3 months ago we bit the bullet and booked 4 days/ 3 nights with Esprit in Santa’s Lapland. Our eldest was going to be 10 2 days before our planned departure date, and although I’m not convinced she still really believes in the Big Man, she’s still happy to play along. Our youngest is almost 4, the youngest age that you’d really want to drag a child outside in the sort of temperatures they have in Lapland at this time of the year.We did see a couple of under threes but they were usually crying miserably, even with all the protective gear on.
The first day was probably the longest, so the most exhausting.
We left the house at 4:30 am on the first day to get down to Gatwick for our 8am flight to Ivalo. The flight was chartered with Easy Jet which hardly thrilled us, but it wasn’t too bad at all. The worst bit was queuing for an hour to check in, then realising, just as we reached the front of the line, that there was a special, much shorter, check in on the other side of the hall especially for our flight.
The cabin crew had got into the spirit of things and dressed accordingly. They held an Easy Jet’s Got Talent show which saw half the children on the plane getting up to sing a song or tell a joke, then held balloon and toilet paper races, pitting one side of the plane against the other. For some reason I thought the flight was going to only be 2 1/2 hours, but it turned out to be more like 3 1/2 hours. This was a blow because the girl behind us vomited all over her mother at about the 2 hour mark, so we had to sit with the smell wafting over us for an extra hour.
But the landing was smooth enough and it took us about 10 minutes to get through passport control. The bags were already on the carousel and after a quick toilet stop, during which DD3 got hit in the face with an outward-opening door handle, we were on the bus and had our first elf-perience.
Esprit don’t just employ human beings, they also employ elves. These mischievous creatures are mainly based at the airport, and while visiting Santa, and I have to say my first meeting with them left me annoyed, rather than amused. Future encounters were more successful, but I fear I was a bit grumpier than the average client during that first meeting when I had a severe sense of humour failure!
Despite my bad temper, the transfer to the hotel was efficient and we stopped en route to be allocated our snow gear. We were lent an all-in-one snow suit, socks and boots, gloves and hats to wear during our time in Saariselka. The whole bus was done in about 10 minutes, and we were soon on our way again.
At the hotel we were given information packs and room keys, so off we toddled. We were staying in the Holiday Club, and were in the main building so at least we didn’t have to put on all our clothes before coming over to dinner. Our rooms were located way down the back of the hotel though; going to reception was still a major expedition.
The weather was quite mild for a Lapland winter, around -6 to -10C, but we still needed 3 layers on the top and 2 on the bottom, plus our borrowed snowsuit, to stay warm. They give you boots a size too big so you can wear a couple of pairs of thermal socks with them; this is definitely recommended. Glove liners and Mycoal hand and foot warmers also helped enormously.
We had two rooms between the 6 of us. Each room had two singles and a sofa bed that became a double if necessary. With three of us in the room, we were cosy but had room to get dressed /move around. With 4, I can only imagine how squashed you’d be. The rooms were basic, but clean, with plenty of storage but were far too warm. The lampshades are also easily knocked against the lightbulbs, and almost caused a fire the first night we were there.
DH went to the Welcome meeting while I stayed behind with the kids and tried to find something to watch on TV. They claim to have ‘satellite TV’, but the English channels we would like to have watched were ‘not working’ while we were there. Luckily we had iPads and Nintendos to entertain us.
The other problem was that our door was difficult to open, from the outside and inside. We got the hang of it eventually, but at one point I was trapped in the room with all 4 kids, unable to open the door. Not ideal!
When DH got back from the meeting, we decided what extra activities we would do, then headed off to dinner. We had been warned it might be dire, but it wasn’t too bad. No one went hungry, even if DS ate only bread and butter for dinner for the three nights we were there. And it was slightly disconcerting that the very tasty casserole I enjoyed that first night turned out to have reindeer as a main ingredient.
We all slept well that night through pure exhaustion and didn’t wake until 9 am, and only them because breakfast finished at 10…
( To be continued)