“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or so they say. “They” however weren’t bloggers. I jest of course. Writers, journos, bloggers, or anybody with the ability to generate publicity are often schmoozed in exchange for exposure (steady on) and there is nothing so criminal about that in itself. However it can prove tricky when you’re asked to experience and review something that falls well below what you might consider a reasonable standard. For my part I tend to pick a destination or press trip very carefully, vetting it for quality before attending, and quite simply if I don’t enjoy the experience I will tell my host and give them the opportunity to correct it or avoid publication. Harsh, but fair. However, occasionally you do strike gold, and end up having a fantastic experience, such as was the case in the run up to Christmas last year, when I headed along to the Ice Bar in London for a bash dedicated to all that is Northern Sweden’s Lapland, a destination I have long yearned to visit since reading AA Gill’s descriptions of riding across a starlit snowy tundra, downwind from a nitrate rich fug of husky guff, sleeping on blocks of ice wearing nothing but a reindeer pelt. Or was it a wolf skin?
Lapland is a wild and expansive destination in the far North of Sweden, known for a range of profoundly unique points of attraction, both natural and man made. Aside from the fact there is obvious beauty in the sub-zero crystallisation of swathes of wide open countryside, draped in a thick blanket of snow, there is also the breathtaking spectacle of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; a natural phenomenon that occurs when magnetism created by solar flares, bounces off the earth’s outer atmosphere resulting in a celestial light show of swathes of luminescent refraction. Some clever people decided this would be an ideal spot to install a winter break destination so they built the Ice Hotel and yes, it is a hotel made entirely of ice. I’ve never been there, but a trip to The Ice Bar in London was the next best thing.
First off we were taught how to sculpt ice, which was great fun. As you can see, our polar bear was magnificent, and incredibly life like.
A slide show with factoids about Lapland was very informative, and helped along by the addition of some Einstok – a superbly lively, hoppy and fruity Icelandic beer, and these truly delicious canapes of venison with lingonberry – a bittersweet Scandinavian berry.
What I find most enticing about the prospect of visiting Lapland, is the sheer range of activities on offer. It seems to have something to cater for most tastes. There is adventure travel in the form of sled rides, snowmobile rides, cross-country skiing, horse trekking at day or night, and even ice driving for the complete adrenalin junkie. This is in fact exactly what it says on the fruit loop tin: driving a car around on a frozen lake. For those who prefer something more sedate, there are saunas, steam rooms, hotels, sightseeing tours, restaurants and bars.
The bar upstairs, made entirely of ice, including the walls and the glasses, is quite something to look at. Glacial striations running through the huge blocks of ice, put me in mind of Lake Baikal in Russia where you can if you wish take your skates and set out on a long quest of visual splendour.
After drinking a few cocktails served in vessels of ice, we headed back out to the real world. Many thanks to Cosmos for sponsoring what was considered by all to be a really enjoyable and educational event. All that remains now is to fly out there and experience the real thing.