Santa has a screaming drinking problem and needs to shed a few pounds. Rudolph has a nose that’s prone to sunburn. Here’s where they’ll both be travelling in 2017…
Christmas is a stressful time. While most of the world is kicking back, wrapping presents and watching TV, everything in Lapland is pretty manic in the run up to Christmas. Those bikes and iPads don’t wrap themselves, and holding down Sellotape with hooves isn’t easy.
Santa's sleigh and reindeer (Dreamstime)
Then there’s the big delivery day itself. It isn’t just the work that stresses us out, although flying 50,000 miles around the planet in a night isn’t a walk in the park. The real issue is Santa’s drinking. It’s got steadily worse over the years. His driving is usually fine when we start off. But by the time we’ve covered Asia and we’re hitting Europe, the sleigh’s all over the place. Later, as we reach America, it’s hooves-over-eyes time.
Sometimes Blitzen takes the wheel (or reins), but he’s known for bouts of ‘sleigh rage’. All in all, we’re pretty happy each year to make it home in one piece.
There’s not much to do in the weeks after Christmas. We get thousands of Thank You notes and the occasional snippy complaint (there just aren’t enough Adele tickets to go around), but the elves can deal with those. So it’s usually the time when I start looking around for a bit of travel inspiration for the year ahead.
Icebergs in Greenland (Dreamstime)
The place that’s really grabbing me for 2017 from Wanderlust’s Travel Hot List is Greenland. One thing no one ever mentioned in that song about my nose, and it's a bit of a sensitive issue: the redness of my nose is the result of really bad sunburn. It happens every year, so I tend to travel to places that are cool.
It doesn’t look like it gets much cooler than Greenland. Dasher, Dancer and I are all pretty handy in a kayak, as well as a sleigh, so we’ll explore the UNESCO-listed icefjords of Ilulissat by paddle-power and hopefully spot some whales off the coast around Nuuk.
Spirit Island in Jasper National Park (Dreamstime)
I’ve been hoping to explore Canada for years too, ever since I was a fawn. With the country celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, 2017 seems the year to go. I hear all the National Parks are free throughout 2017, which is also great news, as we reindeer are not on elves’ wages.
We need to keep fit throughout the year, so we’ll hike some of the trails in the rainforests of British Columbia and the mountains of Jasper National Park, and hopefully get a bit of birdwatching in at Point Pelee National Park.
Maybe it’s because we spend a lot of time flying through the starry skies, but Donner, Cupid, Comet and I are all big Star Wars nuts, too, so we’re going to be doing a pilgrimage to some of the locations in the new Rogue One film, including Iceland, which should be pleasantly cool, and the deserts of Jordan.
Wadi Rum in Jordan (Dreamstime)
I’ll need to find some Factor 50 suncream for my nose when we go there, hopefully to hike the new Jordan Tail. We always have a bit of time on our hands through the year, so we’ll probably do the full 36-day, 600km hike, which should have us trim and healthy for when we need to pull the sleigh around the world again next year.
Contrary to any idle gossip you might have heard from the reindeer or elves, I don’t have a problem drinking. I mean, a drinking problem. The thing is that everyone leaves out their glasses of sherry and I know how disappointed they’d be to come down in the morning to see a full glass. I’m only thinking of them.
Sherry and mince pies (Dreamstime)
I will confess, though, that the mince pies have taken their toll over the years. I used to look like a young Brad Pitt. But it doesn’t matter how much I stick to the salads throughout the year, eating 1.5 billion mince pies in one night is always going to add a few inches to your waistline.
So when Christmas is over, I usually look at ways to get a bit of exercise. This year, Mrs Claus and I are looking forward to exploring Chile. It’s been 40 years since we both read Bruce Chatwin’s book In Patagonia, which really brought the Patagonia region to life, so we’re likely to get a bit of trekking in in Torres del Paine.
Torres del Paine (Dreamstime)
I’m also keen to chat to a few gauchos down there about how they deal with unruly cows and horses, in case there’s anything I can apply to unruly reindeer.
I’ll admit it: I have also heard that Chile does world class wine, but that’s absolutely not the reason why we’re going. I suppose it wouldn’t be right to visit the country without at least visiting some of the vineyards thought and trying their fine Carmenere, though.
I’ve heard there’s a row too between Chile and Peru over who makes the best Pisco Sour, so we’ll probably take the sleigh between the two countries to sample a few in both. I’m told there’s also a fine cocktail in Santiago called the Terremoto (Earthquake), a sweet wine mixed with pineapple ice cream, which we should try. Pineapple has a lot of vitamins, after all…
Basecamp Brewing Company in Portland (Dreamstime)
Mrs Claus is partial to a city break, so we might drop in on Portland in the United States. The parks, hiking trails and waters of Crater Lake would certainly do us a bit of good, and I’ve heard they have an excellent microbrewery scene and delicious wines.
We’ve always wanted to visit Egypt, and with visitor numbers down at the moment it’ll be a good chance for us to explore Luxor and the Valley of the Kings without the crowds. I’d like to see the Pharoahs’ ancient treasures; I’m always looking for inspiration for new gift ideas.
Statues at Luxor temple (Dreamstime)
Perhaps the place I’m most looking forward to having a bit of downtime on is Christmas Island, down under. It could be all those islands to explore, the chance to see whale sharks and old colonial towns to stroll around, but really I think there’s just something great about that place’s name.
Mrs Claus and I need to relax during our time off, as the festive season puts a strain on us, so we’ll make plenty of time here to sit back and chill out on the beach. I may even treat myself to a cocktail or two...