My personal traveling style certainly does not include staying in villas! I do not earn enough, and even if I do, I cannot spend it on villas. I want to travel every 15 days, I certainly do not earn enough to stay every 15 days in a posh accommodation. How I wish I could take just two vacations in a year and splurge. But that is just not me.
And yet I ended up staying in a villa! When I go on such trips, I do feel someone up there is keeping a kind eye on me. For my #lumiainlapland trip I was staying at the Levi Spirit Villa in Levi, Lapland. After seeing a bit of luxury on my invited trips, I am sort of getting accustomed to it on the sponsored trips. But at this villa even my eyes popped out. First, the location took my breath away, it was located in a winter wonderland! Each villa has four bed rooms on the second floor and one bedroom is in the attic. We were four members from India who shared the villa.
Levi Spirit Villa was sheer luxury. With a nicely done living area the villa had things that I could not even try in my two night stay. For example I could never switch on the music system with Bose speakers. I never managed to switch on the large living room TV as well. For that matter I never managed to switch on the bedroom TV. Then downstairs there was home theater, sadly that also went unused too.
What I did use was the sauna and the outdoor Jacuzzi. Each villa had its own sauna and Jacuzzi. Now that was ultimate luxury for me. On the second evening all four of us went to the outdoor Jacuzzi and enjoyed watching the snow outside. It was such fun to be in hot water while there was snow everywhere around us. Better still, have a look at the video to see the villa virtually.
With beer in hand we went to the hot sauna (this one was a different sauna than the ice dip madness) and I had such a great time. I had to almost pinch myself to believe that this was for real. For me my fist villa stay with the Levi Spirit has been such a memorable experience.
I am that window seat frenetic. I sulk and sulk through a flight if I am denied of one! From 18 to 23 March I took 6 flights in all. Much to my regret, I managed window seats only on four flights- Munich Helsinki, Helsinki Kittila, Kittila Helsinki and Munich Delhi. When I saw others looking at the Alps when the Delhi Munich flight was about to land, I was green with envy, I only had an aisle. Even though I had a window seat on the Munich Delhi flight and I was expecting a sunrise, it was not much! I sulk some more then! Flight window seat are synonymous for me!
With so many flights in a few days, my sleep went for a toss. OK, that is not really true. I do not get jetlag when I travel to Europe as I am anyway a night person. But with exciting #lumiainlapland events to attend, I would be greedy and try to get early in the morning too when there was really no need. There was only one day when I decided to sleep in till late at Levi and that day there was a nice sunrise. The next day when I got up early, it was snowing!
We also never had any late night events but all of us would talk so much to each other that it would be late before I got back to the Levi Spirit Villa, where we were staying. Then I would update the highlights of the day on Facebook and Twitter and that would make it really late when I would finally hit the bed. Usually I would be out the moment my head touched the pillow.
So when I had aisle seats on the flights, more often than not I would fall asleep. I would wake up quite scared wondering if I was snoring too! I prefer looking out of the window even when all I can see are the clouds, but then if I had an aisle seat then I guess sleep was one way to spend the flight. On the last Delhi Munich flight I had the last row window seat. There was no one on the seat next to me so I could stretch my legs. I kept watching movies for the entire flight. When one and a half hour remained I put some music on the in-flight entertainment and relaxed. I didn’t realize when I dozed off! I slept through the landing and woke up only when the PA system started saying “welcome to …”.
I am scared of them Doggies. When I got to know about the Husky Dog Sledge ride in Levi (Lapland, Finland) at the #lumiainlapland event, I had mixed feelings. I was not sure how I would react to a dog sledge ride. But then I had to give it a try! I also did not know who was supposed to drive the sledge. I was very clear I was not up to it. When Mark asked me if I would go with him, I smiled. I don’t remember what I said to him but I try not to make the same mistakes twice! I knew what a dare devil he was with the snow mobile, there was no chance I was going on a husky ride with him! Thankfully the sledges were driven by the experts, they would not trust their precious animals to us rookies!
But reaching to the Levi Husky Park was a minor adventure. We first reached the wrong place first. We all got down from the bus, started clicking pictures, only to be told that we were at the wrong park! We got back to the bus again, this time we reached the correct place in the end. The dogs were in large enclosed areas, they started barking at our arrival, I guess in excitement and welcome. It did leave me a bit nervous. But going on the ride was actually easy. I just had to sit on the sledge, they tucked me in, in an extra blanket and off we went, galloping and tearing.
