Hopefully you have read part one so see how we got to where we are. If you haven’t it might be worth having a look here. If you are continuing to read then I am assuming that you have read part one and are now looking forward to reading about our adventures in the Arctic Circle.
We woke bright and early to pitch blackness. Being so far north the sun only popped its face above the horizon for about 3 hours each day and daylight did not begin to almost 1100, something that we didn’t really get used to while we there. Candy Cane and Nutcracker picked us up at 0900 and we headed to an adventure park directly on the Arctic Circle for a taster of all the adventure safaris that you could pay extra to do solo in the afternoon. It was, a not too unpleasant, -12°C and especially wearing our supplied outfits we were wrapped up warm and ready for our adventures.
We were given the low down on the activities before we left the coach: the park had a sledging slope, reindeer sleigh rides, skidoos and husky rides. There was also a traditional teepee where you could take part in a traditional Arctic Circle crossing ceremony. It all sounded exciting. Queues formed at all the activities quite quickly but we were just entranced by the beauty the snow covered forest. There were a number of fire pits with elves dishing out hot berry juice and gingerbread cookies, so we headed there to take measure of what we should do. Speakers played Christmas songs and it felt somewhat surreal to be listening to Shakin’ Stevens sing ‘Snow is falling, all around me…‘ while standing in a snow covered field in Finland – I felt like I was in a 1980’s Christmas pop video – definitely a dream come true!
It was decided that Mommy and Auntie Liz would queue for the husky ride while Nanny Fran and I would queue with the Baguettes for the kiddie Skidoos. The queue for the kiddie Skidoos moved quite quickly and it wasn’t long before they all had their opportunity to drive their own Skidoo, albeit tethered so that they didn’t mow down the other Arctic tourists – which would have put a dampener on the holiday. Éowyn and Amélie loved it but unfortunately Ezra was a little on the small size and although he gave it a really good go his hands were not big enough to fire the ‘go button’ while holding on to the handlebar. Nevertheless he completed a circle and had fun before we encouraged him to give up.
We then joined Mommy and Auntie Liz in the queue for the Husky ride. It was possible that his failure on the Skidoos was playing on his mind but Ezra refused to go on the Husky ride, so he and Nanny Fran waited while the rest of the family climbed aboard the sledge. Unfortunately when we got off Ezra had got cold and a little distraught. I took him of to one of the fire pits while the rest of the family queued for an adult Skidoo ride (kids to be dragged behind a Skidoo in a sleigh. Unfortunately, Daddy wasn’t who Ezra wanted. Only Mommy could make him happy, so Mommy took him into the restaurant while I took Mommy’s place in the queue. Only I wanted to drive my own Skidoo so the others climbed under blankets on one of the Sleighs. Again it was a taster session so didn’t last very long but enough for a morning’s enjoyment. We then headed back to find Mommy and Ezra.
On the way to the restaurant we passed the shaman’s teepee and decided to head in. The elf-shaman told us that he looked after Santa’s reindeer and that magic makes his nose glow on Christmas Eve to light Santa’s way. He said that he would do the same magic for us and drawing his thumb through the ashes of the fire placed black ash on each of our noses telling us that when we go to bed on Christmas Eve that the magic would make our noses glow to help Santa find us more easily in our beds.
We turned up at the restaurant with black noses, much to Mommy’s and Ezra amusement. Although when Ezra found out the story he wanted to go and get his ‘nose magic’ so that Santa could find him too! Lunch was provided of vegetable soup, meatballs, potato mash and/or burgers and chips. We were not expecting any food so it was a pleasant surprise. Warmed and bellies filled with hot food we headed back into the snow for a reindeer ride and some fun sledging down a icy slope. By the time Candy Cane was due to leave we had had our fill of the morning activities and were happy to be heading back.
Rather that going to our hotel we decided to get off Candy Cane in the centre of Rovaniemi so that we could explore the city centre. We spent some of our money on souvenirs and a hot chocolate and cake. We found a soft play that the Baguettes enjoyed, but not as much as they enjoyed climbing and then sliding down the piles of snow in the street. Some pleasures are much more simple.
