Monday, 20 November 2006

The boy's view of our trip


This is Cameron's drawing of Santa.

Because the boys were out of school, they had to write a few sentences about their trip. Here is what the boys wrote:

Cameron:

I went snowmobiling and saw lots of reindeers. I went reindeer riding and made it run. I saw Santa and said that I'd like lots of Lego. I threw snowballs at Dad and I laughed. I went sledding with Alexander.


Alexander's picture of visiting Santa

Alexander:

I went on Blue1 to Rovaneimi - Berlin to Helsinki to Rovaneimi. I went to hotel Rantasipi. I went on the bus to Santa Claus Village. I looked in the shopping house (with all the shops). I went and told Santa my wish and had a photo with him. I went to check if the reindeer ride was on. I went to the skimobiling place and got my license. I went on a snow mobile safari. I went back to the hotel and slept. I did some shopping. I went on a reindeer ride. I slept at the hotel.
I went to the airport and did the things you usually do. I got on Blue1. I got to Berlin. I went home.

An interesting summary of our trip!

Friday, 17 November 2006

Sledding and playing in the snow

Alexander sliding down the hill
On the sleds
Cameron going pretty fast
Cameron ready to slide down the hill

Snow = Sledding.
We took out "bum sleds" to Lapland, and they are small and light enough to put in our back pack. There were a couple of "hills" to sled down, and the boys had a great time playing in the snow.

The boys have decided they would like to makea hill in the garden with our snow this year (instead of snowmen). They think it would be great to sled in the garden. ( am sure the neighbours granddaughter would love it too...that is a job for Phil! :)

Bring on the snow in Berlin!!!

Snow mobiling and Safari


Phil on his ski mobile, this photos were taken at 4pm.

Alexander this photo was taken at 3pm

Cameron (photo taken at 4pm)

After visiting Santa, we went to the back of Santa's office to check out the ski mobiles. The boys were hooked. They did a practice run around a course for 15 minutes, and later came back to go on a safari in the woods. Off the boys and Phil went on their own ski mobiles through the forest. They even saw wild reindeer. The boys had really good control of their ski mobiles, and only ran into a few trees. We were lucky we chose this day to ski mobile....at -2 degrees. the nest day the tempreture rose to 0, and the snow began to melt. There were no ski mobiles riding the next few days!

Santas Post Office -letters from Australia




After visiting Santa, and getting our great photos. We had a look around the village a bit more.
We found Santa's main post office, and thought we would see what happens here.

Inside is the normal post office, and off to the side is the special room where all of Santa's mail is opened. WOW....it is very organised, and the elves are very busy in there. The letters are sorted out into countries, and then each letter is opened for Santa to read.

The stamps are collected and bundled up for the Unicef charity.

While we were there, the elves asked the boys where they were from. "Australia" they said excitedly. The elf went over to the box and pulled out some letters from Australia. She opened them, and then the kids were allowed to read the letters from Lachlan in Brisbane and Brittany and Sarah from NSW.

It was incredible to see, and to know that every letter for Santa is actually opened!


There was a table and a couple of boards like this one displaying some of the letters for Santa.


Here are the boys with 2 of the elves working hard!

For those kids who would like their letter to get to Santa...here is the official address

Santa Claus
Joulumaantie 1
93930 Artic Circle
Finland

But there were letters there that just had
Santa Claus
Artic Circle

They made it there as well!

Santa's Village

After a relaxed breakfast (we seemed to be almost the only ones in the hotel), we caught a local bus 15 minutes out of town to Santa's village. Located on the highway across from a shell truck stop, this small 'outpost' is where santa goes every day to meet friends who want to visit him, and to check out his mail. He lives somewhere north on the Fells, but apparently the actual location is a bit of a secret....

Heading into the front lodge, it contains an information centre, about 10 gift shops (including one which makes famous Finnish hunting knives, just what you would expect in a village set up for kiddies....)3 cafes and some christmasy decorations.

