Lapland: Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

A magical Winter-Wonderland in the North of Europe, Lapland, is an exciting place to spend a winter holiday – a place that I myself visited in December 2016.

Having been a good boy all year I was not hesitant about meeting Santa at all! I was, however, hesitant about the trip to Lapland in general as I figured it would be queues of people for everything, terrible food and accommodation reminiscent of a stable (which was fairly apt for this time of the year) – however I was totally wrong!

My 3 days, 2 night adventure with Santa’s Lapland Tours (which you can now book with me for a discount) was all set to depart out of Newcastle on a direct flight to Ivalo on the 22nd December, meeting the BIG man himself on the 23rd – the night before he was due to drop off presents to boys and girls all over the world!

I arranged to meet my colleague, Ben, who was traveling with his 10-year-old son Oliver, who still believed, which was perfect, as I also got to see the trip through a believer’s eye.

Ben only told Oliver at the airport where he was actually going on his winter holiday and his face was a picture – trying to be a cool 10 year old but you could see he was even more excited than I was!

We arrived after a direct, 2 and a half hour flight over the Arctic Circle into Ivalo airport. It’s tiny but very well set up for the plenty of charter flights it receives during the 6 week rush for Santa and the occasionally flight to and from Helsinki, Paris, Frankfurt etc.

Whist waiting for our bags, we were greeted by Elves singing carols and ushered onto coaches as we walked past Rudolph and his reindeer friends, handled by guys in traditional Lapland costumes. It was the perfect start and just a taster of what was around the corner.

We all boarded our buses and took in the scenery for the 25-minute transfer to Saariselka. It was like driving through Narnia; snow everywhere, fur and pine trees fringed with more powder-white snow, the occasional cabin in-between the trees with fairy lights twinkling away.

Upon arrival into the resort, we were ushered to a store to do our best Michelin man impressions as a bunch of elves took one look at us and gave us a suitable suit to keep us warm for the next few days – how they actually did it was unbelievable, one glance and we were given a massive overall, thermal socks, boots and gloves! Other than the one-minute walk from the airport to the coach you are not exposed to the winter elements, so there’s no need to go out and spend a fortune on clothing before you go.

The art of keeping warm under the suits is layers. You will just need leggings, thermal long johns if you have them, a vest, T-Shirt, a sweatshirt and a jumper underneath the thermal snowsuit you are issued with and you will be as warm as toast!

The resort was made up of a few hotels, gift shops for the kids and a couple of restaurants and bars (for the adults!) There was no such thing as cars there; instead your chosen mode of transport is plastic toboggans, which are everywhere for anyone’s use. The kids loved it – being towed about everywhere – in fact Oliver found it difficult to actually walk anywhere when we got home! But if riding around in a toboggan all day doesn’t get you excited then there is also a toboggan run situated in the corner of the resort – great fun for kids and adults alike!

The first afternoon was free – and with the snow all around you it’s enough for the kids to do for a couple of hours. Prepped in our winter thermals we played around in the snow for hours without feeling the cold too much – there are people everywhere doing snow angels, sliding down the slopes, tobogganing or just enjoying the fresh air and snow in general.

Be aware there is little light during the day in Lapland. We arrived around 11am but it felt like 7 in the evening, and by around 5pm (still before dinner), you feel as if you should be going to bed! Maybe it was Lapland telling us we needed to be asleep before the big day tomorrow.

We were given a bit of time before we departed for the day, so we had an early breakfast – which, like the dinner the night before, was nothing to shout about, but nothing to complain about either. There was a small selection but something for everyone at least. And then we boarded our bus to be given a full briefing on what to do and how best to utilise our time when we got to the Arctic Circle centre.

(Kids don’t read this!) Adults can also remain in the bus, to be informed how to give their prewritten letters to Santa so it looks as if they had been posted. Meanwhile the kids are outside singing Christmas carols with the elves.

We headed down to the centre to do some ice fishing and play ice hockey before waiting in line for about 10 minutes (the only time we had to wait for anything) to board the sleighs where we could explore the Finnish wilderness on our search for Santa.

As we rode through the forest we passed an upturned sleighs with presents that had fallen out – Santa obviously had too many Sherries! We quickly arrived at a little cabin, covered in snow with excited elves prancing around outside.

We walked through the door to see him, sitting in a rocking chair with a raging fire in the corner, big red and white suit hanging on a hook and a magical Christmas tree, along with a pile of presents wrapped in blue or pink wrapping paper for obvious reasons.

Softly spoken with a Finnish accent, he produced the letter that Oliver had written previously – again his face was a picture. When we left Oliver said ‘I know that was the real Santa as he was just like the one on all the Christmas cards” bless him – he even fooled me to be fair!

Meeting Santa at Lapland

Meeting Santa

After Santa, we wandered over to the Ice Bar – an igloo with ice sculptures and of course, a bar for more €5 beers and the chance to thaw out a little. They also served hot chocolate for additional thawing.

