Day trips to Lapland from the UK are very popular these days as although it's quite far away it's do-able in a day and a real treat for children.
You end up having around 7 and a half hours there to go on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, another pulled by huskies, a snowmobile ride and a visit with Santa. When I went with Seth the trip was magical. Unfortunately for everyone on our trip it was disastrous!
From the airport we were taken by bus to Enontekio - the trip took just under two and a half hours. It was very pretty but basically it was just driving on a road through forest as this area is very remote. We did pass a stunning ski resort called Levi which I fell in love with but that was about it besides the bus slowing down to show us some reindeer.
When we got to our destination we were told by our rep that she would be with us all day and that we would have two extra hours there to make sure we did everything. Then she disappeared and left us all standing around in -35degrees not knowing where to go. We found another rep who told us that we couldn't have another two hours there but we would get to do everything then she disappeared. My friend and I registered for the sleigh for the Santa Safari and while we were waiting for that queued for 40 minutes to go on the husky ride. As we had got there so late it was now night and absolutely baltic so loads of kids were crying and saying they wanted to go home. Luckily Lily and Tom are old enough that we could let them go off just behind us and play with sledges while we waited.
We then went on our Santa Safari which started out beautifully. We were pulled by a skidoo on a sleigh over a frozen lake and through snow covered forest for quite a way until we reached a very picturesque log cabin with a huge carving of a grizzly bear outside. Just beyond that Santa had parked his car!!!! This went unnoticed by Lily and Tom but my friend Tina and I were so disappointed that Santa hadn't had the sense to park his sleigh there instead or just park his car behind his cabin.
I sneaked Lily's Christmas list in to Santa's 6 foot elf (!) and Lily was delighted when he produced the letter she had written a month ago and left on the fireplace to be collected by Santa when he next flew over our house.
We returned to the main area to go on a reindeer ride only to be told that we had to get on the bus to go back to the airport. People were very unhappy to say the least. Children were in tears. Lily tried to be very brave but cried when she found out she couldn't see the reindeer. Some children didn't even get to see Santa which is just awful.
We got back to the airport with everyone agreeing to write in to the travel company to complain. You pay a lot of money for this trip and most people have to save for some time to afford it. It was such a disappointment for everyone for it to be such a let down.
We got back to the aiport and after boarding found out that one of the engines was faulty. After the first officer went out and tried to start the engine manually (can you imagine how relaxed I was about that !!) they realised that there was a realy problem so in complete contrast to how inefficient the travel company had been the airline immediately arranged hotel rooms for everyone.
I phoned my husband from the plane to tell him and he couldn't stop laughing - he said your day started with Dumb and Dumber, in the middle it was Planes, Trains and Automobiles - let's just hope that when you get to the hotel it doesn't end with The Shining! I do love his warped sense of humour!
I was delighted as we got to stay in the beautiful ski resort called Levi that we had passed earlier.
The hotel was gorgeous and looked like lots of log cabins at the foot of a hill with illuminated ski slopes behind the buildings. After a good nights sleep which we all really needed we had the day at the ski resort to do as we pleased with meals provided.
I was in my element here. There were sledges everywhere so all the children had a fab time running around and sliding down hills.
Lily and I went for a stroll (well I strolled and she sat in a sledge pulled by me) around the village which was just beautiful.
I was still a bit upset that she hadn't been on the reindeer ride or the snow mobiles like her brother had and felt I'd let her down a bit so decided to take her on the cable car up to the top of the ski slope just for fun!
By pure chance there were two newspaper journalists (from different newspapers) with their families so as soon as we got back the BBC news TV crew met us at the airport and were interviewing people coming off the plane. The story has been in loads of newspapers and I had a phonecall from ITV news yesterday asking to interview me and they came to my house yesterday and I was then on the news at 6!
What a weekend we had!
It was only saved thanks to the airline (Thomson).
The Travel company Transun unfortunately now have to deal with horrendous publicity and complaint letters from 188 passengers - I hope they have as good a time dealing with them as we did standing around on our own in minus 35degree temperatures!
At least the stress of the weekend made me forget about my fear of flying on the way home!!