Wow… where do I begin!! On Wednesday 14th December, we were lucky enough to go on the Santa Express trip with Wish Upon A Star. It was quite simply an amazing day.
On the Tuesday evening I was feeling very apprehensive. I had a mixture of thought, firstly I was panicking that there will be children there who are (currently) much poorlier than Hugo. Children already in wheelchairs, children with a much shorter life expectancy and children recovering from major operations. I felt bad that we would be there with a child who doesn’t look poorly enough to be there. On the other hand, I was very excited that Hugo had been given the opportunity to take part in such a wonderful day. But, I was also battling with the idea that I would be surrounded by parents of disabled children, a category I never imagined myself to be a part of. I knew it would be an emotional day, but an equally exciting day.
We left Lincoln at 6:30am in order to be at Grimsby train station for 7:45am. Riley and Hugo had no idea where they were going. Jasper unfortunately was not old enough to take part due to the trip being a very long day. Once we got to Grimsby, we were greeted by peppa pig, all the Wish Upon A Star characters, and loads and loads of elves! We were also introduced to Chris Kamara, one of the celebrities taking part in the trip. At this point, we told the boys we were going on the Polar Express in search of the real santa! They were beyond excited! After a few minutes waiting, the beautiful Belmond Northern Belle rolled into the station. It’s simply the most stunning train!
Once boarded, the boys had a huge goodie bag waiting for them, stacked full with sweets, chocolates, snacks and fun activities to do during the journeys. Danny and I were served bellinis and fresh coffee. We then all had fresh fruit cocktail, bacon and sausage breakfast rolls, and as many Danish pastries, croissants, doughnuts and muffins as we could eat! We were then treated to hot chocolates with cream and marshmallows! All on board a silver service train! During the journey we also had entertainment from 3 magicians and carol singers!
At around 11:30 we could all start to hear Santa’s bells ringing. We had arrived at Newark train station ready for the next leg of our journey. We were boarding coaches ready to find Santa’s retreat! The boys thought we had arrived in Lapland, throughout the train journey we kept telling them we were travelling through different countries. There wasn’t a slight bit of doubt in their minds. It was truly magical. On the coaches, we were all singing Christmas songs to keep the children entertained for the further 20 minute journey.
Then, we finally arrived at Santa’s retreat, in Lapland (AKA Jocastas in Lincoln). It had been transformed into the most amazing winter wonderland. Whilst there, we had a buffet lunch, we decorated gingerbread men, made baubles, had a chocolate fountain and visited the biggest pick and mix sweetie table. There was a disco with a real Elf Band, and Elsa from Frozen visited and performed. The most exciting thing of all was Santa’s arrival. As Santa’s retreat was in the middle of a lake, his sleigh had of course been transformed into a magical speed boat. The children were all glued to the windows waiting to catch a glimpse of the man in red, and then they got to watch him travel across the lake on his way to meet them all. We then got to meet Santa in the most amazing grotto, the boys were 100% convinced they met the real santa in his real home at Lapland. Then the party continued with lots of dancing! My description of the day doesn’t do it justice, it was simply magical.
The return train journey home was just as spectacular. We were treated to a 7 course Christmas meal which consisted of 2 starters, a main, a dessert, cheese and biscuits, coffee and mince pies and chocolate truffles. We even had champagne and wine. It was so nice to sit back and be waited on whilst eating delicious food. The boys were loving more entertainment from magicians, balloon artists, musicians, brass bands and even Santa again! Hugo made friends with a super cute little girl named Izzy and had much fun with her running up and down the aisle of the train. We didn’t arrive back in Grimsby until 9:30pm but it was certainly worth every second.
One thing I learnt about the Santa Express trip was that we are not alone. It was so nice to be surrounded by parents who can relate to how our life is. Although we were there because Hugo has a life-limiting condition, it didn’t once cross my mind that day, even though I thought it would be. He blended in with all the other children and he was incredibly happy. Riley of course was surrounded by other children who were joining their siblings so he didn’t feel left out at all.
We are so grateful to Wish Upon A Star for giving us this amazing opportunity. All the worries I had beforehand disappeared the second we boarded that train as we were just having so much fun. Looking back, I was concerned that I’d either get a scary glimpse into the future, or that I would feel that Hugo didn’t belong there. If anything, it’s subconsciously proved that I have accepted Hugo’s condition and can deal with it much better. Some people may think that there are other children Hugo’s age who have more serious conditions, however Hugo’s is a progressive condition which ultimately takes his life away at a young age, and making the years that he does have difficult. He won’t have children of his own to share these experiences with so he fully deserved his place on that trip. All in all, it was an amazing experience and we feel very lucky to have been involved.