We wandered back to the top of the snowy hills as we had a time slot for our Husky Sleigh Ride (the only activity you need a time slot for!) I was in a sleigh with my other colleague Megan and her adorable daughter Lilly, who at 20 months, had been pulled around in a toboggan since our arrival as they are easier to handle than a buggy/pushchair, and besides, the airline had left it in Stansted!

Visiting Lapland was a fantastic experience, for both the adults and children! And it’s easy to see why the locals speak of Lapland’s wilderness as a place ‘of strange magic’. From everlasting daylight in summer to the natural phenomenon, Aurora Borealis, in winter, Lapland is full of magical experiences that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Here are some of the best winter activities in Lapland that you need to try.

Northern Light Safaris

A natural wonder of the world, the Aurora Borealis is one of the massive lures to Finland. It occurs throughout the winter, during November to April, most commonly seen between 5pm and 2am. There are plenty of Northern Light tours to take you away from artificial light and give you the best chance of seeing this natural phenomenon. The tours include everything from evening snowmobile safaris to guided snowshoe adventures, or for those who don’t fancy braving the cold, you can stay in a glass-ceilinged igloo, where you can gaze at the night sky from the warmth of your bed.

Snowmobile Safaris

In Lapland, the locals often use snowmobiles to get around, using the massive network of snowy trails that extend past forests, frozen lakes and over the icy hills. It is because of these extensive tracks that it makes this the perfect way to explore the region.

 

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling

Dog-Sledding

A far more traditional way of traversing the snow-covered landscape is by sleigh, specifically pulled by a team of huskies that were bread to pull heavy loads in harsh conditions in Siberia. Pairs of dogs, typically three or four couples, will pull the two-man sleigh through the snowy tundra, following the lead slay. It’s an exhilarating experience, hurtling through the snow, but don’t expect peace and quiet! As they run, the dogs excitedly yap and bark, filling the idyllic surrounding with noise.

Dog Sleigh Rides in Lapland

Dog Sleigh Rides in Lapland

Sleigh Rides

For those who prefer the slow lane, a reindeer sleigh ride will be right up your street. Again, reindeer sleigh rides are a traditional way of transport for Lapland locals, who have depended on reindeers to get them around for centuries. In a stately procession, a single reindeer pulls open sleigh while you are tucked up warm in a bundle of furs. While it may not be the fastest of rides, you will enjoy the smooth, quiet and magical landscape from the comfort of your own toboggan.

Santa Claus’ Village

It wouldn’t be Lapland without popping to see the big man himself! The Santa Claus Holiday Village is a unique experience for adults and children alike; from cozy, cabin-like restaurants to exhilarating sledging down the snowy slopes. But a trip to Santa Claus’ Village wouldn’t be complete without knocking on Santa’s office door to meet the man in red.

Do you want to visit Lapland in 2017? I can organise the perfect trip for you and your family next winter. Call me on 07990 018018

REVIEW – THE FUSION MIA DA’NANG VIETNAM

Whilst I am not one for endless Spa treatments, I had heard only good things about the Fusion Mia Resort  in Da Nang, on the Mid Coast of Vietnam – so it was time to see what all the fuss was all about.

After 2 days in Hong Kong we took a direct flight to Da Nang International Airport which is only an hour and a half’s flying time.A short taxi journey from the airport through Da Nang itself, and you soon realise that whilst there are still plenty of Motor Bikes like every other Vietnamese Town or City, they don’t out number the cars. Da Nang is modern and very well organised with its grid system so it seems less chaotic then other cities.dn8

When you arrive at the Fusion Mia despite it not being too chaotic in the streets all is forgotten. A tree lined driveway, with the distinct smell of frangipani everywhere – you know you have arrived!

A zen like reception and the ‘sound of smiles’ everywhere – don’t ask me what that was but it describes every member of staff within the resort. A total genuine smile and welcome from them all.

The resort itselfdn11 is total peace and tranquility – a HUGE spa area whdn7ich offers 2 Spa Treatments as part of the package along with a genius breakfast any time anywhere option (more on the breakfasts later in this blog. 2 Pools – one in the spa area and an infinity pool right by the beach. 2 restaurants and a gym.

We were shown to our room – each room has its own lounge area, bed and one of the biggest bathrooms I have seen with a sunken bath looking out onto your own private plunge pool in the garden flanked by really comfortable sun-beds, and a further outdoor lounge area.

The rooms suit couples and a couple of friends sharing too as the bathroom area, as much as it al open plan, there is also a facility to close off the bathroom with a curtain – so if you do look at the photographs and worry – then worry not!

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I mentioned the Spa Treatments, I really thought i would hate them – but I am a complete convert now – I loved them. The staff are excellent and there is a wide variety of wellbeing treatments – i had my 2 hour slots every day! Treatments ranging from a pedicure to a bamboo roll, a hot stone massage and a lemongrass scrub! I am a new man!