The next day was an even earlier start: 0830 and the temperature had dropped to a chilly -18°C – indeed it was going to fall further throughout day to -22°C! The first stop in this chilly weather was Santa Claus Village. Situated directly on the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus Village is the home to Santa’s official post office, where Santa posts his replies, and you are encouraged (of course you are) to send a postcard (probably the busiest postbox for postcards in the world). It would be rude not to, so we let the Baguettes sent themselves a postcard so that it would have the official stamp when it arrived. We had the obligatory photo of standing astride the Arctic Circle and the signpost showing how far we were from home (2260km according to the sign – not the furthest that the Baguettes have travelled but definitely the furthest North).
Then it was time to board Candy Cane and head to our second stop of the morning: Santa Park. As the mercury plummeted it was nice to know that Santa Park was an underground theme park (one of Santa’s abandoned toy factories as the rumours suggested) situated 50 metres below the surface and again on the Arctic Circle – meaning this is only place in the World where you can cross the Arctic Circle so far underground.
Santa Park was excellent and probably the only place where our time there felt really limited. However, we managed to cram a fair amount into our allotted time. There was the magical sleigh ride, a trip through the forest to Santa’s workshop; Elf school, where we learned the first four rules of being an elf (elf-school lasts 99 years so it was only an introduction), Mrs Claus’ bakery, where the Baguettes decorated their own gingerbread cordate biscuits; Auntie Liz and Nanny Fran met the Ice Princess while the Baguettes played on the Angry Birds soft play. In between all that excitement we managed to watch the elves perform one of their shows. It is definitely somewhere that we could have spent an afternoon, if not a whole day.
We returned to the hotel to rest up before the evening’s gala dinner and our audience with the big man himself. We took advantage of the last of the day’s sunshine though to have a look across the vista of Rovaniemi from the observation deck on the top of the hotel. Amélie also convinced Auntie Liz to help her build a snowman replete with cheesy puff balls for eyes, nose and mouth (we didn’t have any coal or carrots). It wasn’t exactly the most lithe of snowmen and somewhat reminiscent of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars (Return of the Jedi – let’s not mention the Special Edition of A New Hope) so we named him Jabba the Car-Hutt. There was still time to encourage the Baguettes (and most of the grown-ups) to have a nap so that they were not too tired for the big man.
The gala dinner was a coach ride away and held in restaurant (probably on the Arctic Circle as everything else was!). We were all shown to our tables and the fun began. The Thompson reps kept us all entertained with sing-songs, quizzes (which our table won – of course we did, despite being cheated out of one point, but I am not bitter!) and a rendition of ‘The 12 days of Christmas‘ where each table had a different line to sing. The meal was fantastic with three courses that the adults enjoyed but the Baguettes were nonplussed by.
At the end of the meal there was some excitement and the Thompson rep announced that Santa was arriving and we all should run outside to greet him. We made it out and fireworks and the chill air greeted our exit. While, all eyes were on the fireworks Santa entered stage right with Rudolph. Excitement levels increased among the children before we all returned to our tables and Santa settled into his room.
Each table was called individually while the games and quizzes continued. When it was your turn you were led into an antechamber to Santa’s room. An elf took the children’s name (to make sure that they are on the ‘nice’ list and certainly not to hand Santa the children’s names so he knew who is was talking to) and asked them what they were expecting for Christmas. Nutcracker had been entrusted by Santa to look after the entrance to his chamber and so we took the opportunity to grab a photo with her as the Baguettes, and especially Amélie had really taken a shine to her. Then it was our turn to see Santa.
I think this was the real magic moment. The Baguettes eyes opened wide as Santa said ‘Hello Éowyn, Amélie and Ezra.‘ It goes without saying that Santa knew their names and the fact that they were on the ‘Nice’ list. I think they were so taken aback that they didn’t say a lot to Santa and with a lack of conversation it was the perfect opportunity to take some photos, before Santa asked them if the would like a present. Obviously, they said, yes, and so they were presented with identical boxes that Santa said that they could open when they got back to the lodge. He also told them that they had to make sure that their rooms were tidy for when he came over on Christmas. I like this Santa. We said our goodbyes and left Santa’s room so that he could welcome the next family.
