So unfortunately last year when my husband was deployed, I forgot to call and wish him a happy birthday on the actual day. I know what you’re thinking, worst wife ever! I know…but to backtrack a bit, I had spent the month prior gathering items to construct a box of special goodies I could send to the Deployment location for him as a birthday and Christmas gift as well since his birthday is on the 22nd of December. I usually don’t lump them together but because these items were being shipped outside the U.S, it made sense to do it that way. I had also worked a streak of 4 or 5 12-hr shifts and didn’t even know what day it was, to be honest, so when he called me the next day to ask how and why I forgot to wish him a Happy birthday…I was slightly delirious and didn’t even know what day it was.
Anyway, so this year I had to go above and beyond to make it special for him. He did make some demands haha and rightfully so…..so I worked around that “demand” and planned a trip to Kiruna Sweden, otherwise known as Swedish Lapland.
His birthday is on Dec 22, so it was hard for him to get enough time off at his work around this period due to everyone wanting the holidays off. I pushed the trip date to the following week.
First stop: Copenhagen Denmark.
Since we were going to have a layover somewhere anyway, I decided that we should stay in Copenhagen for 2 nights and explore a little/do New Year’s Eve there. I was not expecting it to be as amazing as it was, and Ian was totally blown away by Copenhagen! I made a self-guided walking tour of the city and we spent a day exploring all the spots (11 miles walked on this day).
2nd stop: Arctic gourmet cabins.
Ian still had no idea what type of place this was, and as Johan (cabin owner & chef) picked us up at the airport, I could tell that Ian was mentally trying to put things together. I had to tell him everything once we checked in into the cabin because some of the plans were starting to fall through unfortunately. The first plan was to see and photograph the northern lights at Abisko National Park, but the company cancelled due to bad weather. I will say that after I told Ian that, and him seeing the sun set at 2pm and pitch black at 3pm, he seemed a little disappointed. I slightly felt bad since I had planned this trip and had been waiting for months! We sat in our cabin as Ian started to ask about our dinner plans. I didn’t have any because our now cancelled trip was meant to include dinner/drinks/coffee. Ian quickly yelped and suggested we get a taxi (Arctic gourmet cabins are further away from Kiruna town, where all the shops and restaurants are). I suggested we eat in our cabins since Johan the owner was a renowned chef and that was part of why I had chosen this place in the beginning – for the food. Ian reluctantly said yes but tried to counter with “maybe we should eat Thai” that night since Johan was cooking the next night for us, just to mix things up, I gently pushed him towards choosing Johans place for that night, and so we did.
At dinner, Johan started by talking about what he was going to serve that night, and I could see Ian perking up….. he started realizing that this was not your typical restaurant. Johan is one of the best chefs in Kiruna (and by far some of the best food I have had in my life), and he is also very kind and genuinely cares about the type of experience he is giving his guests. We had a 3 course meal with wine pairings – beats any Michelin star restaurant I have been in so far. During dinner, Johan talks and interacts with the guests, making it seem like having dinner at a friends house. Ian quickly asked Johan if he can cook us meals every night we are there, and he agreed. Even though it’s not free, Ian realized this is a once in a lifetime experience. After the first course, Johan asked us to go outside and see the northern lights…..say what?, we had just cancelled a tour and got refunded our money because of bad weather, and now we could spot a glimpse of the Aurora just outside our nice cosy cabin?. This was starting to become magic. Ian declared that night, that he was totally blown away! It was only day 1 haha. I was so happy things were starting to go as planned and even better!
On the next day, we had dinner and after dinner the Aurora appeared again, so we went outside and watched it move around. This night, the lights were so much more noticeable and we just stood outside for a long time just looking up. This was truly magic!
We stayed a total of 3 nights at Arctic gourmet cabins, had dinner and breakfast there and saw the auroras every single night, with each night becoming even stronger and moving around. During the day, we went snowshoeing from the cabins to the lake, did dog sledding, had an Arctic massage & spent a lot of time bouncing around from the Jacuzzi to the sauna to bed haha.
Final destination: Ice hotel.
This was Ian’s only demand. That he sleep in an ice hotel. I booked one night (our last night) in the seasonal ice rooms and it was quite the experience. We checked in, saw our rooms and the rest of the rooms, which are pure art and insanely detailed, then we went to a Sapmi (indigenous tribe) village & met reindeers. The Sapmi village was very enlightening because I had no idea indigenous people existed in the Nordic countries. We fed reindeer & also rode a reindeer sleigh. The reindeer sleigh ride is nothing like dog sledding. Reindeers are incredibly strong and competitive, so it was very thrilling to see them compete at high speed as you held on for dear life! Our guide was very monotone so we didn’t quite get it when she said they can get competitive with each other haha, unless her plan was to just let us find out for ourselves…then well played. This activity was one of my favorites! We also rode on a snowmobile sleigh to and from the ice hotel.
Highlight of the trip: A 3 hour northern lights appearance! Behind the ice hotel is a frozen lake, so we went there and just looked at the northern lights move about. It was magical!
The night & trip ended with our stay in the ice room for the night. We were so sad to check out the next morning…
I think I nailed the surprise trip for Ian. The one year guilt of forgetting to wish him a happy birthday has worn off now.