Sunday Mirror

Snow for it with Santa

It’s ready Fred­die go as Amy Packer en­joys the land of the ris­ing fun in La­p­land

- Fred­die Recreation · Good News · Finland · Helsinki · London Gatwick Airport · Fun (band) · Colin Firth · National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty · Tannoy · Holiday Club · East 17 · Bernard Matthews · Secret Garden · Julie Walters · Frances Hodgson Burnett

Be­fore we set off on our once-in-a-life­time trip to meet Fa­ther Christ­mas in La­p­land, there were many re­ac­tions I imag­ined my son Fred­die hav­ing when he met the main man. Hid­ing be­hind a ta­ble, re­fus­ing to come out, was def­i­nitely not on the list.

But I guess when you are four years old it can be daunt­ing to come face to face with the per­son who can make or break your fes­tive dreams – par­tic­u­larly if your grandma has been us­ing the threat of Santa’s naughty list for weeks in or­der to shoe­horn broc­coli

ICE AND EASY Amy and into you. An­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els were al­ready sky-high when we touched down in snowy Ku­usamo, 500 miles north of Fin­land’s cap­i­tal, Helsinki.

Our three-and-a-half hour flight from Gatwick had taken off at 6am, but don’t for a mo­ment imag­ine that the early start would make for a sub­dued jour­ney.

The car­olling cabin crew in fes­tive fancy dress had decked the plane in tin­sel. And be­tween safety an­nounce­ments and serv­ing break­fast they spent the time start­ing sin­ga­longs and hold­ing joke com­pe­ti­tions over the Tan­noy.

By con­trast, the 15-minute jour­ney to our hotel, Hol­i­day Club Ku­usamo, was en­tirely si­lent, as dozens of fam­i­lies gazed out of the coach win­dows in won­der. It has only snowed in our part of Sur­rey once since Fred­die was born and that light dust­ing paled into in­signif­i­cance when com­pared with the deep drifts and spec­tac­u­lar, snowy pine forests of north­ern Fin­land.

Be­fore the fun could be­gin, we first needed to get kit­ted out for the chilly ad­ven­tures ahead. Hand­ily, ev­ery­thing from snoods and gloves to snow suits and boots were pro­vided, mean­ing we had trav­elled sur­pris­ingly light.

Thor­oughly lay­ered up, Fred­die and I bor­rowed a sledge from re­cep­tion be­fore head­ing out to ex­plore our sur­round­ings and mark our ter­ri­tory with a host of snow an­gels.

The sun rose at around 10.30am and set at 1.30pm dur­ing our stay in late De­cem­ber, so by mid-af­ter­noon we were de­frost­ing in the hotel’s swim­ming pool. The wa­ter was a balmy 32C, mak­ing time rid­ing the slide and wal­low­ing un­der the water­falls to­tally trop­i­cal.

Once suit­ably pruney of fin­gers, we headed to the hotel’s bril­liant An­gry Birds Ac­tiv­ity Park. The in­door play zone is packed with go-karts, climb­ing walls, tram­po­lines and tun­nels. It was the per­fect place for younger kids to run off some en­ergy af­ter dark.

Day two was all about Elf School. Or it would have been if, as a mem­ber of TUI staff con­fided, there hadn’t been an is­sue with the elves – they just didn’t have enough. We were as­sured

there was a new consignmen­t of Santa’s lit­tle helpers ar­riv­ing from the North Pole in time for the next planeload of vis­i­tors, but in the mean­time the morn­ing had been hastily re­named a “taster ses­sion”.

It was an ideal in­tro­duc­tion to win­ter fun. Huskies whizzed us around a frozen lake (poop­ing rather than jin­gling all the way, much to my pre-schooler’s amuse­ment) be­fore we boarded a ski­doo “train” which took us to a pic­ture-per­fect log cabin, feed Ru­dolph and his mates on moss, toast marsh­mal­lows and sled down a small hill at high speed.

Fred­die de­clared the whole morn­ing the best fun he had ever had. I can nei­ther con­firm nor deny I opted to have a shot of Bai­leys added to my pre-lunch hot choc to help me warm up.

Fast-for­ward to day three and we found our­selves 10 miles from the Rus­sian bor­der, where I was un­der­go­ing a KGB-level grilling.

We had ar­rived at Santa’s Se­cret Cot­tage for our ren­dezvous with Mr Claus and while ev­ery other child sat in rapt si­lence, lis­ten­ing to mag­i­cal tales of life at the North Pole, Fred­die had a lot of ques­tions. Why did Fa­ther Christ­mas have a grey beard? A Fin­nish ac­cent? Hu­man­sized elves? I’m still not sure I had any of the right an­swers.

He was fi­nally tempted out of his hid­ing spot when he re­alised that the re­ward for sit­ting on Santa’s knee was a large, gold foil-wrapped gift. He def­i­nitely wasn’t miss­ing out on one of those.

Our last night in La­p­land, the fes­tive finale, was billed as a tra­di­tional Christ­mas din­ner, but not as you know it. We drove out to a stun­ning log cabin where we were met by a roar­ing fire and a tune­ful tour rep work­ing his way through ev­ery Christ­mas hit from Si­na­tra to Slade via East 17.

While the meal was less “roast with all the trimmings” and more Bernard Matthews and Smash, all was for­given when we trooped out into the night for the fire­works.

Stand­ing in the pitch black, we had no idea what our sur­round­ings looked like.

Then the bangs be­gan, each one il­lu­mi­nat­ing the sky to re­veal the most idyl­lic win­ter won­der­land in front of us; an im­mense frozen lake, seem­ingly end­less forests and acres of vir­gin snow – just wait­ing for some­one to dive in to make one fi­nal snow an­gel be­fore head­ing home.

Covid mea­sures will be in place for Christ­mas 2020 trips, in­clud­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing and screens at Santa meet­ings.

The new film The Se­cret Gar­den is out now and stars Colin Firth and Julie Wal­ters in an up­dated adap­ta­tion of Frances Hodgson Bur­nett’s 1911 novel, which has de­lighted gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren and adults.

The story tells of how Mary, a trou­bled and lonely girl, finds hap­pi­ness and friends in­side a mys­te­ri­ous locked-up walled gar­den.

Vis­i­tors can ac­cess the three real Na­tional Trust gar­dens that fea­ture as film­ing lo­ca­tions on screen.

Bod­nant Gar­den, Conwy

LEAFY Oster­ley Park

GRAND Labur­num

arch at Bod­nant

Once the home of monks seek­ing a more sim­ple ex­is­tence, the dra­matic ru­ins of Foun­tains Abbey are a win­dow into a way of life that shaped the medieval world.

With the beau­ti­ful 18th cen­tury Stud­ley Royal Wa­ter Gar­den, the ru­ins form part of a World Her­itage Site.

Foun­tains Abbey was also used as a lo­ca­tion for the 1993 film adap­ta­tion, with Foun­tains Hall be­com­ing the ex­te­rior of Mis­selth­waite Manor, while a small gated door­way just op­po­site was the hid­den en­trance into the gar­den.

The East Guest House was trans­formed for its star­ring role as one part of the mag­i­cal Se­cret Gar­den.

 ??  ?? CLAUS TRULY Santa and pal
CLAUS TRULY Santa and pal

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