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.
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.