Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd January 2020
To start our second family quest to see the Northern Lights, Robert and Matilda travelled by train to Gatwick whilst their daughters drove themselves there with the larger items of luggage.
With a two hour time difference between the UK and Finland most of the day was taken up with travel.
Having checked in to our hotel we had limited time to find a restaurant with suitable vegetarian options for our evening meal. The choice of restaurant was further restricted by the fact that we had arrived on New Year’s Day and many places were closing early or offering a limited menu following the previous night’s revelry.
The hotel was opposite a well-known fast food chain however, so if all else failed we knew we could at least order fries.
Walking round the town we passed immense snow and ice sculptures – see selfie of the day. We eventually identified a bar offering a wide range of local beers and both meat and vegetarian burgers. With the evening meal planned, we first visited a pub for an aperitif and then returned to eat.
The bar also featured an alcove at the rear with an eclectic art exhibition. Travel can be tiring so although it was only around 20:00 UK time, following a game of cards we returned to the hotel, some to sleep and some to start the New Year as they meant to go on with a trip to the gym.
At this time of year in this part of Finland there are barely three hours between sunrise just before 11:00 and sunset at about 13:50, although it is light for some time either side of this.
As Rovaniemi is Santa’s home, there are many sights, activities and services which bear his name including the Santa Express, Santa Claus Village and SantaPark Arctic World.
Next morning we decided to go and visit him in his home in Santa Claus Village. Robert researched the options and we walked to catch the number 8 bus. Somewhat confusingly, the route stops at the same place twice and as we had arrived early the helpful bus driver said we could “come for the ride”, rather than waiting in the cold for the bus to return. After a tour of the outskirts of Rovaniemi, we arrived at Santa Claus Village.
The Arctic Circle passes through here and is helpfully labelled at various places so that you can maximise your photo opportunities.
You can go and see him personally and although we chose not to, our visit proved that you are never too old for Santa.
You can ride in a sledge pulled by reindeer. . .
. . . or visit Snowman World.
You can leap into and out of the Artic Circle.
You can have your photo taken by the coolest place in Santa Claus Village . . .
. . . or check how far you are from home.
You can simply enjoy the snow . . .
. . . and the festive decorations . . .
. . . and snowmen.
The Moomins also put in regular appearances as one of Finland’s other well-known exports.
In Santa’s own Post Office you can send letters to Santa, or send postcards home. Mail can either be for immediate delivery or it can be kept for Christmas future.