Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Posts Tagged ‘snow

A meeting with Santa: at his own home

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“I’ll never forget this trip as long as I live,” said my little boy, giving me a hug.

That solitary comment certainly made it worthwhile: we were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Lapland to see Santa. That’s right: the real Big Fella.

It was a magical trip and one the children will look back on with fondness.

After weeks of reading up on the different companies that offer Santa trips, we chose Esprit. It had a good choice of trips, wasn’t the cheapest or most expensive but – most importantly – has a good reputation and offered a private meeting with You Know Who.

There are choices of day trips, two night stays and three night breaks. The thought of flying three and a half hours into the Arctic Circle, only to return after 48 hours was too much.

For us, Santa’s Spectacular was the best option: a three night stay in the delightful town of Saariselka, staying in the Hotel Riekonlinna.

There would be an activity day, a 25 minute coach ride away from the resort, where we would enjoy a short husky ride, a reindeer sled ride, play ice hockey, toboggan, do a spot of ice fishing, watch a traditional Saami ceremony and drink enough warm berry juice to keep the cold at bay.

There was also a chance for the children to show off their artistic talents and do an ice sculpture and enjoy a spot of skidooing.

Of course, the extra day meant we had lots of free time. For us that meant tobogganing – seven hours. That’s a lot of trudging up Europe’s longest tobogganing run (1.2 km if you climb right to the top). But we did it because it was free.

We could not justify forking out for optional trips. A one-hour husky sled ride cost £89 per adult and £65 per child (aged 2-11), while one and half hours’ snowmobiling would have been an extra £370.

But tobogganing was such fun, I frankly didn’t care. Ploughing face first into a four foot deep snow pile because you can’t control the small plastic tray you sat in produced streams of raucous laughter.

The snowsuits, thermal socks, gloves, hats and boots handed out upon arrival kept us toasty warm and as they got rather damp from the snow ploughing, snow angels and snowball pelting it was great to have the drying cupboard in our hotel rooms.

The Hotel Riekonlinna stands at the end of the tiny town’s high street, close to the toboggan run. It is cosy and friendly with a bar that serves expensive drinks (a small local beer costs €5.30. Finland is notoriously pricey).

There is also a restaurant that serves a half-decent buffet breakfast – the usual array of breads, cereals and fruit, as well as a hot selection – but dinners didn’t hit the spot with many of the guests.

The choice was limited and strict vegetarians might get very hungry. And only one pudding.

The bedrooms, although in need of modernising, were spotless and very comfortable. A bit too comfy: who’d have thought I’d have had the window open all night in the Arctic Circle in December?

But the children didn’t care about any of this. Why would they? What they were interested in was seeing Santa.

As we travelled in a sled behind a snowmobile on our activity day through a forest to Santa’s house, there was evidence that elves were definitely up to no good. Abandoned gifts and a tipped up sleigh gave the clues, but soon we saw them outside a festive-looking wooden chalet.

After a minute of play – with them stealing our hats and having snow shoved in our faces – we were ushered in to a lovely, warm room, festooned with decorations and gifts. And there he was. Santa. And he had my children’s letters to him in HIS HANDS.

As he walked through the door, he exclaimed their names and they could barely speak. My son (8) was in total awe. How on Earth did Santa get our letters?

My daughter, who is ten, was rendered completely confused by the experience. As a Year 6 pupil, she is *on the cusp* with Santa. But there is no denying she loved the brief two-minute meeting with Santa – as well as the lovely gift of a reindeer in traditional Lappish costume.

So, was it worth it? It’s a heck of a lot of money for we grown-ups and I wouldn’t do it more than once. But it’s a lifetime of memories for youngsters – and that’s priceless.


Jayne Howarth and family paid for their three-night Esprit trip to Saariselka, flying from Manchester to Ivalo.

They stayed at the Premier Inn, Manchester Airport prior to the 6am flight to Ivalo.

Written by CommonPeople

December 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

It’s snow joke (geddit) when we get bad weather*

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Anyone would have thought the UK was in the grip of a new Ice Age when it snowed yesterday. That’s right: in the middle of winter, it snowed. Quite a lot. And the whole country fell apart at the seams.

Our overseas cousins who live in cold climes be must howling with derision at our seeming inability to cope with any extreme weather.

A Canadian who lives in this country revelled in telling me how she chortled as we struggled to do anything ten feet away from our front doors because there had been a light dusting of snow. Where she was from they had proper weather: 35C in the summer and -30C in the winter.

No one missed a day at school or work because of it. They simply had the mentality to deal with it. She travelled on a Trans-Atlantic flight one winter and it landed perfectly well with no problems, even though the weather was Arctic-like.

On her return to England her flight was diverted to another airport because of the inclement weather. It was about -2C and there was about two inches of snow. It took half the time of the flight again to go about 100 miles.

That’s the problem with the UK in general. We can’t cope when it snows and we do nothing to show our mettle. Instead, we put the kettle on, have a nice cup of tea and wait for the nasty weather to go away.

One snap of proper snow and public transport grinds to a halt; people panic about making journeys; roads become gridlocked; the media becomes over-excited at the fact there is a white-out/a big freeze/snow joke etc. To the outside world we must look ridiculous. We are – in general – pathetic.

(Of course, as the subject is weather-related we Brits will talk about it. It doesn’t matter what the weather, we will be able to comment on it ad nauseam: a stiff breeze coming from the east? Oh yes, we will engage for ten minutes about it. Weather too hot? Well, we can regale you with tales of what it was like in ’76.)

But the thing that has narked me beyond belief is that school headteachers were practically falling over themselves to close. Why?

I’ll scream if anyone shouts “health and safety”. According to the BBC, Ed Balls, the schools secretary for England, told Radio Four’s World at One:

There’s always a balance to be struck. In retrospect maybe the schools could have opened.”

This is certainly the case for primary schools, as many pupils live nearby, although I concede there might be difficulties for some senior schools, as some pupils may have to travel long distances on buses to get there (assuming doting parents allow them to use public transport nowadays).

Schools close because it is difficult for the teachers to get in. And? I am expected to go to work in the bad weather. If I don’t, I, like millions of others, have either to take a day’s leave or go unpaid.  Teachers, on the other hand, will be enjoying another day or two’s PAID holiday to add to the 13 weeks+ they already get. I bet if they were told they wouldn’t be paid because of the weather they’d find a way of getting in alright.

Can you imagine what would happen to the economy if everywhere was closed because of the bad weather? The Federation of Small Businesses believes that 20 per cent of the working population didn’t make it to work yesterday. That’s 6.4 million people.

Estimates on the cost to the economy yesterday alone come in between £900 million and £1.2 billion.

That’s the sound of the credit crunching under your snow boots.

(* the headline, by the way, is meant to be hackneyed and cringe-worthy)

Written by CommonPeople

February 3, 2009 at 4:07 pm