Lisboa (Lisbon) – Portugal

Since we left home on 14 December, whenever we got on a bus, train, plane or taxi, Tess’s first question was usually “Are we going to Luana’s now?”, she has been so busting to see her friend in Portugal that it was a big relief for all of us to finally be able to say “Yes!” as we boarded the plane to Lisbon.

It was an amazing opportunity we couldn’t pass up to meet our good friends and their families in their own country and they really went to great lengths to look after us, including driving 300km from Porto to meet us.

We landed in Lisbon about 6:40pm on 02/01/2016 and were greeted at the airport by four very happy faces, we collected a hire car and since it was already dark, our hotel was right in the old centre of town and there was a big Lisbon v Porto football match on, Rute and Filipe thoughtfully offered to drive us in the two cars rather than me jumping straight in the deep end. This was a good thing because as it turned out there was also a music concert near our hotel and the Police had closed some roads, so it was tricky to find.

Filipe had booked two really cool apartments with a bar and restaurant attached, so we went to dinner, checked out the view from the roof terrace and I think we all headed to our rooms around 12:30am with the kids still on their highs.

We had a bit of a late start the next morning and Filipe and Rute had lined up some amazing things to show us, which each deserve their own post, so for now here are some pictures of our short time in Lisbon.

So happy to be together:

 
Dinner with friends:

   

   

Our cool apartment:

  
    
   

The views from the building:

   
    
    
 

Some Lisbon sights:

   
    
    
    
 

Posted in Christmas 2015, Portugal | 1 Comment

Sweden – Malmö

On New Years Day we caught a train in the afternoon across the border to Sweden, to the town of Malmö.

It’s a lovely old place first mentioned as a town in the year 1275! And it received its own coat of arms in 1437.

We were only there for a few hours, most places were closed for New Years Day, but long enough for a wander around to see the main town square, the town hall, some statues and spend time in The King’s Park.

It was about 3C but with no wind, so far more pleasant.

Here are some of our pictures.

   
    
     

  
    
   

 
   

  

  
  

   

Posted in Christmas 2015, Malmo, Sweden | Leave a comment

Tivoli Gardens

So, when I said it’s not as fun in Copenhagen for the kids after days of playing in the snow, that is with the exception of the Tivoli Gardens.

 

The Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world, opened in 1843, and it’s fantastic, especially at night. It’s just 500m from our hotel. 

On Wednesday 30/12 we entered the park at 11:30am and didn’t leave until 9:30pm, that’s 10 hours of rides and food. We bought all day ride passes for all of us and made the most of them.

There are many rides from very tame to fairly extreme, and the kids had a go on pretty much everything their height limits would allow.

  
    
    
    
    
 

 
 

 
  
    
    
    
  
   
 At night, the whole place is lit with thousands of coloured lights. We had dinner in a fantastic Italian Restaurant and then went back for more rides.

  
    
    
    
 

  
 

Skye and I left one of the best rides til last. The Star Flyer, it’s the second highest carosel in the world at 80m (we have been on the highest previously at the Prater in Vienna which is 117m), it was windy up there and so we got blown around a bit, made our stomachs churn a little.

  
 

The Tivoli is really awesome!

Posted in Christmas 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark | Leave a comment

Copenhagen

Happy New Year!

We are spending the New Year in Copenhagen.

It’s a beautiful city. 

Last night there were non-stop fireworks from around 5pm til after 1am, people were setting them off left, right and centre. We didn’t go out for the midnight celebrations with the kids, but we could see the fireworks from our room and Ari and I had a sauna at around 8pm which had windows overlooking the lake and city so we could watch the fireworks from the heat of the sauna.

 

We had expected the city to be covered in snow but apparently they have only had one snowfall this winter a couple of weeks ago, so none to be seen now. It’s not as exciting for the kids here after days of snow filled fun in Finland.
It is between +3C and +4C, so much higher than Finland, but there is a constant strong biting cold wind that makes it feel much colder than Finland and we are really feeling it, especially the kids, we have been dressing them in their ski pants because they are wind proof and rugging them up a lot, but Tess has started coughing quite badly here and her cough had not bothered her at all in the colder snow.

Yesterday, New Years Eve, we spent the day exploring some of the sights around the city and so here are some of our pics.

Nyhavn

 

  
   

Buying ‘Glogg’, mulled red wine, to warm us through.

 

Kastellet Copenhagen.

  
   

  
 

St Albans Church

 

The Little Mermaid

  
 

The Marble Church

 
  
 

Amalienborg Palace

 
 


 

Other things

  

 
    
 

   
   

Happy New Year

Posted in Christmas 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark | 1 Comment

Arctic Ice Hotel, Glass Igloos and the Aurora Borealis 

After leaving the Santa Village on Boxing Day we moved to the other side of Rovaniemi, to a slightly more remote location, to stay at the Arctic Snow Hotel.

