Our Queen Swan Tells All…
I had been researching, planning (and shopping!) for my Scandic adventure to the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, which is also known as, the ‘Swedish Lapland’. Kiruna is situated further north than Greenland and Iceland, so I really had to get my head in gear for the sub-zero temperature we were going to face. We usually go abroad every Valentines weekend, visiting cities such as Dublin, Rome and Milan, but this year we wanted to go somewhere more adventurous!
Since I had never been skiing or snowboarding before, it was a challenging but very exciting shopping task to make sure I had all the right clothing to wear at the Ice Hotel. With temperatures dipping to -12 degrees, I had to make sure I wasn’t compromising my fashion splurges whilst keeping warm. Lots of thermals, lots of socks, a pair of Monaco Moon boots and a duck down fox hooded coat were all packed ready for our romantic weekend away.
We arrived in Sweden after a very smooth two hour flight and checked into the five star Lydmar Hotel. I have visited this hotel before, and it was just as stunning as I remember, warm lighting, soft music, contemporary furnishing and hotel staff that looked like they had just stepped out of a Gucci modelling campaign. Our suite was open plan, with a living area, luxury bathroom and bath for two. Perfect for our first night in the Swedish capital. We hit the shops in the centre of Stockholm, grabbing a spot of lunch at Japanese eatery, East, and visiting the Stureplan shopping centre. We fuelled up for coffee at Espresso House where they do the best mochachinos! The warm, cosy, library looking coffee shop was the perfect pit stop after shopping in -5 degrees!
After a long hot bath (for two!) I was out of my Moon boots and slipping on my over the knee boots for dinner reservations at the famous Grill restaurant. We were meeting up with our Swedish friends for one night, where we dined on steak and mixed meat grills. This venue has a very weird but wonderful interior concept, similar to the Orient Express. Each table was designed as if you were on a 1920’s train with plush velvet seats and oak wood furnishings. After our dining on meat feasts, the food coma’s started to set in, so it was time to head back to the hotel for a nightcap ready for our very early morning flight to Kiruna.
I couldn’t sleep due to the excitement for our next stop to the arctic. I just didn’t know what to expect and that thrilled me. It was time to get wrapped up, furs and all, and check out of the Lydmar Hotel for our internal flight to Kiruna. After another two hour flight, we arrived to -10 degrees, three foot deep in snow and a 20 mins in a cab ride to the Ice Hotel. The blankets of snow that covered the forests and villages are breathtaking. The houses looked like they were made out of gingerbread covered with sweet sugar icing.
We arrived at the Ice Hotel, dropped off our luggage and headed for the hotel tour. The hotel is an exhibition during the day, so we jumped on the tour to find out more about this architectural beauty.
The hotel is built every year around September next to the Torne River which freezes over, generously providing ice to be harvested. Tons of ice is used to make the Ice Hotel which was first built in 1990 . This year was the 26th Ice Hotel. Come Spring the hotel melts and rejoins the Torne River back on its journey south of Kiruna. It costs millions of pounds to create this hotel, not only providing 35 ice rooms for guests to sleep, but the jaw dropping ice sculptures that are exhibit in there.
We had booked to a snowmobile excursion in the evening followed by an overnight stay in the Ice Room. We spent a good few hours eating Swedish delicacy’s, drinking frothy coffees, and leisurely walking around the hotel until evening started to fall. I was warm, I was cosy, and blown away by such a beautiful place. After walking hand in hand and feeling settled and content in our arctic surrounds, the vicinity was pretty empty, as most people to taking shelter in the bars to keep warm after the tours, so we decided to go for a romantic evening stroll before getting ready for our snowmobile tour. We walked to the outside of the Ice Church, and next to the church was an igloo with the words inscribed…’Zeri Will You Marry Me!’ Before I could even grasp what was happening or give him an answer, he led me inside the Ice Church and got down on one knee and proposed with a stunning one carat diamond ring. I of course, through my shock, excitement and joy, replied YES!!
I was over the moon, ecstatic, but my biggest question was, how the hell did he manage to do this without me knowing? Too many questions were running through my mind, so we headed to the Ice Bar for a celebratory drink, out of an ice tumbler of course, and toasted our celebration while I sat back and heard all about his quest for the perfect ring and how he managed to get it out here.
My Valentine’s weekend has turned into a Valentine’s engagement surprise, I was with my soulmate in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, I couldn’t have been happier. After our lengthy loved up chat, it was time to get our snow gear on a head out on the snowmobiles. There was about 12 couples all heading out on this 3 hour round trip with 3 course dinner to see the Northern Lights, and as we road through forests, mountains and over frozen lakes, it had just started to sink in…I was engaged!
Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the Northern Lights that evening, but nothing could burst my bubble at that moment. We arrived at a cabin half way there and dined on Reindeer stew and drank hot Lingonberry juice, very Swedish! On our final leg back to the hotel, we then got changed into ou sleepwear, which consisted of thermals, socks and hats, grabbed ourdouble sleeping bag which is designed for -40 degree arctic conditions, and headed to our Ice Room to sleep for the night. I must admit is was super cosy, and didn’t feel the -10 degree cold at all. The perfect end to a perfect day.
I was up and about early the next day to get breakfast and a coffee and get ready for the day. After sleeping in the Ice Room, where there are not toilets or bathrooms, I headed back into the warm part of the hotel where they have a sauna and spa area…bliss! Our day was spent talking weddings, honeymoons, future plans and getting exciting about the planning process. We checked into the warm room for our final night at the hotel, and decided to venture out and grab a cab into the Arctic Circle. We were missing a few home comforts, and once you have seen the hotel and stayed in the Ice Room, there are not many facilities to do anything else other drink and dine in two small restaurants. We were in explorer mode, so we decided to jump ship and see some more of Kiruna. We travelled 20 minutes into the city and found a bar that served draft beer, for Paul obviously, and a little Thai kitchen! We were literally in the middle of nowhere, but we managed to find some little hidden treasures further out in the city.
We headed back to the hotel for one last nightcap in the Ice bar and then sank into bed after a very long day. The warm rooms are very basic, no mini bar, no sweets, chocolate, no alcohol, just basic amenities. It was cosy and warm, but after one night there we were ready to come home to see our baby boy.
My verdict on the Ice Hotel is that it is a once in a lifetime adventure that will always stay close to my heart; culture, the nature, the stunning views, the architecture. It’s simply breathtaking, and so far from anything I’ve seen or ever had the chance to experience, but for me, coming home with my own special little piece of ice was the cherry on top!