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Week 28: Scandinavian Adventure. Ice Hotel in Kiruna review.

North by North North - The Ice Hotel

by Benjamin Pillmore (my hubby!)

pinterest-kiruna-swedish-lapland.jpg

When most people think of the Arctic Circle, they imagine a cold, white wasteland devoid of even the smallest signs of life.

Good news!

The frozen north has a plethora of life (human and otherwise) and is quite manageable if you have a sense for adventure. Ulia and I decided to make the trek up to Kiruna, Sweden which is about 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle and Sweden’s northernmost city. There, resides the original Ice Hotel (Jukkasjärvi): a resort situated on the frozen banks of the Torne River that boasts the world’s first and most famous hotel made of ice.

The hotel is divided into three types of rooms, grouped into three separate structures. The first is the warm, which is, well, warm, as in not made of ice. The second is the newly-opened (November 2016) 365 building which houses a series of rooms that are maintained year-round at -5ºC. The third, and most renowned, is the original Ice Hotel; a building comprised of massive blocks of ice harvested straight from the Torne River but a hundred meters away.

Now, for those of you who are wondering why anyone would go that far north to stay in what essentially amounts to an oversized igloo, let me enlighten ye with the top five coolest things you can do at The Ice Hotel.

 

1. Airport Transfers

At this point, you have read the heading and are probably wondering what lavish or outlandish vehicle could possibly pick you up from the airport in Kiruna and drop you off at the Ice Hotel. A hummer? A snowmobile? Some Swedish cross-country skiers? Alas, no. But you can have a team of adorable huskies come pick you and three friends up for a dogsled transfer to the hotel!

The dogsled airport transfer is not cheap, but it is an experience unto itself and should definitely be considered if you want a very original method of getting from A to B or have a thing for dogs, sleds, snow and adventure.

 

2. The Ice Bar

For those of you who drink, you are in luck. The Ice Hotel crafts an awesome bar made of sheer ice every year and serves all of its mixed drinks in glasses made of ice, cut straight from the Torne River. For the hypochondriacs (I’ll save you the google: people who are scared of germs) in the crowd, the ice has been tested and verified bacterium-free before it is cut into the glasses you drink out of. The bar itself has a mascot named Mr. Fuzzy who happens to be the portrait of a lion that overseas the goings on in the bar area. There is comfy seating adorned with animal hides (probably reindeer, I did not get a proper look) and plenty of space and music for both personality types.

Pro-tip:

Ask for the off-menu drinks and make sure you keep your glass so you can break it later (for fun of course!)

3. Lingonberry Juice

Yeah, yeah: "oh this sounds so boring! ’Tis but juice!". Well, guess what? The idiom: 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do', is very applicable here. Backstory: in Sweden, there is a concept known as "allemansrätten" or 'Everyman’s Right" which essentially grants anyone the freedom to roam the land, sail the water, camp, and forage for food, pretty much anywhere in Sweden (this custom exists in many nordic countries). This centuries’s old edict is still just as strong today and as Lingonberries grow quite commonly all over Sweden, consuming them in various forms is a part of life. The Ice Hotel is no exception and makes it a habit of providing hot Lingonberry juice at opportune moments throughout your stay; from your first arrival to your morning wake up call, Lingonberries will be in your face and I recommend you be Roman.

A Song of Ice and Fire? 

A Song of Ice and Fire? 

4. The Ice Hotel Art Suites

Every year, ice artists and sculptors (from the cold parts of the world), descend on the Ice Hotel to showcase their woks in the form of exquisitely detailed suites made entirely of ice and snow. Each room has its own theme, ranging from the instantly recognizable 'Casablanca' with its Moroccan geometric embellishments, to the more subtle (and frankly unsettling) 'Faces' room which contains a 3m tall face staring at your bed while another ten faces gaze down at you from the ceiling, judging your dreams and snickering at your snores. The Ice Hotel commissions thirty five unique suites every season and offers one of the few places in the world where you can essentially sleep inside a sculpture.

 

5. The Northern Lights

The Sámi people have inhabited the northern portion of Scandinavia for a millennia and developed their own belief system, much like any other people, around their environment (think :sun gods, weather gods, ocean gods, etc). In this case, the Sámi people believe that the Northern Lights are the sparks flung from the tail of a fox as it bolts across the sky and represent the souls of fallen relatives. 

