Tuesday, 27 March 2012

An Arctic Style Survival Guide - Part I

We're back.

Our trip to the Arctic was exceptional.  The beauty up there is otherworldly.  Think vast forests of spruce and pine; endless sweeps of crystalline snow; bright blue skies by day and the magic of the Northern Lights by night.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime, must-see experience.

It's even worth the odd style sacrifice.

That was me leaving the apartment for Lapland.  My first style-sacrifice came early, with those mandatory hiking boots that were too bulky to schlep in the bag.  Otherwise, I think I did pretty well for someone headed 200km north of the Arctic circle.

As mentioned previously, my handbag of choice was a mid-sized Goyard shopper.  Goyard shoppers are great for travelling. They're lightweight, can carry lots of stuff, and the reversible ones double as beach bags. I was, it seems, the only one to appreciate this among my fellow Finnair passengers.

I was prepared to be cold on this trip; prepared for moderate discomfort and inconveniences.  I was even prepared (and neatly waxed) for a skinny-dip in an ice hole.  Nothing prepared me for the sartorial scene at the airport. This wasn't just travel - this was boldly going to where no well-dressed woman has gone before.

Perhaps Monsieur had a point when he relegated my Valentino heels to the 'not coming' pile.

Please take a moment to observe the difference in size between my Valentinos and my hiking boots.  I could have packed three pairs of those slingbacks without risking luggage weight restrictions.  But that's neither here nor there.

What was there, awaiting us in a giant garbage bag in the back of the pick-up truck that drove us to Muodoslompolo, was some outer-wear specifically designed for polar expeditions and Arctic survival.  This included a pair of boots.

The boot on the far right is one such boot.  Your gasp was my gasp.  And then I saw the boot they gave to size 46 Monsieur.

Monsieur's boot was like a Monster Truck tire.  The amount of rubber used in its manufacture could have supplied Durex for a decade.

Polar wear is enormous.  Putting it on is akin to being an astronaut donning a spacesuit, which, I suppose, makes sense.  Muodoslompolo might as well be another planet.

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. The non-humongous black boot right next to my hiking boot in the photos above is a lightweight and super-comfy snow boot that I normally wear for winter walks and activities in the Alps.  In Chamonix they keep my toes toasty, but wearing them on a forest walk on our first night in Muodoslompolo, I thought I was going to lose my toes.
2. The reason my feet froze in those boots was apparently because they're too tight.  According to our guide, who was born and raised even further north than where we were, you're better off wearing just one pair of socks and leaving space for your toes than doubling your socks.  Lesson learned.
3. Goyard shoppers are also great for taking towels to a traditional Finnish sauna.
4. I never did skinny dip in an ice hole.  (Not that I'm complaining.)