Sweden 2015

Sweden 2015

Folks, I left the house today. I know this will shock many of you. Swede and I headed back to his homeland to see the fam and also to travel north of the Arctic Circle for book research (24 hours later we’ve just arrived in Kiruna!) We’re staying in the Ice Hotel (sleeping on a slab of ice for 1 night brrrrr) taking a Winter Survival course and mushing our own dog sleds. With a little luck, we’ll see the Northern Lights—and Nix. I’ll be reporting in, so stay tuned for pics!

flights2

Day 1

We decided to do the 1 bag carry-on challenge, so I stuffed waaaaay too much gear into a carry-on. Now we’re believers in the no-checked-bags program. When there were mechanical problems with the plane on our first leg, we were about to miss four later legs and be delayed a day, but were able to book a tight connection—because we only had carrry-ons. There was quite a bit of sprinting in Manchester and even more in Stockholm, yet we were able to make that last flight 800 miles north.

 

We landed in Kiruna 24 hours after leaving home, then drove to Jukkasjarvi and the Ice Hotel. Dinner was at the Old Homestead Restaurant—reindeer burgers and warm cloudberries over ice cream. Afterward we mosied to the Ice Hotel bar and ordered drinks served in ice glasses. Got a little confused when everyone started taking off their tops, then learned that was part of an amazing fundraiser for breast cancer research .

Sweden, you are never dull :)

Ice room pics to come …

Day 2 Snowmobile moose safari

We snowmobiled over the frozen Kalix River and up into the blustery mountains. At the beginning of the trip, I posted on Instagram that maybe I shouldn’t drive. Not an hour later, I crashed into a tree (which was actually FUN) We drove in front of boat houses (surreal) and saw three moose, up to their necks in snow! 

 

 

Night 2 Aurora Sky Station

We were determined to see the lights, so we drove two hours northwest of Jukkasjarvi to Abisko (near the Norwegian border), intent on visiting the Aurora Sky Station—deemed to be the best place on earth to experience the lights. We took a chair lift to the top of Mount Nuolja and were rewarded with a “rare showing” under a starry sky and near full moon! Spectators all across the mountain were laughing and yelling, and I was shaking with excitement (and cold brrrrrr) Our pics are not the greatest—we know jack point jack about cameras, much less about filming auroras—but you can get the feel 😉

 

Day 3 Extreme winter driving

We drove Minis on a frozen lake (I’ve never been mapped over water—in a car, with no bridge). They gave us lessons—moose avoidance, slalom course, braking on ice—then handed us the keys! Swede and I sped around a rally course, bouncing off snow banks and drifting around sharp turns. My crazed driving made him so sick, he had to get out for my last circuit. (More videos to come)

From the Ice Hotel site: 

a morning session with a MINI Countryman Cooper at our private ice circuit. The session is arranged as a half-day course, including theory and practical tests. Learn from your specially trained instructor what to expect from a car when on icy or slippery roads, and put your skills to the test 

Night 3 Icelandic Horse Riding

Our guide, Sara, (who was awesome!) drove us to a farm near the foot of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain. When we arrived, wild moose were hopping the corral fence to steal hay.

We saddled and rode Icelandic horses (sturdy, furry, gentle, sure-footed—the horses, not us so much) into the wilderness. The temperature dropped, and the moon shone through the snow-covered trees. It was zen (book ideas flowing)! Afterwards, we headed to a traditional Sami kåta (a cozy round structure with a smoke vent for the roaring fire and reindeer skins lining the floor) to eat delicious moose stew, reindeer sausage, and fire warmed coffee. On the car ride back, we were inundated with northern lights!

 

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