** I originally intended for this article to be written by one of my elves, the elf who actually took part in this experience. However my personal excitement got the better of me and I really wanted you to hear this from my point of view (you know me, love to get my own piece of mind across!) – If you have any in depth questions about this experience day please ask away in the comments or feel free to drop me a message/email and between me and my elf we will be sure to answer them openly and honestly. **

 

I’m sure most of you that read this blog know, that I am Muslim and as a Muslim I don’t really celebrate Christmas. I definitely get into the festive spirit though! I love the atmosphere, the songs, the pretty decorations… the general merriment and joy this season brings.

(there are also a few things I DON’T like i.e. the traffic, chaos, crowds… but this isn’t the time or place for that)

I also appreciate how much this means to those who do celebrate Christmas. Children especially, wait all year for December when they can bust out those advent calendars, start writing those wish lists and are constantly trying to be as good as they can be so they get an ‘elf on the shelf’ surprise in the morning.

Some time ago, I received an email about a so-called magical place called Lapland UK. Immediately I did what my dad always taught me not to do, I made an assumption. I assumed that this link I had been sent would be some tacky gimmick designed to empty the pockets of poor parents who have been guilted into treating the kids and fulfilling their Christmas dreams. But hey, ever the sucker for an email hyperlink, I clicked on it anyway.

And I could not have been more wrong.

The moment I laid eyes on the homepage, I knew this was no ordinary experience. From the beautiful graphics, the story telling, the complete focus on creating a fairy tale, I was stunned at the thought of such a place existing right here in the UK.

As I mentioned above, I don’t really celebrate Christmas. But I knew I wanted this. Not for me, but for a family I hold dear to my heart just a stones throw away from my front door. A family who individually and collectively have been through such hard times and struggles. This time last year was very emotional, even for Mo and I as friends to watch people we love burdened with such sadness during the holiday period. So I wanted nothing more then to give this family of four a happy Christmas memory to get them in the spirit, as this was going to be their very first Christmas together.

In the spirit of honesty, I’m pretty sure when I mentioned this day to said family, and explained that they would be visiting to review on my behalf… well I’m pretty sure they too had the same assumptions I originally had. Except with the added grief of actually having to drag their kids down to Ascot for the day and handle the situation, and I had just dropped this bomb and was going to leave them to it. Saying it out loud to them I did once again start to have doubts and I prayed that my concerns were just nerves and this would be everything I expected and I hadn’t just fallen for the pretty pictures on the website.

I waited anxiously to see them on their return last night. Knowing they had booked the whole weekend to drive down and reduce the stress of travelling for the kids (and themselves). Mo and I waited, for a text, a call, a picture knowing that they had a long drive home we sat wishing for any kind of sign that it all went ok.

Finally one came through!!! It simply said:

“That was AMAZING”

Then came the pictures. All we saw were smiling faces, pictures with elves, with Mrs Clause, snow, reindeers, the works!! Videos of them listening intently to the theatrical shows put on for them, concentrating in the workshops and of course the piece de resistance, spending time with the one and only Father Christmas.

Mo and I couldn’t wait to go over and hear all about it, so we did as soon as possible, and I’m not quite sure who was more excited to tell us – the adults or the kids!! The adults were definitely the first to teach us how to say hello like an elf, it involves a funny nose-wave thingy, aptly called an elf wave.

I should point out the whole experience starts before you even get there. It all starts with a letter… a beautifully written, quite lengthy, letter asking the children to come and help Father Christmas prepare for his big task, a letter sealed with his very own ‘FC’ wax stamp. A wonderfully cute touch and the perfect way to get them hyped up and excited, all part of making the whole thing feel as ‘real’ as possible. Parents are also asked to pre-register some information about the children on the website, so when they finally arrive at Father Christmas’ cabin, they can have a lovely personalised heart to heart.

 

 

From the moment they arrived, Lapland UK had created a spectacle that was flawlessly designed. They were given a departure time to set off on their journey through the magical forest, they worked their way through a variety of workshops in Elven village – encountered workshops that could only be reached by journeying through the twinkling lights and fluffy snow.

The village itself was beautifully designed, lots of wood, lots of trees… lots of roaming elves too – ready to mingle and get to know the children, of course greeting them all correctly with the standard elf hello. And the doors! well there was adult doors and kiddy doors! Kiddy doors specifically made for little ‘uns, reinforcing that all of this, well it’s all for them right?

 

 

The children made wooden toys, decorated gingerbread biscuits, helped make little reindeer teddies (which the parents secretly bought them for Christmas). They went ice skating with their parents (for the first time ever!) and most importantly believed every single part of it. They were given elf passports to guide them through each stage and were able to purchase items from the stalls using Elf jingles. Oh yes, Lapland UK even has its own currency.

Surprises could be found on every corner, reindeer waiting patiently to pull that sleigh at the end of the month and there were even huskies! Perfectly trained, well behaved husky dogs, the kind that make your hearts melt the minute your hand makes contact with their soft coat (fyi the jealousy from my side had started to set in at this point).

 

 

 

From an adult point of view, there was one element that both parents could not stop gushing about, and that was how extremely professional every single person they came across was. From the minute they arrived to the minute they left, every elf stayed completely in character and didn’t falter at any point. They were full of life, full of questions, full of random quips and sayings and above all absolutely full of Christmas cheer. Every member of staff was incredibly gifted in their ability to delight guests of all ages. If there were any difficulties or certain behaviours that parents were worried about when it came to dealing with their children, all the elves needed was a little clue and they were able to seamlessly handle the situation without any disruption.

