LAPLAND. Last Friday morning I got up at 2AM and traveled to Finland with my whole family – thirteen of us in total. My brother – aged four – and sister – eleven – were the complete embodiment of excitement and, as we arrived at the airport and met up with my Uncle, Aunt and three cousins – all under ten – you couldn’t not become swept up in the excitement. Even for me, a seriously anxious traveler. I had been a bit worried about anxiety cropping up whilst travelling, for travel is still my biggest nemesis, but I managed to surprise myself. Even on the plane I was fine, although I do put this down to having my boyfriend with me, and even when our plane had to divert to a different airport, I was surprisingly calm. It was too windy for us to land in the airport we were travelling to, so we had to land in a different one further north of Finland. This added a two hour coach trip to our journey which we weren’t thrilled about because the day felt like the longest day ever and when you’re travelling with five children it’s not an ideal situation, but it was worth it once we arrived. We were due to have our first activity that afternoon but, because of our delay in arrival, we didn’t make it. Instead we rescheduled and spent the evening settling into our accommodation and having something to eat.
On Saturday morning we were up bright and early to have breakfast and visit a reindeer farm. When we got up it was just as dark as it was when we went to sleep – this messed with me a bit! We had a short journey to the farm which was filled with reindeer. The snow glittered and every member of staff/guide that met with us throughout the whole trip were absolutely brilliant. Anyway we walked around the farm and watched the reindeer be fed, whilst we took photos and trudged through the snow. Afterwards, we each got the chance for a sleigh ride. Now you may think that as 21 year olds, my boyfriend and me wouldn’t be fussed about this. Wrong. It was lovely. We sat together in a wooden sleigh with blankets covering us, as we were led by reindeer around a small area of the farm. It was a surprisingly smooth ride!
Once we’d finished admiring the reindeer, it was time for lunch. We went into a small, dimly-lit cabin which was the epitome of coziness. We sat around in a circle and drank juice from wooden mugs, and ate soup from wooden bowls with wooden spoons. Ultimate Winter coziness.
After lunch we headed back to the main complex and, as we’d been unable to snowmobile to the reindeer that morning (the lake wasn’t quite frozen over enough), we were able to take out the snowmobiles on an alternative route so that we didn’t miss out. I didn’t think I’d be that bothered about this activity because I’m not an ‘adrenaline junkie’ and speed and things like that don’t really do anything for me, so I thought it made sense for my boyfriend to drive. So he drove our snowmobile whilst I sat on the back, all of us wearing big snow suits and heavy helmets. This turned out to be my favourite part of the whole trip! Whilst Charlie drove, I admired the views and enjoyed the journey through the forest – both of us quiet whilst we took everything in. It was the perfect combination of being a fun activity for us to experience together and something that was actually quite a relaxing experience. It was calm and quiet and of course the views were beautiful, so I was really pleased to have experienced it.
We had only around two hours of light each day, which I do have to say was a little strange for me. It messed with my body clock and sunlight is of course important for our mental health. However, it did really add a layer of magic to some activities. At 4pm it was time for the main event – we were off to see the big man. It was virtually pitch black and we were all told that we really mustn’t tell anybody where Father Christmas’ house is when we got home. It’s a top secret location, and Mr C is relaxing before the big day. We all bundled into sleighs and headed into the forest – this time a more bumpy ride – until we saw a cute cabin lit with candles amongst the trees. The children were beside themselves. Father Christmas knew all of our names and we were all on the ‘good list’. The children sat very quietly for the first few minutes, looking up at Father Christmas in complete awe, until my cousin – aged four – just couldn’t hold it in any longer. Before long, they were all gathered around Santa discussing all-things-Christmas.
Sunday was an early start. We were meeting our guide at 8am (6am UK time) to go and see some polar bears. Now usually, visitors are able to actually go inside the polar bear’s home, but she’d had a cub and this therefore made it a little dangerous for us to get so close to them. But it did mean that we got to see a one-year-old polar bear as well as an adult – and actually, I think it would’ve been a bit scary being so close! The guide told us all sorts about the polar bears whilst he fed them, and we watched the cub practicing his hunting skills. I’d love to show you photos of the bears, but it was far too dark!
As we didn’t get to go inside with them, the guides let us go inside with an arctic fox instead. Again I’d love to show photos as they were the cutest little animals, but my camera couldn’t get anything that wasn’t blurry as it was so dark! My siblings and cousins held small bowls of food for the fox whilst he came over and took it from them. It was very, very cute.
On Sunday afternoon we had the activity we’d had to reschedule on Friday – and the one I was most nervous for. Cross-country skiing. Luckily we did this whilst it was light! Our instructor was absolutely fab and had the patience of a saint. I thought it would be super difficult but I was surprised at how quickly I picked it up, although I was a bit nervous about going downhill. These hills are tiny compared to what you see when you ski downhill, but as somebody who has never done any kind of skiing before, it was a completely new thing for me. Still, I was the only one out of our whole group that didn’t fall over – pretty pleased with that.
Phew, that was a long post! Has anyone else been to Lapland? I’d love to hear about the things you did!