After 'cruising' the shops and having a Santa-priced cup of coffee, we went across to see the great man himself.

No disappointment here! It was fantastic! Out beyond the gift hall (not sure how else to describe it) is Santa's greeting hall. Apparently in high season, 10,000 people per day pass through, and it is a real production line.. One hour in a queue, say "Hi" to Santa, say cheese for your photo, select which photo to buy, exit through the gift shop. However, it appears that we really stuck it well, and arrived about two weeks before the high season, beginning December 1. As such it was us, an Indian guy of about 40, the Aussie family we met on the plane the previous day, and a couple of other families in the whole place.

After the Indian guy had a really serious chat to Santa (and bought his photos), the boys rushed up for their turn (no queue!). We sat with Santa for about 10-15 minutes. He was a really gentle old soul who spoke perfect English with a slight Finnish accent. The boys were wrapped, staring at the real Santa. They hardly said a word - they were spellbound! They settled in and soon Santa found out all about Australia, Berlin, the types of Aeroplanes we had flown on, and what they wanted for Christmas. Santa also had a nice long chat with the boys about the Reindeer, and what they were up to, (currently his reindeer are out in the wild looking for frozen mushrooms to eat, and berries). All very relaxed. Then photos (previous post)and exit through the gift shop.

Even though it was only about 12:15pm on Friday, the trip had paid for itself. We all were really excited by meeting Santa and the reaction of the boys was brilliant. They were the perfect age for it, and it was really worth doing!

The boys in Santa's sled


Santa's sled was sitting in his office foyer

We saw the real Santa in the Arctic Circle

We took the kids out of school on Thursday and Friday and got on a plane to Finland, Lapland.
Our main aim was to see Santa in his office before Christmas this year. This weekend was the only weekend free that we could make it fit in with Phil's busy work schedule.

Santa's Office



Us with Santa


Cameron and Alexander with Santa


More photos and other stuff soon...but before we went to bed, we wanted to post these photos up.

It was terrific. We got to speak to Santa for about 10 minutes, and got these great photos afterwards.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

First impressions of the Arctic circle

It was a bit hard to tell who was most excited, Nicole or the boys! After a couple of long flights, we landed in the evening in Rovaniemi, Lapland, which lies on the Arctic Circle in the far north of Finland. As a comparison, this is well above the level of Scotland on the map (and one hour's flight north of Helsinki). Have a look at the link, which connects you to some webcams of the town. (Click on the heading)

Whilst we were connecting from Helsinki and we were waiting to board our flight, we ran into another family of Aussies (although with 5 kids plus granny, they sure were outnumbered!) who were also heading to Santa. They are ex-pats in France, and thought that the only people who make this trip are 'mad Aussies like us!'. Turns out they were staying in a cabin, one hour out of town, and that they had chosen the 'optional extras' of running water and power... With 5 kids!

When we arrived it was dark. The question was - would it always be dark?? There is only supposed to be one hour of sunlight a day in December, and in mid-November, it probably wouldn't be a great deal more. It was not too cold, either. Although we had bought enough stuff to dress for the top of Everest, it was only -3 when we arrived, stuff we are used to in Berlin.

Rovaniemi is famous for two things, do you know what they are?
The first is Santa (of course, why we are here)
The second is a heavy metal band called Lordi, who recently won the Eurovision song contest and dress up as Monsters.
http://www.lordi.fi/main.site?action=siteupdate/view&id=11
These guys are so popular, they are in the local paper every week, and they have even named the town square after them. All Santa has is a village!

We settled into our hotel - we had adjoining rooms with the kids excited to have their own (me too!) and then went out for a late pizza for dinner. The real action would begin on Friday morning..

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Business Travel is so excitng!! (not)

So, with all my international travel, it must be great - seeing interesting places, meeting interesting people, enjoying the leisure of air travel....

Unfortunately, this is nothing like reality!