At this point you may be scratching your head over how we just went from a solar particle phenomenon to foxes, but just bear with me and I will connect the dots! The Sámi people stem from the northernmost portions of Scandinavia which, as some of you geography buffs are aware of, contains a little country called Finland. Now here’s the line between the dots: The Finnish word for 'Northern Lights' is 'Revontulet’ which literally translates as 'fire fox'. Voila! Pretty cool, right? Anyway, this is the main event at the Ice Hotel, this is the once-in-a-lifetime experience you drag your loved ones with you to see. Our guide advised us that it needs to be cold, clear and dark to experience the revontulet at its finest, so bundle up, be patient and keep your eyes on the sky.

Breathtaking Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland!

Side bar:

The Northern Lights experience at the Ice Hotel comprises three arctic adventures rolled into one. First off, you take a snowmobile on a 2.5 hour journey from the hotel to a secluded wilderness camp with Finnish style cottages. Secondly, your guide will prepare dinner for you and talk about the history and culture of the area. Last but not least: The Revontulet will hopefully make an appearance (I still have a lawsuit pending with the Swedes over the clouds that ruined our chances but I doubt I will hear back from them).

 

Until next time - BAP

Ice Hotel Kiruna review

Week 22: Witches of Manhattan. Best Witches in Film and TV.

Magic has been fascinating me since I was a little child. I was too impatient to wait for my parents to read to me before bedtime, so I was absorbing fairy tale books by myself from morning to dawn when I was just three years old. While other children played with dolls and teddy bears, I immersed myself in worlds of magicians, beautiful sorceresses and evil queens.

At the time, my dad had a rental VHS spot in my city, and we had access to all the latest movies. I especially vividly remember the film Willow with its lush magical world and the frightening and glorious evil Queen Bavmorda. When brainstorming my list of the most memorable witches in film and TV, I immediately thought of her, especially because people tend to forget about this movie altogether.

Year after year, my interest in witchcraft has only grown and I have discovered many new films and TV shows with enchanting white witches, Evil Sorceresses and modern day magicians, and I would like to share my favourites with you.

So, Abracadabra, witches, read my list below:

1. The Three Witches from Macbeth

Three Witches Macbeth

The Three Witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth represent evil and darkness and tempt Macbeth with their prophecies. With the prophecy that Macbeth shall be king, they lead him to the path of his own destruction. It is incredible how with just a small appearance in the play, the ominous Three Witches and their many representations in art and film, can make your blood run cold.

Bonus: Visit Sleep No More in NYC to encounter The Three Witches! I even interacted with one of them during the show.

2. Seventh Son

Ведьмы в фильме Седьмой Сын.  Witches in Seventh Son film.

Julianne Moore is stunning as a wicked witch, Mother Malkin, in Seventh Son. The fantasy film also stars Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes and Alicia Vikander, who is growing on me with each new role she plays. Unfortunately, Seventh Son was a big flop in the box office, but I enjoyed it very much.

3. Salem

Best witches in film history.

I have just started watching this wicked show inspired by the real Salem witch trials in the 17th century. I can never say no to a period costume series, especially if it has a supernatural element!

4. Practical Magic

Best witches in Film and Tv series! 21 amazing witches

This beautiful film tells the story of the Owens sisters, who come from generations of powerful witches, and follows them on their quest fortrue love. I have watched this romantic film so many times. I love it!

Bonus: Did you know that this famous film was based on the bestselling book? Buy it here on Amazon!

 

5. Snow White and the Huntsman

Best witches in film history. Queen Ravenna.

Queen Ravenna is a ravishing Evil Queen and she might eat your heart. Literally.

6. Geillis Duncan in Outlander

Best witches on the screen - Geillis Duncan from Outlander. Red haired witch.

I am not going to spoil this for non-book readers, but Geillis Duncan is a wonderful, complex character in the Outlander series. Love her or hate her, she has powers and she knows how to use them.

7. Queen Bavmorda in Willow

Best Witches in films and tv.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Willow was my first favourite fantasy film, and evil Queen Bavmorda probably made an appearance in my childhood nightmares. 

8. Witches of East End

Witches of East End. TV series about witchcraft.

I was so disappointed when they cancelled Witches of East End in 2014! It was dark, sultry and gorgeous. I definitely recommend you watch this show. There are so many little details and stories that inspire me to continue writing my novel.

