Only 100 sleeps un­til Christ­mas

It’s not too early to get your list in and give it to Santa per­son­ally in La­p­land... and be sure to check it twice

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel - BY HEIDEE MARTIN

STAND­ING in the mid­dle of a vast wood, ev­ery­thing cov­ered in glis­ten­ing snow, toast­ing marsh­mal­lows on an open fire as real elves with real pointy noses and real pointy shoes played around us. I had dreamt the scene, al­beit not for al­most 30 years. Yet here I was and it was all re­ally hap­pen­ing. Lit­tle sleds seemed to ap­pear from nowhere and so ev­ery­one stopped mid-mal­low to push each other up and down the in­clines through the trees.

Every so of­ten one of the elves – she seemed more se­nior than the oth­ers, pos­si­bly be­cause she had the most hair – would usher a fam­ily aside. For there were in­deed chil­dren there. I wasn’t alone, liv­ing out my snow-drenched, decades­old dream. The elf was guid­ing fam­i­lies one by one to a giant wooden door in the side of a gar­gan­tuan mound of snow.

But more about that anon. I’m get­ting ahead of my­self with ex­cite­ment here.

La­p­land holds a mag­i­cal place in the hearts of every be­liever.

I had al­ways wanted to go and hav­ing a child seemed the per­fect ex­cuse (that’s not to say a trip to La­p­land was the sole rea­son for me hav­ing my son, Sa­muel, six years ago – just a con­tribut­ing fac­tor).

And I would say five to eight are prob­a­bly the op­ti­mum ages to make the trip. And you MUST make the trip!

DAY ONE

On Day 1 we were greeted at Dublin air­port by the very fes­tive, very sparkly elf, Lolly Bow-Bells (a dou­ble-bar­relled elf, no less). Lolly ac­com­pa­nied us on our win­ter

trip and proved a roar­ing suc­cess with all the kid­dies, par­tic­u­larly as she handed out goody bags as we queued at the air­port. She even took care of en­ter­tain­ment on board the flight. There were Christ­mas car­ols, games and a few kids even got up to tell jokes. At one point there was a queue of seven-yearolds along the aisle of the plane prac­tis­ing their party pieces as they pro­gressed closer to the plane’s Tan­noy sys­tem to be in­tro­duced by Lolly. It was like a mid-air Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent.

But, of course, the fun was just be­gin­ning. We were greeted at La­p­land air­port by more elves and fer­ried by coach to col­lect ther­mal and snow-proof cloth­ing – I was the only ee­jit who hadn’t read the itin­er­ary prop­erly and carted ski gear over from home. Tem­per­a­tures swayed be­tween around -16 to -30 de­grees so the ther­mals were very wel­come.

All the Christ­mas movies in the world can’t pre­pare you for the snow in La­p­land. It’s so far north (we ac­tu­ally stepped into the Arc­tic Cir­cle) that other ski re­sorts don’t com­pare to the re­lent­less, glis­ten­ing white blan­ket. The re­sult makes for a land so far re­moved from home, and re­al­ity, that it truly is dream­like. I couldn’t have pre­dicted how well be­haved a gang of chil­dren aged three and up would be­have on a pack­age hol­i­day. All of the par­ents on the trip were gob­s­macked by the strik­ing lack of tantrums and mis­chief, such is the en­chant­ment of the place.

Af­ter a sleigh ride on a frozen lake, we set­tled in for a much-needed hot meal at the Sky Ho­tel. The ho­tel has clas­sic ski-re­sort style ac­com­mo­da­tion, com­plete with in-room sauna. There are also self-cater­ing op­tions with Sun­way, but I was glad to have opted for half-board.

DAY TWO

Day 2 was where the real magic hap­pened. We were in­formed we would get the chance to meet Santa’s rein­deer, ex­pe­ri­ence a husky ride and, most ex­cit­ingly, at­tend elf school!

And elf school did not dis­ap­point. Our coach ar­rived at the edge of a for­est. The snow is so bright dur­ing the three hours of sun­light a day that we barely saw the elves at the edge of the for­rest on ap­proach.

They were just as you would imag­ine, all rosy-cheeked and de­light­fully Nordic sound­ing. They in­vited us to fol­low them through the white woods to their school, made up of a sev­eral large wooden yurts. In we went to the class­room which had a big open fire on the mid­dle and ta­bles all around it. ‘Not at all like the schools at home’, one lit­tle chap help­fully pointed out.

The elves then put on a show which mes­merised the lit­tle ones, and just when the chil­dren thought life couldn’t get bet­ter than this, they broke out the ginger­bread men for dec­o­rat­ing.

WE left elf school with heavy hearts but our trip through the snowy for­est was only just be­gin­ning. As we ven­tured farther into the woods a hill ap­peared, com­plete with sleds, or ‘Trabol­gans’ as I heard one called (you can take the lads out of Dublin…). Up and down, up and down and twenty times later my lit­tle lad was still want­ing more.