We heard funny stories of all the little moments they had whilst they were there, such as when the kids asked if they could have pictures with two unusual looking staff they came across, one happened to be covered in baubles, the elves would look confused and ask them to explain what the camera was. That naivety and innocence that kids love and thrive on, they all had it and demonstrated it at every opportunity and it sounded like that played a crucial part in turning this village into a truly magical place to be.

The whole experience takes up around four hours in total, with free time for you to roam, eat, explore. Free parking is available on site and the price includes a gift from Father Christmas at the end, the kids got a husky puppy each (not a real one obviously). The price isn’t on the cheap side, but when you think about whats included in the day as a whole you can completely understand. Direct quote from Daddy:

“I know it seems like a lot of money when you price up a family ticket. BUT the whole day was phenomenal, not just for the kids but for us too. And I can honestly say for that level of service it was worth that and more.”

Can’t really argue with that. There’s also the pre and after care service to take into account. Not only did the children receive letters before their visit, but the adults were given notes and gifts to surprise the kids with on Christmas day.

 

 

When I sit here and look at the pictures I was sent, every smile I see tells me it was worth me giving up my ticket of a day of snow play and husky cuddles. This is exactly what I wanted for this family. I wanted them to start this Christmas period with a wonderful happy memory that will kick off the festivities leading up to the big day.

I might not believe in Father Christmas (I’m sorry please don’t hate me for saying that!) but I can’t think of anything more wonderful than watching your own children see something they believe in brought to life.

And I’ve realised way over there in Lapland UK, that is exactly the kind of fairy tale dream-like magic they specialise in.

 

 

 

*** Entrance tickets to Lapland UK for a family of four were complimentary, all other expenses were paid for by the parents. This post has not been sponsored and all opinions I share as always are my own. As I mentioned at the start, if you would like to know more in depth information on Lapland UK please feel free to ask away in the comments, on social media or if you’re feeling shy drop me an email. Click here to visit the website for the nitty gritty details and to book tickets ***

 

Have you visited Lapland UK? What did you think? Are there any other Christmas experience days you could recommend for families??

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Up until now Harrogate has always been a place I remember from when my family and I used to make the yearly trek over the Pennines to visit the British Bridal Exhibition (for work).

It was only recently that I got the chance to venture out and about in the town centre, now that hubby Mo spends a lot of time there for work.

We took a drive down the M62 to attend his lovely boss’s Christmas party on Boxing Day and decided it was the perfect opportunity to stay the night and indulge in a leisurely stroll through the town centre the next day.

Here’s a quick glance over some of the things we got up to on our day trip:

See:

Our hotel was located in the Montpellier quarter of the town, which was perfect for us to be able to wander out on foot.

Just as we walked out through the manicured patches of grass, we were right on Montpellier hill. Where at the top, Pier head, you’ll find the Pétanque installation. It’s basically boules for those who know it, and for those that don’t, well this is a public facility so it’s a great opportunity to throw yourself in and give it a go (don’t worry there’s instructions).

This Victorian town is home to some northern shopping greats (such as Hoopers) and plenty of small boutique stores.

We spent most of our time window shopping, only stopping once to explore the wonderfully large Farrahs of Harrogate sweet shop, which is great place to nosey round. It’s basically a super-fancy version of the penny sweet shops we used to run to as kids (definitely not penny-sweets anymore).

As Mo lost himself amidst the fudge and homemade jams, I fell in love with the Yorkshire inspired products towards the back of the shop, perfect for gifts!

Eat:

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now that Mo and I have a real thing for a top quality breakfast and Harrogate does not disappoint in this department. Most people would probably head over to the ever so famous Betty’s, but we found ourselves a neat little Swedish-inspired café to test out, Blatzersens.

It was like walking into an IKEA showroom, with all the right smells of a typical Stockholm bakery.

For those with dietary issues like me, there are plenty of gluten and dairy free options too. We went all out, my favourite was the fancy Scandinavian egg and chips that Mo had and the Egyptian mint tea I ordered was divine.

Not only would we go back, but we would definitely be up for trying there sister restaurant, Norse, for dinner next time we’re both in town.

Stay:

Mo had stayed at the White Hart Hotel before and he knew straight away we would be booking to stay there again. Perfectly located for those who want to explore the town centre, car park onsite, lovely staff and all the comforts you would expect from a four star hotel.

It’s a grand looking building, Georgian I believe, the interior décor is far from old fashioned though. Everything inside has been maintained to the highest standard. There’s free wifi (that really should be a given these days) and I can only assume this a popular haunt for weddings as they even have a salon on site.

Not only does the White Hart have a two AA Rosette restaurant, but it houses the Fat Badger, one of the busiest restaurant/bars I’ve seen in a long time.

We grabbed a quick drink in there whilst our room was being prepared (reception kindly arranged these free of charge to apologise for the wait). The Fat Badger is very much full of badgers. Stuffed ones. So if you’re not a fan of taxidermy – you really don’t want to walk in here. If you’re not bothered, you should definitely pop in to witness the quirkiness on offer in this dining space. Your eyes will not stop wandering.

We had such a lovely time in Harrogate. One of those perfect winter days, the sun was out, the air was chilly and the company was the best 🙂

Definitely up there with one of my favourite Yorkshire memories.

With Mo travelling there on a regular basis I’m always keen to look out for new places to see, eat, stay – recommendations??

 

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According to my wonderful holiday countdown app, in 30 days we shall be setting off to spend the Christmas break in Thailand !!!

I’ll have to admit at the start I wasn’t too excited about going, the only reason I wanted to be there was to witness one of my best friends get married, which is happening Christmas Day on the island of Koh Samui.

Although I’ve never been to Thailand before I was naively brushing it under the carpet as being a place for wild parties, stag nights and beach resorts, of which we’ve been to a fair few in the last couple of years. View Post

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