Tromsø is one of the most magical places I’ve been to. A bustling city tucked amongst the fjords, 190 miles North of the Arctic circle. Parts of Tromsø feel so otherworldly, but at the same time so entirely familiar. There’s a busy road network, international airport and the World’s most Northerly university. If you wander the streets after dark (which during Winter is … Almost all of the day) you’re equally as likely to stumble across the Northern lights as a pub playing Norwegian death metal.
If -like me- you’re a grown adult who loves Disneyland, you might be wondering exactly how soon is too soon to take your new baby to the happiest place on Earth. On the one hand, they’re not going to remember it … But on the other, you’ve spent the past few months sleep deprived and feeding a small thing every few hours. So the thought of strapping a pair of ears to your head and being the child again is quite appealing. It’s also quite a safe first holiday, given the Disney parks are geared up for families and Paris is a short flight away. Due to a last minute change of plan, I had to arrange Disneyland Paris with a baby in mind pretty quickly. And so I thought I’d share what I learned through organising our recent holiday.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed feeling scared. I used to love watching Are You Afraid Of The Dark at sleepovers. And reading Goosebumps books under my quilt. Ghost stories would have me terrified of bedtime. And I vividly remember watching my first Horror film. Fear was uncomfortable, but exciting.
Growing up meant my fears have obviously changed. I’m less concerned with ghosts and more likely to threat about work. Worrying about adult things is far from enjoyable. I never relish in it. And wouldn’t seek it out. But this is where my love of Halloween comes from. I love remembering those feelings.
Something which stood out for me in Svalbard, was serious nostalgia for those times. Hiding under my quilt, or too scared to repeat an urban legend in the mirror. Longyearbyen was a magical place. But some of the circumstances made the mind wander. In the same way 8 year old me would have been frightened, I found myself genuinely scared. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it.
I love the Arctic. And whilst all Arctic countries have amazing features in both seasons, I particularly love the Arctic in Winter. There’s no way of guaranteeing weather, Northern lights or wildlife. But even so there’s something magical about it. A different feeling in the air. Which is totally different to how I imagined it would be. The polar night occurs in the most Northernmost (and Southernmost although I’m yet to go to Antartica!) parts of the World. And is the period in Winter when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. The further North you go, the longer the Polar night lasts. In December in Svalbard the sun doesn’t rise for a month. Whilst during the same period in Tromsø, there would be two hours daylight each day and in Iceland four.
I can’t imagine what life must be like for those living in the North permanently. I’ve seen children walking to school in high vis vests. Playing in the playground in Svalbard in the darkness. It must be strange. At times depressing and very tiring. However I love visiting during this period. As it’s so different from home, here in the UK. We get our dark evenings, but it’s very different to the Polar night.
The majority of our travel occurs during this period. And every year I look forward to going North in search of the Polar night. This year will be different. And it’s made me reflect on what I will miss most about it.
When one of these amazing sunrises or sunsets appears it’s magical.
1. Colourful Sunrises & Sunsets
Obviously in Svalbard and the North pole, there are no sunrises or sunsets. But slightly less North, the shortened days mean not only is being awake for both easy. But the way in which the sun rises and sets (barely rising above the horizon sometimes) means they are dramatic and colourful. In Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland I’ve seen the most jaw-dropping colours in the sky. It’s totally mesmerising.
Of course, it’s always in the depths of Winter. So most days you get snow clouds. Rain. And general darkness. But when one of these amazing sunrises or sunsets appears it’s magical.
The most beautiful natural thing I’ve seen
2. Northern Lights
Impossible to guarantee. And often illusive. The Polar Night allows for optimum Northern lights viewing. And as you need a dark sky, lengthens the window of opportunity for seeing them. Even when we’ve been unlucky and the conditions haven’t been right to see the Aurora, just knowing they are out there is exciting. The chance to see the Northern lights is always there during the Polar night. And I love spending time looking up at the sky in search of them.
When I have been lucky enough to see the Aurora. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were. Dancing across the sky in-front of my eyes. Without a doubt the most beautiful natural thing I’ve seen. And my most fondest travel memories.
