keep off

keep off

Monday, 16 April 2012

Lapland - a Rovaniemi Review

Since when did Santa come from Lapland?  Everyone knows he comes from the North Pole, so how did the Lapland tourist board manage to persuade us all that he actually lives in northern Finland?  Well, however they did it, my family were fooled, and in December 2011 I allowed myself to be talked into taking everyone there for a day trip, including 11 year old Jamie with Down's Syndrome.

We went on the Thomas Cook "Santa Sleigh Day" at Rovaniemi.  Here's how we got on.

After a stupidly early start and a not unpleasant flight and bus ride, we arrived at the winter wonderland that is Reindeer Park. 

I knew that we were going to see a traditional Lappish hut and hear an old Lappish legend, and I thought the wheelchair might be useful to keep Jamie calm (if we don't use a wheelchair he usually tries to run off, or sometimes just goes limp like the old Greenham Common protestors).  However, I also sensed it would be difficult to push the wheelchair in the snow, so I asked the rep how far away it was.  She pointed to a big gate twenty metres away and said "literally just there", so I decided to take the wheelchair after all, and off we went.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that what actually meant was "the entrance to the grounds is literally just there, but our destination is about a mile further on, down a beautiful but treacherous woodland track."   The problem was compounded by the fact that Jamie refused to sit in the wheelchair, so we just had to drag it along behind us, while struggling to lead Jamie on, and pulling Jamie's sister Jemima along on a sledge too.  I do have to admit though, the walk through the snow-covered forest was indeed extraordinarily beautiful,  and this beauty was enhanced by the candles that lit the way - I suppose that Thomas Cook had no way of knowing that Jamie has a candle phobia, and has a compulsion to blow them out, so I cannot blame them for the fact that we had to wrestle him away from the flames every thirty seconds.  I am however, still blaming that rep for "literally just there";  half way through the walk I did decide to tell her off, but I could not remember which rep it was - they all dressed the same!  Anyway, as I said, the walk was beautiful, and we also crossed a big river by a wooden bridge, and that was quite spectacular.  We caught a lucky break there in that Jamie did not throw his boots in the river (although it was not for want of trying).

The Lappish hut was charming, and the man in Lappish dress told his legend (about his hat) well.  He was also very understanding about the fact that Jamie sang "Happy Birthday to You" loudly all the way through his story, and then blew out all the candles within his reach.  After the story, it was, as I had feared, back the way we had come.  As I was struggling with the wheelchair over that bridge I mentioned earlier, and looking down at the icy torrents below, I thought to myself that it was probably for the best that I did not know which rep it was who had misled me, or I might have been tempted to arrange for her to have a little "accident."

Lunch included mushroom soup, chicken casserole, chicken nuggets, potato wedges, and chocolate mousse.  It was in a nice cabin near the entrance to the park.  It turned out that the rest of the afternoon's activities - reindeer rides, husky rides, sledging, and the visit to Santa - were all in that vicinity, and with joy and relief we realized we could leave the wheelchair in the cabin!

I thought the reindeer and huskie sleigh rides were great, and so did Jem.  I am not sure what Jamie thought - he kept shouting "I want to go home now" while in the queue, and he was very reluctant to get onto the sleighs, but once we did manage to persuade him, I think he enjoyed himself. It is just a shame he did not seem interested in playing in the snow - while Jem was off building a snowman and having snowball fights, Jamie just grumbled about going back to the bus.

 Jamie definitely did enjoy meeting Santa Claus though.  He just walked up to the big man and hugged him. Then Jemima joined in too.  Santa looked surprised but recovered well.  Now, I hate when writers use the old cliche "that moment made the whole thing worthwhile" - it's a phrase that gets used a lot by people writing about travel exploits - the context is usually something like "the view from the top of the mountain made the previous seven days trek through the wilderness, without food or water, that cost the lives of eight of our crew, worthwhile".  I never bought that, so I am not going to say it...oh sod it, I am!  It did make it all worthwhile.  It was a brilliant moment and I will always remember it.

Anyway, after Reindeer Park we were all exhausted and ready to go home, but instead of the airport, the bus took us to "Santa Claus Village."  My heart sank when the rep invited us to get off the bus for two hours of "exploring and souvenir shopping", but it actually turned out fine.  We had hot chocolates all round in a nearby cafe, and we got our second wind.  The village turned out to be really pretty, with loads to see and do, and I was actually sad to leave.

We were all very, very tired on the way back to England.

No comments:

Post a Comment