9. Craft

Witches on the screen. Fictional witches in history.

A 90s classic, this horror film tells the story of a group of teenage girls who practice witchcraft, and later use it to curse every one who wronged them at school. I usually despise scary films, but this one is entertaining and has just the right amount of spooky.

10. Stardust

Best magicians, witches and sorceresses in film and Tv. Stardust.

The main antagonist of Stardust, Lamia, is the most powerful witch in Stormhold. She lives hidden from the world with her sisters, Mormo and Empusa, waiting for the right moment to regain her rule over the land and obtain eternal beauty by eating the heart of a star. In the meantime, she consumes people to stay young and beautiful. What would a woman NOT DO for eternal beauty?!

11. Charmed

Best withes in film and tv series. Full list!

Let's face it, we’ve all watched at least a couple episodes of this long running show about the three Halliwell sisters who discover that they are descendants of a line of powerful witches. Each sister has a special ability: controlling time, moving objects, prophetic powers, and they can also use their powers together to fight all the demons in our world.

12. Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus Witches.

This Disney comedy is about three wicked witch sisters who are resurrected in Salem on Halloween night, and two teenagers who are the only ones who can stop them. Hocus Pocus is definitely a Halloween classic!

13. The Witches of Eastwick

Witches in America. Fictional characters with magical powers.

A great dark comedy about three dissatisfied witches, unaware of their powers, living in Eastwick, Rhode Island, whose lives change when a mysterious, rich man, Darvyl, moves to town.

14. The Chronicles of Narnia

Witches in film and TV. Best evil ice queen.

Queen Jadis cast a curse upon Narnia, that it shall be frozen and cold. The Long Winter she magically forced upon Narnia, earned her the title, the "White Witch".

15. Once Upon a Time

I am currently watching season 6 of Once Upon a Time, and to be perfectly honest, it is not as good as it could be. There were a couple of seasons I really liked, and of course I adore everything related to my favourite fairy tale characters, however sometimes it is painful to watch. Not all of the actors are great, the effects and props look cheap and the plot often annoys. But if there is one thing I love about it, is its Evil Queens!

16. Harry Potter

How could I leave witches from Harry Potter out of this list? 

17. Enchanted

Queen Narissa in Disney's feature hybrid film Enchanted is a beautiful, but cruel, vindictive, power-thirsty evil witch.

18. Red Priestesses in Game of Thrones

Carice van Houten has been on my radar since the Black Book film, and I am pleased she was cast as Melisandre in Game of Thrones. However, now I am also excited to see more of another Red Priestess, Kinvara, who debuts in the 6th season.

19. Penny Dreadful

Ben and I love watching this show together. It is eerie, grim, sinful and beautiful in its delicious blood stained darkness. From mysterious and powerful Vanessa Ives, to the evil coven of witches, whose every appearance makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck, this show has plenty of wicked beauties.

20. The Brothers Grimm

The Mirrored Queen, portrayed by gorgeous Monica Bellucci, is the Thuringian queen, treasured by all of Europe for her unbelievable beauty. Absorbed by her own reflection, the vain and selfish queen cares only about her appearance and uses black magic to gain eternal life and youth. I find her story one of the most compelling and I wish Hollywood made the whole film about the beautiful Mirrored Queen.

Week 18: Summer in NYC. Cute SheIn Top

I am sharing more casual looks with you this week. I noticed lately that I have traded my ultra short, revealing denim shorts for more classy looking shorts. Am I getting older and wiser… or what's happening? :)

Original Shein Top. Best blogger NYC

In today's look I have paired my Walter Baker black shorts with a very cute and original top from Shein. I love how affordable everything is at Sheinand that the quality is often really really good. At the end of this post I will also link to a few other cute tops that will make any simple "wear it with jeans/shorts" outfit look very original and stylish.

Collaboration with Shein online store. Most affordable and stylish clothes online.

I am also sporting a new Walter Baker bag for the first time. The bag is from the designer's upcoming collection and it comes in many different colours.

Ulia wearing Shein white top pom-pom
Collaborate with best NYC blogger.
Walter Baker bag.

SHOP CUTE TOPS:

1. White Top | 2. Cute Shein Top | 3. Blue Striped Top | 4. Fun Sweater