Doing this from a hot tub is even better!
3. The Night Sky
The extended night allows for more stargazing. The Arctic is largely free from light pollution and so the night sky is dark. I love looking up at the stars. Working out constellations. And searching for any slight green tinge. The moon always looks amazing, even when peeping out behind clouds. Doing this from a hot tub is even better!
It gets so dark and cold, the lights really brighten up everything
4. Candles & Lights
To make the Polar night period more bearable, locals decorate with lights, lanterns and candles. It’s so beautiful. I’ve never taken a photo of a house -because that would be creepy- but every window, pipe and ledge is outlined with tiny fairy lights. In Norway and Iceland particularly we saw so many houses decorated in this way. A lady in Tromsø explained there are competitions locally for the best house. Trees, postboxes, bridges and even bikes are covered in these tiny fairy lights. It looks like a scene from a snow globe.
In Iceland we saw lights on a hill so drove to have a look. It was a church yard and inside, all the graves had been lit up with lights too. It sounds a little odd, but it was really pretty. And I can see why relatives would do it. It gets so dark and cold, the lights really brighten up everything.
Outside shops and houses tiny tea lights illuminate paths. And lanterns mark doorways. In Svalbard we had every meal by candlelight. It feels so cosy. The number of lanterns and candles in my house has significantly risen since visiting these places. I would love to cover our home in lights like a Scandinavian house.
The sky is a distinctive blue colour
5. The Blue Hour
Before the sun sets, whilst it sits beneath the horizon, there’s an amazing light in the sky. Almost eerie but very recognisable. The blue hour.
Depending where you are, it can last for longer than an hour. But the blue hour is the period of extended twilight before the sun disappears completely. In Svalbard where the sun doesn’t rise, there is still this lighter period when the sun is closest to the horizon. The sky is a distinctive blue colour. The longer the daylight hours, the more drawn out it is. It can start a vivid baby blue. But it always feels strangely unnatural and exciting.
It’s a year since our Iceland wedding. And I still marvel at the fact we pulled it off. Not only that, but it was the most amazing day. I couldn’t have asked for things to have gone better. I know Iceland is growing in popularity all the time as a tourist destination. And weddings are more frequent too. I’ve looked back and listed five things I wish I had known more about, when we were planning our own Iceland wedding.
Some of my fondest memories of the past few years are from the time I’ve spent traveling with my husband. Although looking back on our first holiday together, I’m amazed we survived. Never mind went on any more.
A few weeks back we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been a year already, although in some respects it feels like ages ago that we were stood by that glacier and worrying about transporting our cake. After all in the year that’s passed, we’ve been to the top of the World, on five other trips, completely renovated our house (whilst living in it, hashtag never again), bought home Hekla the British Shorthair and are now expecting a new arrival of the non-furry variety. It’s been quite a year!
For my husband’s birthday, I decided to surprise him with a bit of Winter sun. I can’t believe I managed to keep it a secret! When he finally learned we were going to Lanzarote he was really excited. We scarcely go to sunny destinations and are notoriously bad at ‘relaxing’ when on holiday, so this was a very different kind of holiday for us.
In the interest of totally switching off, I took a week away from the internet and didn’t bring my camera. The challenge of taking photos with just my iPhone (and GoPro, I know it’s water resistant but I didn’t fancy testing it that much!) was quite fun and I enjoyed not lugging all my camera stuff along with me.
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis). And over the past 4 years I’ve been lucky enough to see them several times in two countries; An experience I’ll never forget! However it’s worth noting that in that same period, I’ve been unsuccessful in seeing them in 3 occasions. Right place. Right time. Just didn’t happen.
I still feel lucky to have seem them at all! And 40% isn’t bad. However I’ve picked up some good tips along the way which I thought I would share. The Northern lights are the topic I’m asked about most, by family and friends interested in the places we’ve been.
I realise two months have elapsed since I got back from Disneyland Paris. We went to Finland just a few weeks later and I found my Lapland post difficult to write. I lost my flow but I’m back today with another travel post in my Disneyland series: Frontierland.