Sunday, 27 February 2011

Back at home


I didn't want to pencil in a meeting for potential burglars by letting you know that I was going away, but beforehand I was so excited about the holiday that we've just returned from that I very nearly had to sellotape my fingers together to stop myself from typing about it. Last Autumn my mother-in-law invited us to go with her to Sweden and we've been looking forward to it ever since. However, like our summer holiday that had to be cancelled when one of our lovelies became ill, this one also nearly didn't happen and we only decided that we could definitely go about 24 hours before we were due to leave - which turned out to be a jolly good decision. Our destination was the far north of Sweden, in search of the Northern Lights and our first stop was at the Ice Hotel in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi. I'll share my photos of the actual hotel in the next post, as it was too stunning to try and squash it all into one post, so for now I'll just tell you what we got up to during our stay there.


The temperature was thrillingly extreme and reached -40 Celsius during our time there. On our first morning there it was so cold that within just a few minutes eyelashes were frozen, any exposed hair turned white, each hair coated with frost (I now know what I will look like when I'm grey and will be investigating chemical-free hair dying options in preparation for it) and if you happened to stick your tongue out for too long that too freezes. A balaclava was almost essential, along with as many layers and coats as one could fit beneath the full body suits provided by the Ice Hotel.


I photographed these sledges pulled by husky dogs when we were out walking on the River Torne one day, but our own husky dog expedition took place after nightfall. They raced us across the open river for several miles, where the open landscape allowed the wind to whip through our clothing and bite at our bones, before bringing us to a stop in the shelter of the forest. Here, a fire was lit and we drank warm lingonberry juice and ate Swedish pastries.

 We'd stopped at this point...at no point did I drive one-handed.
Another evening, just before sunset, we set out on snowmobiles. When our instructor was showing us the controls on these beasts I stood (with his warning that accidents and frostbite were common ringing in my ears) listening with almost certainty that I felt too fearful to attempt driving one of these, particularly with one of my lovely children clinging to my waist as I took my first lurches into snowmobiling. It was only the knowledge that I would always regret having passed up the opportunity that prompted me into pressing the accelerator and following the others out onto the lake. Having gathered confidence over the expanse of the frozen river, when night had fallen we headed onto the narrow forest paths and into the wilderness. This was a trip mingled with terror and exhilaration in equal parts. With the added windchill, frostbite is common and after 1.5 hours of driving both children were crying and our instructor made the decision that we needed to get them back to warmth as quickly as possible using a shortcut which necessitated going off the main forest tracks. With twisting paths, and each snowmobile following the last at twenty metres apart, it wasn't hard to lose the others and suddenly the line of taillights which we followed disappeared, and the last four snowmobiles in the line were left completely alone, not knowing which way to go when the path divided. We turned off our engines and waited in darkness while the children howled, and inwardly I did the same. It was probably less than ten minutes before the instructor must have noticed that he had less people following and came back to find us, but it was ten minutes in which I wondered how long my children might have before their frozen fingers would necessitate amputation (we lucky snowmobile drivers had heated handlebars...the passengers did not). At the time it was terrifying, but with the hindsight of knowing that my children's fingers are fully functional and intact, I'd leap right in and do it all over again: the sunset; the views; the extreme temperatures; a Narnia-esque world flashing to life in the light of my headlamp; the roar of my own snowmobile blocking out any other sound; the thrill of doing something that I found so terrifying, was too good to miss. And once their hands were warmed our children's memories of it are all good too. The next day my upper arms were more than a little achy...snowmobiles do not seem to come with Power Steering.

Mr Teacakes & the small ones

But our holiday wasn't entirely adventure-based. We had time for long walks on the river.


To plod through the snow making shapes.


And to admire the sculptures that had been made in the ice sculpting sessions.


The sight of coming around a corner to see these sculptures twinkling in the sun was breathtaking.


The memories that I will take away from this holiday feel too numerous to properly organise in my head and I have scrolled through the photographs on my camera repeatedly, trying to neaten them in my mind and sort them in some way so that none of them might be forgotten. I'd love to show you the actual Ice Hotel in the next post...and then perhaps some photos that I took at Abisko when we travelled even further north in search of the northern lights.

I hope you had a lovely half-term too,
Florence x

19 comments:

  1. That looks like an AMAZING trip (though given my hatred of feeling chilly, perhaps not one for me!)

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  2. How beautiful, I'm so glad you got to go this time.
    Emma x

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  3. Oooo I can't wait to see the photos of the Ice Hotel. It's somewhere I've always wanted to visit.

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  4. WOW! My boss is currently on the EXACT holiday you've just returned from! He is in the Ice hotel this very evening .. brrr.!! Glad you had a great time. As I am very cat like in nature, I will never ever go to the ice hotel or any related establishment, but I have seen the Northern lights and they are indeed amazing. I shall look forward to the further adventures of the Teacake family and will shiver from a distance .. xx

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  5. It's looks amazing Florence, those ice sculptures are so beautiful. Sounds quite terrifying being lost in the dark, it's time like that I realise the frightening reality of being a parent, when really I want to be the one on the back sobbing!!

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  6. Woah, those sculptures are just stunning! Your photos captured them in such a gorgeous light. Looks like a fantastic trip.

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  7. That looks wonderful! I love the ice sculptures and can't wait to see your pics of the ice hotel. You should google the Harbin Ice Festival--it takes place in China each year and is absolutely breathtaking :)

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  8. AMAZING...your photographs are beautiful, the place looks utterly enchanting and your narrative took me away and I was there sharing it with you. Something for the whole family to look back on with delight. Thank you for sharing it with us - we await the next installment!

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  9. Ice sculptures are truly magical, aren't they! Maybe even worth being chilled for...

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  10. Wow, what an exciting holiday!
    Can't wait for the next installment.

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  11. Sounds wonderful, and your pictures are just gorgeous. The snowmobile trip sounds hair-raising, but what an experience to have. Thank you so much for sharing such pretty pics!

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  12. Fantastic photos. The air looks so good. You must feel refueled and revitalised. x

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  13. Wow that looks amazing! Did you go with a package deal or did you sort it all yourself independently? Would you mind letting me know which travel company you went with, wondering about going myself with my two (not so) smalls! We are based in the UK

    Thanks!

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  14. Those ice sculptures are beautiful and the way you have photographed them breathtaking. What amazing adventures and what a wonderful experience for you all

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  15. I remember someone I worked with wen there & I have wanted to go ever since, tho like Ali I hate the cold. Looks utterly amazing - so glad you got to have a family break.

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  16. Wow Natures own art !
    We have a Competition running atm where you can win lots of Fiskars Tools. It might interest you. Check us out www.fiskarettes.co.uk

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  17. Gosh - so many people who loathe the cold. Funnily, that's exactly what someone said to me yesterday: I can't imagine why you would have wanted to go there as you are always cold...mmm, I think it's all about appropriate clothing.

    Julia B - your boss may well have found it a little warmer than we did - the temprature had risen to a balmy -15 by the time we left & at that heat your eyelashes remain unfrozen.

    Kate - that was exactly it - I so wanted to be the child in that situation (luckily Ian is calm in a crisis, so a stern look from him told me that I must not cry in front of the children at that point!).

    Hollyrolly - we went with Disover the World - an english company - they were fantastic and everything was completely stress free.

    Thank you so much for all your lovely comments - next installment coming soon.

    Florence x

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  18. Sorry if double-posting - my comment seems to have disappeared into the ether.

    Your half term break sounds, and looks, incredible! What amazing memories the little teacakes will have of their holiday, and lots of news to share back at school!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x