Lapland For Grown Ups – Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of our adventures, we pick up with day 2 which involved a trip to Santa Claus Village.  Now you might think this is no place for the over 10’s, but amongst the souvenir shops were nestled a huge Marimekko outlet store (Finnish design icons) and an Iittala store (specialists in Finnish tableware and cookware).  Liz was basically in Nordic interior design heaven.

Marimekko exterior

Marimekko

Marimekko2

Stepping over the official Arctic Circle Line, we ventured into Santa’s official post office to write a few postcards, and observed the young elves earnestly (and genuinely) sorting through the piles and piles of letters received from kids around the world.  You’d have to be a true Grinch not to be slightly charmed by the sight. And they’re not perfect – we rescued a stray letter that fell on the floor, so we reckon that puts us on the ‘nice’ list for this year.

Elf post

Santa Claus Village also surprised us with it’s eateries. No generic McReindeer Burgers to be had here – there was Santa’s Salmon Place, which rates very highly on Trip Advisor as the best food in Rovaniemi, and who could say no to salmon roasted over an open fire in a massive tipi?

Matti Korva

We also experienced the fantastical and wonderful world of Santamus (another Trip Advisor favourite restaurant), where we were shown exemplary Lappish hospitality by the owner Matti Korva.   Matt explained his journey from music professor to the creator and proprietor of this log cabin feasting venue. The interior is like stepping into a fairy-tale, complete with babbling stream, birdsong, open range cooking, a dessert boat and an on site traditional wood fired sauna (and no, we didn’t drink too much gloggi and imagine all of that…).  We were treated to a musical serenade on the kantele (traditional Finnish harp thing) and the saw (yes, a saw – he had a special case for it and everything).  Making a smooth segue from Mary’s Boy Child into Proud Mary, Matti admitted to a penchant for a bit of Tina Turner.  We exited the lantern-lined path still slightly stunned that such a place existed in the rather innocuous surroundings of a kid’s adventure park.

Santa village

lanterns

Aside from the more high-octane skiing and snow-mobiling opportunities, we also found time to stretch our legs and take in some of the picturesque snow dusted spruce, pine and birch woodland, albeit wrapped up nice and warm in snowsuits and boots.

Huddled under fur blankets, we also took a very leisurely reindeer ride through the forest at night-time.  With the Plough looming large above us, we noted what a romantic occasion it would make for a proposal, until the reindeer pulling the sleigh behind us became frustrated by our lax driving and nearly ran us into the trees in an enthusiastic overtaking manoevre.

reindeer sign

Reindeer3

After all the activity, good food and drink is a must and we made sure to explore the local offerings. Arctic Boulevard emerged as the star of the show. Kath indulged in some amazing reindeer steak – albeit slightly sheepishly after being at the reindeer park only hours before. The waitress reliably told us there were more reindeer than people in Lapland, so there was no need to feel guilty, though we couldn’t look them in the eye afterwards. Dessert involved artfully-presented lingonberry cake (the Finns are big on lingonberries) accompanied by sweet hay marshmallow and salted butterscotch ice cream, and a rhubarb and caramel conconcotion that would have had us licking our plates clean were they not massive slate slabs (tricky to wrangle).

Reindeer AB

Artic Boulevard

Obviously the trip had to conclude with a visit to see the big man himself, and on the final night we were taken to a remote location in the woods, fed Christmas fare by elves, and waited patiently (ish) for our big moment.   After arriving on (another) reindeer-pulled sleigh to the accompaniment of fireworks (no sneaking required here), he proceeded to invite the very excitied children in one by one.  The excitment reached fever pitch, and there were even nosebleeds and tears, before we got our turn.  Ever the pro, Santa pocketed Kath’s nephew’s letter, gave us some sage advice on reindeer driving (all in the rope action apparently), and didn’t seem phased that we had no children with us (except in utero).  We’ll have to leave him an extra splash of sherry out this year.

adults can love christmas too

As we waited for our departing flight the next morning, there was many a small, sad face and a few tears at leaving the elves and the Thomson crew behind.  We felt a mite teary too, and wished we had a little longer to mooch around Rovaniemi, explore the local wilderness and hang out with the lovely locals like our guide Laura.

So, much as we’re never usually happy to prove a child wrong, in this instance we were very happy to prove that Lapland should be a destination on everyone’s wish list.

Winter romance

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Lapland For Grown Ups – Part 1

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‘So why are you going to Lapland?’ asked the mum next to us on the plane. ‘Well, we’re here to write about why it’s not only a destination for kids’. ‘Lapland is just for kids’ objected her daughter, ‘it’s not for grown ups’.  Well, there was the gauntlet thrown.

Lapland has always sounded like an enchanted mystical far-away land, so when we pitched our idea of Lapland For Grown-Ups to Thomson Holidays back in June it seemed a surreal notion, and we were slightly stunned and incredibly exited to find out that they would be sending us to Rovaniemi in northern Finland.