The route back to the table took us outside and back through the main entrance to the restaurant. As we stepped outside it started snowing: the perfect ending to a visit with Santa. We were one of the last tables to visit Santa so the Baguettes did not have to wait long before climbing back aboard Candy Cane and the return to Forest Heights and our lodge.
We obeyed Santa and let the Baguettes open their presents when we got back in the lodge. Not surprisingly, they were all identical and this year’s version of Thompson the Dog. Amélie was delighted but Éowyn and Ezra were disappointed but it didn’t take the shine off the fact that they had met the real Santa.
We were returning to England the next afternoon, so the morning was spent packing before a one quick last view from the observation deck before climbing back aboard Candy Cane for the return to the airport. We landed back at Gatwick with the temperature a veritable tropical 12°C!
So was it worth it? Would we recommend it? Did the Baguettes enjoy it?
When you are presented with the invoice for the holiday it seems expensive but when you actually add up what is included it is pretty good value for money. It is welcome organised and you are looked after the moment that you step aboard the plane at Gatwick, though at the same time you are not crowded or pressurised into joining it. We can not compare this against visiting Lapland in one day, however it is a long journey and the lack of daylight played havoc with our body clocks so I would have thought it would have been too much for the Baguettes, especially Ezra. To spend the extra days there wasn’t that much more and allowed us to enjoy the experience a lot more and have free time in the snow. Did the Baguettes enjoy it? It depends on which one you talk to.
Éowyn complained about the cold, but I pressed her about it, it wasn’t the fact that she was cold more the fact that she had to put so many layers on and then when you went into a restaurant or a shop or back into the lodge you had to take them off again. She has said since that she did enjoy it and has missed the snow. Her favourite part was Santa Park.
Amélie was the perfect age. She stared in amazement for the entire time we were there. Everything was brilliant. She loved the elves, the snow, the cold, seeing Santa. The money was worth it just for Amélie, for there was nothing that she didn’t like and when we asked her what he favourite thing was she reeled off almost everything that we did.
Ezra got cold once, while we were on the husky ride and it took some Mommy time to get him out of his malaise, but apart from that he seemed to enjoyed himself and keeps talking about it. He stood open mouthed in amazement when we saw Santa but he said that his favourite thing was sledging which was effectively when he used his daddy as a sledge.
The only disappointment that Lucinda and I had from the trip is something that can not be organised by a tour operator and that was the fact that we didn’t see the Aurora Borealis – The Northern Lights. We had one clear night, ideal for viewing the Northern Lights (although it was a chilly -20°C) but the Sun activity was low and thus no aurora. However it does give me an excuse to return to the Arctic Circle as viewing an aurora is definitely on my bucket list. Equally, we were disappointed that on our arrival back home England doesn’t feel as Christmassy as the land of Christmas itself. The warm (for the time of year) weather, serious lack of snow coupled with the excessive daylight (in comparison to the Arctic Circle) has made it feel more like November than the weeks leading up to Christmas. I am sure that we will get over it, although it would be much easier if the weather turned a little colder and we had the odd snow flurry.
I trust that you have enjoyed our little summary of our trip to Lapland and if I have not bored you too much and you want to kill a couple of hours of your time, there are 650 plus photos in this Flickr Album.
Peace and Love
The Bagnalls at the Arctic Circle
Astride the Arctic Circle
That’s a big snowman
Santa Claus Village
The Elves and the Baguettes
How far from home?
No idea what that means
Ready to go
Snow is falling
Nanny Fran and Amélie
Santa Claus Post Office
Auntie Liz and Éowyn
Éowyn on a skidoo
Amélie on a skidoo
Ezra on a skidoo
Mommy sledging I
Mommy sledging II
Mommy sledging III
Éowyn’s gingerbread heart
Amélie’s gingerbread heart
Ezra’s gingerbread heart
Nutcracker and the Baguettes
The Real Santa Claus
The Bagnalls with Santa
Bagnalls in the snow
Where is Ezra?
One excited boy
Daddy and Amélie
What did Santa give you?
Reading the safety information