It seems a sled and a hill of snow are the true se­cret to hap­pi­ness. The par­ents stood around tak­ing videos and lament­ing the fact that it was ‘far from trips to La­p­land’ any­one was reared on and that it was ‘a sleep­ing bag down the stairs’ that chil­dren made do with years ago. And so to re­lieve the jeal­ousy the elves duly jour­neyed ev­ery­one on fur­ther through this win­ter won­der­land to the largest yurt, which turned out to be a din­ing hall.

Af­ter a good lunch (in fact all of the food was good, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing the mass-cater­ing in­volved), we headed back out to the snow for more sled­ding, snow­balls and sto­ries from the ubiq­ui­tous elves. And that is when the open fire ap­peared, com­plete with a big bas­ket stuffed with marsh­mal­lows and some much-wel­come mulled, well, juice.

And so the mys­te­ri­ous rou­tine be­gan of fam­i­lies be­ing es­corted into the hid­den hill of snow through that mon­strous wooden door. Won­der­fully, the elves cre­ated such a fan­tas­ti­cal scene, the chil­dren were bliss­fully un­aware that we were in any sort of a queu­ing sce­nario. But fi­nally it was our turn!

We were ush­ered by the head elf to wait with her at the door where she re­vealed she in fact had a giant key. I won’t go in to too much de­tail about the majesty be­hind the giant wooden door be­cause Santa and his elves asked us to keep their se­cret safe. Suf­fice to say, Santa’s house and work­shop is ev­ery­thing we had ever dreamed of… and of course the chil­dren were all blown away too, of course.

And so af­ter the most spec­tac­u­lar visit to Santa’s for­est, we were guided back to our coach by the elves who looked suit­ably dev­as­tated to see all the chil­dren leave. Need­less to say the feel­ings were re­cip­ro­cated ten-fold. A cho­rus of ‘Oh my Gods’ and ‘Can we go back to­mor­row? Can we? Can we?’ was ac­com­pa­nied by ex­cite­ment lev­els never again reached past the age of ten.

But the day was not over, and nei­ther were the ad­ven­tures. As the

sun set at 2pm we still had plenty of time to stop off at Santa’s rein­deer farm for a ride on a sleigh. Ru­dolph, we were in­formed, was busy hav­ing a mas­sage in prepa­ra­tion for the Big Night but we were only too happy to be taken around by Don­ner and Bl­itzen. My per­sonal favourite part of the trip though came when we stopped at the husky farm to be taken on a husky ride (I’ve be­come quite the sleigh ex­pert af­ter this trip). The huskies don’t hold back. No tak­ing in the scenery with these guys, it was ex­hil­a­rat­ing and the chil­dren’s screams of de­light could be heard all the way to the South Pole.

It sounds like a lot to fit in to a day with small chil­dren but it was all so well or­gan­ised that we didn’t feel stretched or rushed at all. It was truly the most en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence and I can’t rec­om­mend the trip enough.

Our coach brought us back to our ho­tel in the early evening be­fore bring­ing us all for din­ner and a show at Santa’s larger and cav­ernous work­shop a cou­ple of hours later. I had wor­ried that it might get a bit late for a six-year-old but, on the con­trary, all the chil­dren were wide awake, buzzing and in phe­nom­e­nal form; still not a tantrum be­tween them!

The show was a spec­tac­u­lar of (more) elves per­form­ing trapeze and it cul­mi­nated in another visit from the Big Man him­self.

Par­ents en­joyed a com­pli­men­tary cou­ple of glasses of wine – and at around €10 for a drink in Fin­land, the com­pli­men­tary part was very wel­come – while ev­ery­one en­joyed the var­i­ous af­ter-din­ner ac­tiv­i­ties: Santa train, elf-mak­ing work­shop, gen­eral run­ning around awe-struck.

The flight home the next af­ter­noon was a nat­u­rally more sub­dued af­fair but Lolly Bow-Bells was still on hand with face-paint­ing and story-telling so the pleas­antly ex­hausted par­ents re­mained un­fraz­zled as we touched down on terra firma – for such was the magic of the trip that it felt like we hadn’t touched the ground in two days.

It’s a trip that ev­ery­one should try to take a least once in a life­time. From our voy­age to the North Pole I can hon­estly say that meet­ing the ‘real Santa’ made Christ­mas all the more spe­cial in our house.

And, as I said, my son re­ally adored the ex­pe­ri­ence too!

It’s be­gin­ning to look a lot like Christ­mas: A rein­deer in La­p­land and Sa­muel and Santa

Like snow place on earth: La­p­land is a play­ground for big and small kids alike... and elves, of course

Win­ter won­der­land: Heidee and Sa­muel

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