Commute to work, Rovaniemi

Liz & Kath

Quick geography lesson for those who are as clueless as we were: Lapland spans an area in the Arctic Circle across northern Sweden, Norway and Finland (and a bit of Russia), and is traditionally inhabited by the Sami people (or Lapps). It’s pretty nippy there in winter (it can get down to -30C, so pack your thermals!) and the days are very short this time of year – about 2 and a half hours between sunrise and sunset, which made opportunities for daylight photography limited, but meant that we snapped some impressive skies.

Lapland forest

View from our hotel, Rovaniemi

Sunrise through the trees

Some friends were sceptical of our destination and thought we’d signed ourselves up for living in Santa’s grotto for 3 nights, but there’s a lot more to Lapland than Disneyland transplanted to the Arctic.

Yes, there were elves, but they were pretty darn cool Finnish elves, complete with skater style snow boots and not a jingle bell in site. There was also a very helpful beardy elf who sorted us out when we looked lost at the arrivals lounge. Every airport should have one.  And of course we got to meet Santa, but more about that later…

Elves Snowball fight

On our first day we were whisked off to try a range of winter activities. We tried our hand at snowmobiling, which is basically like quad biking but on skis and a whole lot less muddy. It’s quite an adrenaline buzz bombing through tree-lined paths.

Snowmobile adventure

Snowmobile adventure

If you fancy taking a back seat in proceedings, whipping around on a husky sled is equally fun (and if you do have sprogs with you, you can all get in on the action). Liz got close enough to the huskies to get some impressive pictures but they had a wild glint in their eye which suggested they weren’t the stomach rubbing kind…Husky riding

Our husky friend

Sledding down a massive hill on tea tray size bits of plastic was by far and away the most popular activity, and we spotted far more adults in the queue than kids.  It was great fun with just the two of us, but you could see a more competitive edge emerging with a larger group of thirty-somethings that were on our trip (Kath was at a bit of a disadvantage in our snowball fight, being 6 months pregnant).

Our friendly Gloggi server

Kettles simmering on an open fire in the snow

There were fires and warm, spiced berry juice on hand to help defrost between activities, and in a cosy tipi we came across Janna, who (being chummy with Santa), told us a few tales around his fire and reliably informed us about who was and wasn’t on the ‘nice’ list.  We also caught him one-on-one; he was a Rovaniemi local who was happy to chat about the recent Independence Day celebrations (a bit like the Oscars but with ballroom dancing and a massive buffet). Also, he wasn’t the least bit cynical about Christmas as he proudly told us about the Finnish Christmas traditions, which seem to involve a big ham and a booze-up on Christmas Eve – we could definitely subscribe to that.

Elf elder and storyteller, Yanna

Stories around the campfire

Between activities we had time to explore the town, and got ourselves down to the spectacular Artikum Museum, which houses exhibits about Lapland’s climate, geology and culture. It’s worth a visit for the building alone – a geometric structure half underground, as though in hibernation, with a tall glass corridor (‘The Gateway to the North’) that stretches out towards the Kemijoki river. It was our intention to take a stroll back one evening along the river as it’s apparently a good place to spot the Northern Lights but for some reason the prospect of a 1am jaunt in -9C didn’t appeal at the time…

The Artikum

Artickum timber exhibition

The Artikum promenade

For those who are as obsessed with design as we are, this part of the world is pretty pleasing. Be it interiors, architecture, fashion or art – just like their Scandi counterparts, the Nordic people seem to have an in built sense of taste. Needless to say both of us are now saving up for our second winter homes. More to come on the design front at a later date, but for now enjoy some of our dream home shots.

Next up:  Competitve reindeers, saw playing, and the Big Man himself….

Liz's dream home 1

Liz's dream home 2 copy

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Etsy Picks: Christmas Cards

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Our pick of this years Crimbo Cards. Head over to Etsy to view the full festive collection…

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Mixtape: Christmas For Grinches

 

1 That’ll Be Christmas Thea Gilmore
2 Elf’s Lament (with Michael Buble) Barenaked Ladles
3 I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas Aimee Mann
4 Christmas Wrapping Waitresses
5 Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) John Denver
6 Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) Ramones
7 When the Thames Froze Smith & Burrows
8 Christmas Card From Hooker In Minneapolis Tom Waits
9 Blue Christmas Johnny Cash
10 Christmas Is Going To The Dogs Eels
11 Father Christmas The Kinks
12 Christmas In Prison John Prine
13 Merry Christmas You Suckers Paddy Roberts

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Etsy Picks: Christmas Wrapping

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Christmas all wrapped up. Check out our favourite festive Etsy picks here

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Etsy Picks: Deck the Halls

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Get kitted out for Christmas. View our favourite fancy festive Etsy picks here.

 

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