The great thing about the Fusion Mia is that you can feel good all day and have the choice of healthy eating and juices or have a delicious burger and go through the cocktail list (Highly redn9commend the Gentleman’s Herb – a mix of Hendricks, Cointreau, soda, Coriander and Chile peppers. We did not have bad food in the Hotel (or out of it really) there are plenty odn6f Local Dishes to choose from – all made with vegetables and herbs form the resorts’ own garden, or go for the International choices including pizzas and burgers etc.

 

 

dn1I mentioned the any time any place breakfast – this is a great concept there is a choice of 12 dishes again local or international (Including Australian Steak and Eggs) and of course, Vietnamese Rolls and Poh (Noodle Soup like dish with meat and vegetables) along with an compliment of rolls, muesli and fruit. This can be served in either of the restaurants, in your room or on the beach – even in the Zen lobby if you wanted!

All in all – we loved this place – we were there with 2 other friends and enjoyed out time so much that we would return tomorrow in a heart beat – I am already looking at going back in August for a week.

A week in the Fusion Mia (with flights) can cost as low as £1640 pp – in a deluxe Pool Villa with Breakfast and 2 hours of treatments per day.

Alternatively, you can tie this is with a visit to Vietnam and a trip on the Mekong, or as we did a few nights in Hong Kong, or even tie it in with Cambodia or Singapore. there are many options to include this amazing haven on a beautiful coast.

For more information on how to get there – or how you can include this in an exciting trip to Asia, feel free to call me on 07990 018 018 or drop me an email david@thetravelsnob.co.uk

 

Hotel B Bedroom

Hotel B – Lima, Peru

Hotel B in Lima, Peru is number one on Tripadvisor. After my recent visit I can tell you exactly why it’s number 1. Read my review of Hotel B, Lima and see for yourself

TRAVEL CHALLENGE – I AM GOING TO CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO

I really dont quite believe this… I am going to climnb Mount Killimajaro – I will of course be looking for sponsors – watch this space!

ROME LIFE HOTEL – ROME

My neice loves Pizza, for her Chritmas Present I promied her a Pizza – a Lizza she got! 2015-02-28 21.46.45-1

We booked a Junior Suite at the very contemporary Rome Life Hotel, situated perfectly in a little street within walking distance to just about everything… 2015-02-27 23.42.20

This has to be one of the best hotels I have stayed in within Europe with such amazing staff. They really could not do enough for you. From the minute we checked in, until the moment we checked out, they were – well just brilliant!

The rooms are a great size, really clean with great ammenities, really comfy beds and black out curtains.. The hotel has a cool bar, and a lovely roof top terrace (with no bar) but nice to escape and get fresh air rather than sitting in the street. 2015-02-27 21.15.12

Cannot say enough good things about this place – I have already booked someone esle in – and they too raved about it.. Call me for fantastic rates – and of course, I can put a good word in with front desk for you too…

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TRIED & TESTED – ONE & ONLY CAPE TOWN

So I ‘nipped’ down to Cape Town the other week for a long weekend.  Crazy some may say, but with British Airways having night flights daily, and my ability to sleep the entire length of any flight, I arrived on Friday morning and left Monday night.

February/March is certainly the perfect time to go weather wise hot, not sticky and even I managed not to sweat!

The One & Only Cape Town is an impressive Hotel, with room choices from the Penthouse, Club Rooms, Island Rooms (the one we had) to standard rooms.  The Island Rooms, as one would imagine are on the Island adjacent to the hotel that forms part of the waterways linked to the famous Victoria and Albert Waterfront complex which is nect to the hotel.

The room was huge, amazing bathroom, and perfect in every way – brilliant Krupps coffee machine too! The rooms are next to the pool area 2015-03-07 11.54.56 where there is a constant flow of staff ensuring that everything is taken care of and you want for nothing – nothing is a problem for them. Tempreture controlled pool, with lots of shace or lots of sun depending on where you sit – I even managed a dip or 2! 2015-03-07 12.18.46

As the hotel has amazing views of Table Mountain 2015-03-08 14.09.05 it is difficult NOT to go to the top. We mentioned that we wanted to go to the front desk and what would the best time to go be ‘are you staying by the pool until you go Mr Walker’ I replied I was ‘then we shall keep calling the ticket office and check the queue – and come and tell you when the queue has died down’ and you know what – that is exactly what they did! Brilliant Service.

Table Mountain is less than 10 minutes in a taxi – a weird cable car with a revolving floor takes you up where you can watch others WALKING IT.. We obvioulsy just watched.. Views from the top are amazing… 2015-03-07 15.42.19

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Back to the evening where we ate at Nobu in the hotel itself as we had an early start (more on that one later) – food in general in South Africa is cheaper than most places around the world – and this has to be the best price Nobu I have ever been too!

Without question, I would receomend the One & Only, I also went there as I took advantage of an incredible deal I had access too – which I can get at any time… If you are interested in visiting yourself – just let me know.. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]