Today makes the 10th anniversary of the day we left Melbourne, Australia in 32 degrees (Celsius that is) to fly to Luosto, Lapland, via Singapore and then Helsinki. Much of that day is still so fresh in my memory. Flying with Qantas to Singapore, and watching the plane taking off on in-flight entertainment. So revolutionary then. My wife not being at all well when we got to Singapore from motion sickness, she had to lie on the floor at Changi Airport, Singapore before getting on Finnair to Helsinki.
That flight to Helsinki is still one of my favourites. The in-flight entertainment wasn’t as good as Qantas, but I just remember how comfortable the seats were and I loved the food. Then the massive wait over in Helsinki with a hyper active 6 year old. Then followed by the most memorable and favourite flight. It was purely magically.
So, was it worth the 3 flights, 2 different airlines, going from 32 degrees to minus 20 degrees. 10 years on, was it still worth it.
That little six year old, is now learning to drive, discovering the highs and pitfalls of being in and out of love, starting to understand that money doesn’t grow on Christmas Trees. And looking forward, to hopefully a long summer holiday in Australia. We asked him recently if he remembered any of the trip. And here is the list in no particular order, the memories that he still has.
11 Things from Lapland
The lay over at Helsinki on a Sunday morning was lengthy. What I remember was the excitement on my wife’s face at seeing European fashion stores. Entertaining our son in every play area at Helsinki airport and there are plenty of them. Falling in love with Pentik. And being mightily relieved when the restaurant, Deli Fly Inn opened. So, why does our son remember this. As he said, “because Dad it was food”. Yep, it was one of the most memorable gluten-free burgers we have ever eaten. But for some reason he remembers it well. And food would become a big part of his memory, as you will discover below.
The Long Building
The Long Building as he still puts it, was the main building of the hotel we stayed at. Surrounded by pines covered in snow. In fact there was snow absolutely everywhere. We stayed in a log cabin nearby but the reception was in the Long Building and some hotel rooms. It was/is a massive log cabin. Which also had the largest log cabin restaurant in the world. With dazzling Christmas Lights.
Kindling for the Log Fire
The smaller log cabin we stayed in had a wood burning stove. And although there was ample supply of birch wood, there wasn’t much, well in fact no kindling. Only firelighters and matches were provided. As it was dark by 2pm, the early evening was spent in front of the fire, peeling bark off the wood and using this as additional kindling, to the firelighters. As it turns out this was one of our sons most memorable moments. And I must admit one of mine. Quietly just sitting together.
This is a totally random one. But he remembers watching Jamie Oliver on Finnish TV. That food theme again. Why he should remember this, I have no idea. Because, I don’t think he knew who he was at the time. Maybe it was just the memory of his parents shock, of seeing Jamie Oliver on TV in Finland.
No trip to Lapland in winter, is a trip to Lapland without tobogganing. Even if it was minus 20 degrees. But more like minus 30 degrees with the wind chill. It was freezing. The handy thing, is that Luosto is also a ski resort. My wife sheltered out of the wind, in the minus 20 degrees whilst I tobogganed with my son. And why does he remember the tobogganing? Because his mum was freezing and made him go back indoors. To be honest I think he would have kept tobogganing even if he became a snowman.
There isn’t much to do in Luosto, in terms of amenities. You are there for the snow, Father Christmas and winter activities. But the snow church was amazing. Not very big. Maybe it could hold up to 20 people. But it was beautifully made out of snow, and carved (and even hosted a wedding whilst we were there). The windows were made of ice and it was a pleasure to see the locals craft work whilst they made it. They were also good enough to allow a six year old who spoke no Finnish to help them out. Clearly it left a lasting impression on our son.
If you have ever been lucky enough to be on a husky ride in the dark, in a snow covered forest. You are not going to forget a husky ride. When we asked our son the other day what he thought about the husky ride. “Good”, was the response. High praise from a teenage. And to be totally honest it was one of the best things I’ve even done. And would do it again in a heart beat. As for the reindeer ride, the only comment we got was, “they were smelly”.
I would have thought that most families who visit Luosto, Lapland just before Christmas are there for just one reason. To see Father Christmas. On our way to see Father Christmas we were pulled along in two sleighs, my wife and son in the front and myself in the back. In the depths of the forest an Artic Hare shot out in front of my son and wife. To which, my son turns to my wife and says, “Look Mama, the Easter Bunny”. Gold two for the price of one, the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas. He still vividly remembers that.
Father Christmas’ House
Now this is the ironic thing. We travel all that way to see Father Christmas. But he now barely remembers visiting him but he does remember the house. He was saying, just recently and I never know this. He couldn’t work out why the Elves were bigger than him. An interesting observation. That said, it is without doubt made him a true believer much longer than we had expected. Because he had been to the real Father Christmas’ house.
Waiting for the Bus
It is amazing what kids remember and don’t remember. He remembers that we had to get up really early to catch the bus from Luosto to the airport. It was bitterly cold and we thought we had missed the bus because it was a tad late. One minute at those temperatures feels like an hour when you are waiting for a bus. Now whether it was that, the cold, or the thought of going to the airport, or knowing he was on his way to visit his grandparents, I have no idea.
The Best Meal He Has Ever Had
As I’ve mentioned food played a big part on the trip. One day we had so much fun playing in the snow and just wondering around, we had forgotten to have lunch. So, by about 2.30pm we were all hungry and finding it difficult to find somewhere to eat. Until we stumbled on a hut at the edge of Luosto. It wasn’t exactly the most welcoming place. I think they were tidying up for the day. We were the only people in the place, there was a television on the wall. Not the sign of a well heeled restaurant. And the only thing we could eat were, chips.
Now I’m not saying they were the best chips in the world, but when they came out on a massive plate, there were smothered in smoked paprika. The smell was amazing and the taste mind blowing. To this day we all speak fondly of those chips. Most definitely one of the most memorable meals we have ever had.
Is Luosto Lapland Worth It?
Absolutely. To me it was the best family holiday we have had so far. It was the way holidays should be. No laptops. No social media. No one contacting you from work, well you couldn’t back then anyway, only via the hotel. The excitement of a young child was completely contagious. We organised it ourselves (you can read about this in the original article – Just Love Christmas’ Trip to Lapland to Visit Father Christmas), which was probably cheaper and allowed us more time to stay. But if you are thinking of doing it even on a day trip from the UK or anywhere else in Europe. It was, is amazing. The ultimate Christmas experience.