Its 06.00am on the Sunday before Christmas and the Easyjet queue is heading back out towards the door of the terminal, for me the good news is I am not on Easyjet, the bad news is that this means climbing over the Easyjet passengers as not one of them will make enough space for passengers of any other airline to get through. Luton Airport needs some redesign here.
Meanwhile I am heading to Lapland, Enontekio (Pronounce: Eon Tok Yo!) to be precise, courtesy of Canterbury Travel on a day trip to Lapland for the Santa Spectacular daytrip.
I took a night last night at the Hilton Express, a short five minute walk away, having stopped in St Albans on route for a pint or two, arriving just in time to miss the restaurant, a problem helpfully resolved by front desk who provided a take away menu. Thus I watched Match of the Day in my room with a take away curry and a bottle of Becks. No problem here.
Despite the embarrassment of being the only solo traveller on the flight, it was fun, and I soon got into the spirit of things. The three hour flight was punctuated by a good cooked breakfast, and a film (suitably The Polar Express.) On arrival we were escorted to a changing area and provided with suitable clothing for the -9C climate, an over suit, boots, balaclava, hat. It was all there.
We were then taken half way to the town of Hetta by bus, and onwards by skidoo and sleigh to a local hotel, where a full buffet lunch was served throughout the day. (Average, but the vegetarian soups were filling and good.) A list of activities was provided and then I was on my own to explore.
Activities included a Horse Sleigh Ride, Reindeer Rides, Husky Rides, Kick Sledging, an Ice Castle to explore, and for the adults Snowmobiles on the lake. Being a non driver I was surprised I was allowed to use them, but the guide explained, Right hand go, Left hand stop, Red Button engine. She then thumped the Crash Helmet onto my head with one distinct slap, and pointed me to my machine. It was really a motor bike on ice, and I loved it, totally exhilarating.
With a couple of hours left in the Village I was taken aside by an Elf, (Yes Really) and explained in no uncertain terms Santa was waiting for me, and I was going whether I liked it or not. (Surreal: A menacing elf!!). It was the best bit of the day, another skidoo ride into the wilderness for 5 minutes and then left in the middle of nowhere beside a fire pit and another couple of elves. I was slowly losing contact with reality.
Eventually I met the man himself, and we had a long chat about climate change, and its effects on the local area. We are 20 degrees warmer than usual, and the last snow was 10 days ago. It is the warmest winter since 72, but this makes his job easier as the kids struggle with the climate at -30, even fully protected in their suits, and usually arrive in some distress. I have to say Santa had a suspiciously English accent.
Finally Souvenir time. What could be better than a full sized Reindeer pelt? A bargain at 60 Euros, a perfect Christmas present. Thus after around four and a half hours in the village it was time to head back to the airport. I was met there but one of the directors of Canterbury Travel, a charming man with a long following white beard, and allowed onto the plane early to meet and chat with some of the crew. Clearly one of the advantages of possession of a dead Reindeer, and managed to lock it away before the kids got onboard.
Another three hour flight back into Luton, (Film:Elf, running on a theme here!) A comfortable flight with a Belgian crew on a Thomas Cook A320. Fair legroom. The only complaint I heard all day was lack of Veggie food on the flight.
We missed the Northern Lights due to cloud cover, which was a shame, but otherwise a truly lovely day, which will stay in the memory for Christmases to come. Ros and I will be looking to do a four day adventure safari in the future.
A night back at Luton and straight back to the office for my final shift before Christmas, with Rudolf still in tow. (John whats in the bag? Rudolf? Oh my God!!!!!!!!)