Take my last trip, to Kuala Lumpur, for example:
I had to leave on Saturday morning, which meant I had no weekend time with Nicole and the boys.
My plane out of Frankfurt was delayed. We then boarded and took off - we were somewhere over Eastern Europe when we turned back to Frankfurt for repairs.
We then waited, and took off just after midnight. Changed connections in Bangkok and finally arrival in KL early in the morning.
Waiting at the baggage claim.... No bags. So, off to the office to make a claim. Finally reach the hotel at 2 am local time. I had been travelling for 32 hours and been in the same clothes for 36 hours.
But - no change of clothes - so, at 2 am in the morning, I am washing my jocks and socks in the basin in the bathroom. Couldn't stand the thought of wearing these again unwashed the next morning!
The doorbell goes - the hotel offer me a present - a new, clean polo shirt to get me through the next day (fabulous service!)
Up the next morning at 7:00 for work.
Dinner appointment and I must buy new clothes - no shoes to fit (obviously Malaysian men have small feet and small...)but buy jocks, socks, shirt, slacks and a belt. After dinner my bags have finally arrived. It is amazing at how excitied you can get over seeing you own toothbrush and undies again!
I speak to the airline - not too willing to refund the price of the clothes, or offer decent compensation. Make an appointment and go downtown to visit the manager. Finally resolve to pay exactly what I spent on the clothes and not a Ringgit more!
Meetings all week. Finally I get to go home and realise that I had left my MP3 player and headphones on the plane on the way in (I was so damned tired, it was not surprising!). Emailed them from Bangkok to see if there was any hope of getting them back.
Worked and slept on the plane - only to find that when I got home, I had no feeling in my left hand and massive pains in my right arm. 2 days later when I had the pinched nerve in my neck released, the arm / hand is coming back to normal.

Back in the right timezone. Sleeping in my bed. Home with my family. Who wouldn't want to travel on business???

Afternote 1: Some colleagues also attending the meetings in KL had to fly back to their starting point in Sweden after an engine dropped off (no joke!) their plane. Turning back is not so bad...

Afternote 2: With some incredible luck, the MP3 and the headphones have been located and are on route to Frankfurt as we speak. I had given them up as lost so this is a wonderful surprise!

Afternote 3: Time to pack the bags for the next trip!

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Current UFO picture



Back from Disneyland, kids back at school, Phil off to Malaysia. TIme for me to get stuck into the current UFO....this floral thing. At least it is stitching up quickly, and no backstitch. Above is the photo of where I am up to at the moment

Below is a photo of where I was up to before we went to Disneyland

Monday, 6 November 2006

Angel # 8 Peace

I put the final stitches in this one the night before Disneyland, and forgot to post it....was a tad busy getting packed!



Here are all 8 so far...4 more to go.


Now I am working on the 9th one....

Only 4 left to do....these are really lovely to stitch.

The current scarf is coming along nicely too. I try and knit while the boys do their nightly reading to me..I can get at least 10 rows done each night (see I am not a quick knitter! LOL).


My new German friend, Inga, introduced me to circular knitting needles. They are a bit easier to use while I sit on the couch. The boys can sit next to me to do their reading, without being poked by a needle.

Friday, 3 November 2006

Last Disney photos...

Here are some of the our other favourite photos from our trip to Disneyland Paris...

Pluto...close up


The new Kings of Narnia


Lilo (from Lilo and Stitch), dressed up for Halloween


Our favourite shark "Bruce", fish are friends....not food!


Pinocchio

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Our Monsters



One of my favourite characters was Sully from Monsters Inc. Ohh...he was so furry and I just wanted to give him a big cuddle. He was pretty big, and the kids had to be careful where they stood, incase Sully stood on them accidently.


I love this photo of the boys with Mike and Boo's door.





On the wall behind Sully and Alladin, is the Scream Monitors. You could scream into a microphone, and you could see if your scream would fill a cannister (for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you need to see the movie)

You can see on this photo, that someone has one red bar (that is a small scream.) If you could scream and get all the bars to go red, that would mean you filled the cannister, and you had a pretty loud scream.



