Peppermint Latte at the North Pole

Somebody pinch me. I’m really here in Santa’s Village! Rosy-cheeked elves and reindeer and Norwegian sweaters and tinkling bells. It’s so magical!

Although December is high season, it’s remarkably easy to ignore the crowds when I’m dazzled by the childhood fantasies surrounding me. Everything twinkles here.

I had some Aeroplan points to burn, and my destination choices were limited due to trying to use them at the last minute. I had just watched The Santa Clause 2, so when I saw that the North Pole was an option, I booked it.

It’s a long journey through Toronto and Reykjavik. I understand now why Santa uses private transportation.

Santa’s Village is a little oasis of life and color in this otherwise barren land of snow, ice, and more snow.

This might be a lot like the Sahara, only it’s cold, there are no camels, people wear curly-tip felt shoes instead of sandals, and there are no Matthew McConaughey types cruising around in jeeps (which is too bad…).

The village looks a lot like the one Tim Allen inhabits. Houses are small and look like gingerbread. Most were built between 1880 and 1952 and anything more recent is subject to strict building bylaws, so the allure remains.

We’re so far north here that the only outdoor light comes from the glow of thousands of coloured Christmas lights strung throughout the village.

Motorized vehicles are not allowed in town, and it costs an arm and a leg to travel by reindeer sleigh (they jack up the prices for the tourists).

I felt that the pricing practice was unfair, so I tried to pass myself as a local yesterday morning. Unfortunately, I got busted on account of wearing the wrong footwear.

I knew I should have worn something a little more sensible than my high-heeled boots, but how am I supposed to feel like a snow goddess in flat, bulky Sorels?

I’m staying in a charming little inn in the centre of town, within walking distance of most of the attractions.

The elderly elf couple running the place is adorable: they wear matching sweaters and are always giggling. It’s contagious!

There’s not a ton do here, but there’s enough to keep a person jolly for a few days: baking classes, cozy pubs (best eggnog ever!) and cafés, skating rinks, art galleries, a toy museum and souvenir shops selling fridge magnets and Santa hats.

It’s been pretty mellow for me so far: leisurely strolls with a peppermint latte in hand, and a bit of shopping. I think I’m still recovering from the jetlag.

Tomorrow I’m signed up for a snowshoe tour in the country, and I might attend a cookie decorating workshop.

There are heaps of tour operators, and if you agree to attend a presentation at the local timeshare resort, you can usually get a voucher for a free activity, and breakfast too. Zipline over the tundra, anyone?

Beyond the town centre, tourists aren’t allowed to explore on their own. It’s actually pretty controlled for such a fun and happy place. The location of Santa’s house and his toy factory are kept secret. I did read on an online forum that some visitors had seen it, so I’m still hoping for a lucky break!

The reindeer are my favorite part about this place. I’m surprised at how much they look like caribou. Usually they’re just standing or eating, but I’ve been lucky to see a few flying above me. Wow!

There are different theories on why the local breed can fly. Some say it’s a gene, others claim it’s due to a special mineral that can only be found in the soil here. Some think it has something to do with military experiments, and still others say it’s Stephen Harper’s fault.

Whatever it is, it is astounding to watch a hoofed animal take off in flight.

The locals are usually jovial and welcoming, but some can be a little dodgy. I met an elf at the pub earlier this evening who said he works in Santa’s office. He offered to make sure my name shows up on the right side of the list – for a fee.

It was a bit of an ethical dilemma, but in the end, hey, I’m no idiot. There was that incident earlier this year when I tagged my brother on a donkey’s backside on Facebook.

Why risk it? I paid the elf.

It’s foolproof, really: even if he’s just a swindler, my non-tax-deductible donation to feeding his family or paying off his drug debt ought to earn me a spot on the Nice list. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy already.

On that note, I’ll sign off from the North Pole and wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Ho! (Showing off a little local language I picked up around here.)

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