our suitcases in the airport to be greeted by the elves, singing Christmas songs and playing games (they were so naughty - even running on the moving carousel !!) and then of course, when we met Santa Claus. He was incredible, that feeling of total joy will never leave me.
Something that really surprised me was how dark it was - I’d read that there would only be 4 hours of daylight but until I experienced it I had no idea how weird that would be. Most of our time outdoors was spent in total darkness. We stayed in a small town called Yllas which is in the Arctic circle and during December the sun doesn’t even make it into the sky - it tries to rise, changes it’s mind and sets again. So when it’s daytime it’s always either sunrise or sunset. The cloudless days were so incredibly pretty - the sky above you ranged from pastel blue, to peach, to pink…beautiful.
Because we had clear skies we were told we stood a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Our hotel was a quarter of a mile from a beautiful frozen lake and we’d heard that this was best place to go. Simon decided that at 11pm he would “check it out”. I sat up waiting, in excited anticipation (one of us had to stay with the children)… 12 o’clock passed, no Simon, 1am…I’m starting to think he has fallen through the lake. When he finally made his appearance he was freezing cold and hadn’t seen a thing! A large crowd had gathered and he was enjoying the banter so much he didn’t hurry back.
The Northern lights couldn’t be seen by the naked eye but those with iPhones and cameras were able to capture them through the use of slow shutter speeds so he’d seen them on a screen and said that they were “worth the trouble”.
I spent most of the night wide awake, thinking about the spectacular display that I might be missing out on, so at 5am I got up and put all of my snow gear on (you can barely move once you have all of your layers on, along with 2 pairs of gloves). Packed up my photography equipment and headed down to the lake. By this time the crowd had left, it took me 40 minutes to find the lake. I arrived in total darkness and stood there. It was pitch black apart from a couple of lights and the stars. I expected it to be silent too but every so often the temperature would drop and the ice would creak beneath me. It was so loud, it was terrifying. But I’m stubborn and I hadn’t lugged all of that camera gear to Lapland not to use it!
So I set it all up - I’d taken a monopod as my tripod wouldn’t fit in the suitcase. Fixed my camera on top and looked up at the sky. Just stars. I spent an hour messing around with camera settings in the hope that the sky was alight and that it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but I just kept getting blurry shots. To use my camera I had to take my gloves off and after another enormous roar from the lake I suddenly realised just how cold I was. I was shaking that much that I couldn’t hold the monopod still. Disappointed I packed my kit away and headed back into town. The petrol station had a thermometer outside -22 degrees… no wonder I was cold!! I practically crawled the quarter of a mile back to the hotel, in pitch black with every thriller that I had ever read racing through my mind; I was a nervous wreck when I arrived back! Lesson learned, I was lucky nothing happened to me and it means that I will have to plan a future trip to tick “Northern Lights” off my bucket list.
Our hotel was typically Finnish with sloping roofs and big windows. We had a sauna in our apartment which the children thought was fantastic “we’re just doing some colouring in the sauna” we’d hear them call.
So, the big day came. We were going to meet THE man. Our coach collected us and we travelled for 40 minutes deep into the woods to a secluded group of wooden lodges… The Post Office, Elf School, Santa’s workshop, the bakery and of course, Santa’s house. We were the only coach there and had 2 hours to explore. This was brilliant because we were able to experience each of the lodges just as a family of 4. The Elf in the bakery was hilarious, she would magically appear in a puff of flour, say something daft and then disappear again, she had the children in hysterics.
Santa was inside the post office, the children were allowed to draw a picture for him (they had already written their lists) and then were invited to go and meet him. It was just the 4 of us and we were allowed to stay and chat for as long as we wanted. Jacob & Ellie asked him lots of questions, why isn’t Rudolph’s nose red? how old he was, could Ellie have a dog (thankfully he said no) and he was thoroughly lovely and I had 2 very happy children indeed.
After this we met Rudolf (did you see him in the photos?) and a traditional Lappish warrior, he allowed us to make a wish and smeared ash on our faces to make them come true. A strange ritual that Ellie was having none of.
We then had time to try a lovely warm berry juice, have a lesson at Elf school and play on the frozen lakes (there are lots of frozen lakes).
Afterwards, we headed further into the countryside where we met a very noisy pack of huskies. It was dark by then so I couldn’t get many photographs but we had a brilliant time being pulled along by them through the snow, I could hear Ellie belly laughing all the way. We were then straight onto a snow mobile (which i think Jacob preferred) and were taken speeding across the lake - the cold wind on our faces felt like needles but it was so exhilarating! Absolutely brilliant.
The next couple of days were free for us to spend as we wished. We decided to join in the winter olympics that TUI had arranged (we came last but had an absolute blast doing so), sang carols around the campfire and sledged, and sledged and sledged. In fact this was all that the children wanted to do and play in the snow, which was fine by us as it was lovely to see them having so much fun.
One thing that surprised me was that I only felt the cold on the couple of occasions that I have mentioned. we wore thermals with a layer on top and then our snow suits and despite having to be Houdini to get into them, it was well worth the 30 minutes to feel nice and cosy. Oh, and I forgot to mention, that it rains glitter. One afternoon we were playing outside and glitter started to fall from the sky. It was beautiful. It is so cold that water particles in the air were freezing and falling to the ground. It was so pretty that everybody just stopped and looked up. This place really is magical.
Would I recommend Lapland? In a heartbeat. It is everything I dreamed of, and more.xx