First built in 2008, the hotel is built every year for the Christmas season, open in December and January only. Construction starts in October/November when they cut the ice from the Lake to build the main structures of the hotel, sauna’s and restaurant including tables and chairs, they then make 30,000m3 of snow by machine to finish the structure before the natural snow caps it, after which they just maintain it through the winter. It’s below zero inside the hotel. It’s quite a process to sleep in the ice rooms, you need to strip down in a common change room to thermals and boots, leave your clothes in a locker, take two sleeping bags to the room and bunker down for the night like a caterpillar in a cocoon. If you need the toilet you need to go back to the change room to get dressed and go outside to the main building in -10C or less, if someone yells out ‘The Aurora’ you also need to rug up and go outside if you want to see it. You get a certificate to state you ‘survived the night’.

In 2014 they built the first glass igloos, by contrast they are super comfortable, they have heated floors, ensuites, different lighting options to reduce reflection in the glass roof, an electric Aurora Alarm, glass roofs to see the Aurora from and fully motorised beds so you can just press a button and tilt yourself to the best viewing angle without even getting up!

We opted for the glass igloo!

I do want to come back and sleep in the ice rooms when the kids are older though.

You do get a tour of the whole hotel on arrival.

There are also ice saunas and outdoor spas but they are split into short 1 hour separate male and female use at 9pm and 10pm only.

The Ice Bar. This bar is only open for two ‘happy hours’ at 5:30 and at I think 9:30.

  

  

The Ice Hotel. Some rooms, the suites, are quite elaborate, with coloured lights and ice sculptures, the standard rooms are less elaborate.
   
   

The Glass Igloos. Ours was No. 20 in a great position at the back corner so it was not surrounded by other igloos and had no one else in the view.

  

   

  

 

 

 

 

The Ice Restaurant. There are three restaurants at the hotel. The log restaurant specialising in glow-fired salmon, the restaurant in the main building and the Ice Restaurant in the snow building where everything is made from Ice, including tables and chairs and even the desert plates. You need to pre-book your restaurant choice before you arrive and even pre-book your choice of meal, so they can cater for everyone. 

We chose the Ice Restaurant and between us we had all the meal options, Elk, Salmon and Vegetarian. It was an amazing experience and the food was fantastic. It was funny when Ari knocked over his glass of water and within minutes it just became part of the table top, no need to clean up!

 
  
  

  

  

The main intention for us coming to the Ice Hotel and staying in the glass igloo was to try and see the Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights. It’s a hit or miss type scenario. The conditions were perfect, it was cold at about -14C and the sky was clear. We were all asleep by about 9pm. At 11:02pm we were woken by the buzzing of the Aurora Alarm and looked up to see faint green light hazes moving across the horizon, it slowly intensified and we saw some swirls of green higher in the sky. By 11:20pm it was fading away again never to return that night. I think we were extremely lucky to see the lights considering we had only one night in the glass igloo. We never would have seen them elsewhere as we couldn’t sit out in the cold for hours with the kids keeping them awake til almost midnight. Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to learn how to use our DSLR on long exposure so the only photos I got were on my IPhone. I am not sure how they look on a computer screen, if you can see the lights at all.

  
    
 

The next day we also spotted some colours in the sky.

  

 

The kids made a lovely friend at the Ice Hotel, from Holland, they actually first met her at Snowman World, they went off touring the place together for ages and have vowed to become pen-pals.

Lastly, there was also a resident reindeer at the hotel.

  
   

Posted in Aurora Borealis, Christmas 2015, Finland, Rovaniemi | 3 Comments

Our Snowmen

The occupants of cabins at the Santa Village each build their own snowman at the front door.

On Christmas Day we spent some time building our own two snowmen, one for each of the kids, in front of our cabin.

Here’s the results of our efforts.

   
    
 

Posted in Christmas 2015, Finland, Rovaniemi | Leave a comment

Husky Safari

On our last day in the Santa Claus Village (Boxing Day), we went on a Husky Sled Ride at the Husky Park.

The weather was perfect, it had dropped back down to about -8C after hitting +2C on Christmas Day, and it was snowing quite heavily.

The Husky Park keeps the Siberian Husky’s apart in separate pens when they are not working, and some were raising puppies in their little boxes. 

We all got in one sled, pulled by 14 Husky’s, with the driver up the back behind us.

The lead dogs up front are usually girls, because apparently they are smarter and better behaved, and the dogs at the back are usually boys, because they are apparently stronger and can pull the sled straight if it strays. The dogs in the middle are generally the most average of the pack. The commands the driver yells are mostly simply ‘left’ and ‘right’.

We went through a forest area and a more open area and they got up a fair bit of speed, with the sled getting a bit sideways on the bends.

Apparently they feed the dogs each 1.5L of hot vegetable soup in the morning to get water into them, they can’t give them water because it freezes, if the dogs are thirsty while working they take bites of snow as they are running. They each get 1kg of raw meat in the evening.

The dog sledding was really awesome fun and the dogs actually love it, the ones not working are clearly itching to get out running.

 
 

  

  

  
  

   
   

   

After the ride we did some much needed thawing out in the reindeer skin teepee, with hot soup (the same as they feed the dogs!) and warm berry juice around the fire.

On the walk back to the cabin we stopped for hot-dogs, sausage sizzle Lapland style, I had a reindeer one (I have had reindeer in many meals here!)

   

   

Posted in Christmas 2015, Finland, Rovaniemi | Leave a comment