For me, an event is not complete if I cannot take pictures of it. I was the first person in the sledge. All the snow flakes the dogs sent up with their paws, would try to find its way around my face and neck. At one point I closed my eyes to avoid the flakes, even though I didn’t want to miss any of the view.
I am not very good at using my camera with gloves in my hands. So, I took them off to take a video! I lasted for 13 seconds in all before I feared that my hands would get frozen solid. One of the members of the team kept her hands out. After the ride she asked me to put on the gloves for her, she had no sensation in her hands for a while. It was scarily cold when the dogs took off. However much I like to take pictures, I just could not keep my hands out. Even with my fear of dogs, this was a fun ride, which I would be happy to repeat whenever I get a chance next!
I am not a big fan of driving anything that has petrol in it. Snow mobile was no exception. I was given an opportunity to experience the snow mobile at Levi, Lapland that is in Finland. The event was known as #lumiainlapland
Anyway, I forgot my driving license in the room. So, I decided I would go as a pillion rider with Mark Hindle who works for Nokia. When I asked him if I could go with him, he said sure but he would go fast. I thought I was fine with that! There were about 7-8 snow mobiles all going one after the other. It was cold (-22 when we landed) but I was wearing the right gear (all provided by the Nokia team handling #lumiainlapland event) so I was looking forward to enjoy the scenery.
We had two instructors with the group one riding at the front and the other being the sweep. Mark would let everyone go ahead and maintain just enough distance from the instructor at the end. And then he would accelerate! Soon, I was hanging on for my dear life with both my hands, gripping the handles as tightly I could. He told me I had to scream if I wanted him to go faster. I could have screamed much more readily out of fear but I somehow managed not to. There was no question of me wanting to go any faster.
When the first photography stop came I already wanted the ride to be over.
However, I had no such luck. In this second spell I was suddenly conscious of how many bones there were in my body and how brittle they felt. If I fell off I was sure a lot many of them were going to break. I thought it was a good thing that Nokia was covering all my medical expanses in Finland. But then I was wondering how would my family feel if I ended up with broken bones in a hospital in that part of the world! These were the kind of thoughts I had for the most of the ride.
At the rare occasions when Mark would go slowly (because there was someone in the front and he had no space) I could see how beautiful the landscape was. But most of the time, I was left gripping the handles tightly and praying that I would not fly off. I had to grant it to Mark that he would immediately slow down at the first sign of trouble. But then he would push the snow mobile almost that far too. I cannot count on how many occasions I didn’t like the noises coming from the machine. But then it would almost go off immediately, as Mark would back off at that precise moment.
At the second break I asked him if he had done this before, to which he said ‘yes’ thankfully. Then I asked him if he was a biker to which he said yes again. He told me owned a Yamaha. When I asked him where would he go for biking, he said- dirt biking! Now that explained a bit of his driving. At this second photo break I eyed the other drivers. Some of them were going solo and not at such speed. I thought if I should switch snow mobiles but it remained just a thought.
When we would make a temporary stop I would tell Mark that I had taken off my gloves to click a few picture and under no circumstances he should fly off without letting me know. I did not fancy broken bones in any way. He often asked me if I was good during these breaks and I always grinned and said yes. My brain was in a freeze frame.
By the third stop I was desperate for the ride to end, for all I was thinking during the ride was about being thrown off, broken bones, medical expanses, brittle bones, hospitals, helmets, heads, you get the idea! When the cottages came into the view I let out an audible sigh of relief, we were moving to the civilization and maybe I was going to escape with all my bones intact in the end. I could sense that Mark thought it was over too soon. For me it was all I my nerves could stand!
After I got off I hugged him, in relief of coming out in one piece from this ride. In his defense Mark told me from the word go he would go fast. It was I who could not conceptualize he would go bone rattling, nerve racking fast. Later he mentioned with a grin that we were going at 100 to 110 kmph. Eventually when we were sitting in the bus and driving back to the Levi Spirit villa, I guess I must have had a lost look on my face. Mark asked me how was I doing. I told him and everyone who was listening- slowly my bones were turning back from jelly. I now know what it means when they say your bones turned to jelly.
The two lessons I learned from this experience- drive the snow mobile yourself the next time and go at 30 kmph, enjoy the scenery. I also learned that it makes sense to have a good secondary camera for such trips when a SLR cannot be lugged around. I clicked all the pictures on this ride with my Lumia 1020.