Not surprisingly (well to Phil and I), Alexander managed to fill the cannister with every scream he did! Cameron could only get about half of the cannister, which surprised us, we thought he could fill it as well! They are both so loud!! :)

Meeting the Disney Family

You can't go to Disneyland and not have photos taken with the characters....so here is a selection of some of the Disney family that we found over the 5 days we were there.


Mickey Mouse


















Eeyore


















Donald Duck


















Goofy and Pluto


















Some penguins...we think these might be from Madagascar??
"Smile and Wave Boys!"

Who is this?? It's Clarice

Could anyone help us with the name of this character?



Yes, Mel could....it is Clarice! Thanks Mel.



The poor thing was by herself, and no one wanted a photo of here...Chip and Dale were close by, getting all the attention. We felt sorry for her, and made the boys go over for a photo.
Cameron calls her the "sexy squirrel"

She looked a bit lonely, and maybe no-one wanted to go near her because many of the squirrels in Europe carry rabies????

I am told it isn't a squirrel, but a chipmunk

Sequioa Lodge

The Disney hotel we stayed at was called Sequoia Lodge..

For anyone interested in Trivia Nights.....here is a fact Alexander worked out himself
"Mum, the word Sequoia has every vowel in it"

The hotel was quite nice, and it's theme was the Wild West. It was very comfortable. Each morning during breakfast there were a couple of characters around to take photos of. This is where we got to meet Eeyore, Goofy and Pluto.

For the quilters, here are a couple of quilts that were hanging on the walls of the hotel








Sometimes you have to get the boys to pull a silly face, before they sit still for a "nice" photo!





Thank goodness for digital cameras, and I don't have to pay money to have these silly pictures developed. just hit that delete button! :)

Walt Disney Studios


At Walt Disney Studios...

Right next to Disneyland Paris, is Walt Disney Studios. It is kind of like Universal Studios in LA, USA, on a smaller scale.

This was great fun, and the queues were not long at all, (mainly because many of the attractions are cinemas, so you can get lots of people in at once.)

There was lots for the kids to do, and lots of Disney movies that the kids have watched dozens of times for them to see.

The Disney characters were a bit more accessable here as well.


During the back lot tour, we watched an oil tanker explode, then a landslide, and watched the oil tanker slide off the road....and then watch it all go back to the beginning.


A set from the movie Dinotopia.


With the magic broom from Fantasia movie

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Main Street USA

Main Street USA in Disneyland has lots of shops to buy lots of Disney products!
It is also the street where the daily parades are held.
The parade we saw focused on Halloween, and the boys thought it was great.


One of the many Halloween props along Main Street.


The boys wait patiently for the parade to make its way up to where we were standing.


Chip or Dale?? hard to tell??


A view from Main Street


Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch), with lots of pink witches and Pumpkin Men behind him.

Big boys toys..

There were several rollercoasters that the boys were not tall enough to ride, so I headed off to tackle them alone. My favourite is the 'Rockin' Rollercoaster' in Disney studios, with a super accelerated start from standing and then a great loop and spiral rollercoaster. Exhilarating!

In Disney park, there is a new Indiana Jones Rollercoaster which is also really fun. And then there is the Space Mountain (Mission 2) which I thought was really rough and not very enjoyable.

I thought I was over rollercoasters after riding a thing called the "Bush Beast" in Sydney (forward and reverse through a spiral) with the third worst hangover of my life. However, with a clear head, I had an absolute ball riding the rollercoasters!

When the boys are bigger, I can see that we have a few interesting theme parks to visit around the world...

Here is a small tip for roller coaster riders that have small families: Take all of the Disney tickets, and get fastpasses for the whole family. Although they will not ride, you can then have 4 shots at riding the rollercoaster in 1/2 hour, which is possible using the fastpass entries (smaller queues!). If you just showed up, you would wait longer than this, anyway!

Big Thunder Photos...


A photo of the photo taken half way through the Big Thunder ride

Alexander getting ready to go on Big Thunder for the 8th time???