We were lucky enough to be invited to visit Santa at Avoca Powerscourt this year. Excitement was high on the run up to it and the girls were full of chat about the things they were going to tell Santa when they got to meet him face to face last Wednesday.
Although it was a race against time to collect them from Naíonra, change them out of their play dough encrusted day-wear and into something a little more festive we still managed to get there early. We checked in and then tried to coax the girls to pose in front of the group of little elves who were hammering and painting and doing their elf thing, to a medley of Christmas tunes, in the foyer. At this point their excitement seemed to turn to nerves and neither child would go anywhere near them. So, I made Devo pose instead.
We were informed at check in that Santa was running a little bit behind, which was fine by us because it meant we got hang out and watch the Lego Movie for a while AND get treated to chocolate rice-crispy squares, before going in to see him. The girls could barely sit still for the excitement at this stage.
Eventually, the very glamorous, Mrs. Claus called our number, signifying our turn. She was lovely, took the time to ask each child their name (and then looked at me for them to be repeated and translated and explained) and to tell them that they looked very lovely all gussied up for Santa.
Then we went through a short passageway, decorated with branches and fairy lights, through a heavy door and into Santa's grotto.
Mrs. Claus announced the girls and Santa proclaimed to be delighted to see them. He reached out his hands to draw them near to him and... they totally left him hanging. Like the poor elves before him, neither child would go anywhere near him! Sábha kept her hand tightly clamped to mine and her eyes glued to me, shooting furtive, sidelong glances in Santa's direction as he tried to engage her. Lile thawed first and inched her way towards him bit by bit. Both were completely mute. Starstruck.
Santa didn't seem to mind a bit though. He patiently reminded them that he was an old friend that they had just never seen before, but that he had known them since they were tiny babies. I really liked that about him, my girls can often take a bit of time to ease into new situations but he spoke slowly and clearly and seemed in no hurry to usher them along, fling them a gift and be done with them.
By the time it came to him asking what they would like for Christmas, Lile was well warmed up and reeled off her list at lightening speed. I was very impressed at him being able to decipher each item seeing as she pronounces Sylvanian Families as Sylvanian and Family but all smooshed together like Sylvaniananfamly. He also expressed a wish to have been the one who had invented Hello Kitty and displayed a thoroughly convincing knowledge of her origins.
Sábha still hadn't found her voice at this point, so it was left up to me to recite her list - a Pink Power Ranger and a Dino Bite board game. I thought we would never have a hope of getting a decent photo but as I was trying to get her to release her death grip on me and to turn around we had a breakthrough. Santa noticed her shoes.
He complimented them, but thought they were cats - which was just the prompt Sábha needed to finally open her mouth and correct him. "No! They're foxes!"
They then both had a big chat about what foxes in Ireland look like and about how foxes at the North Pole are white, so that they can hide in the snow. Sábha was transfixed by this and delighted with herself. Her fox obsession came in useful at last!
After that, there was a quick photo session with both myself and the photographer trying (and failing) to get my children to smile in a vaguely normal way - a skill they seem to have lost lately (see ALL above photos for evidence!). Mrs. Claus chose the gifts at this point, giving them to Santa to hand to the girls. They got two different, very good quality, educational board games which have been played with several times since - one about plants and one about animals.
We said our goodbyes and then went outside to look at the photos which were on sale outside. Most of the photos featured my back, crouched as I was beside Sábha for almost the entire visit. I wasn't crazy about any of them to be honest, but that was more to do with my shy children than anything the photographer did wrong! A 5"x7" photo cost €10 and there were various other things such as snow globes available too, for various other prices.
We also went to visit the animals in the stables while we were there and Lile, while eager to see the bunnies thought the smell was "too disgusting". It wasn't. It just smelled of animals. Anyway, she just wanted to run around smelling the Christmas trees and taunting me by going too close to the fire pit. Sábha loved the animals and would have liked to have stayed longer, but it was cold and beginning to get dark at that stage.
It was a lovely experience overall - very relaxed and very 'authentic'. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it - but get in quick, I believe it's almost fully booked!
Disclosure: We were invited by Avoca Powerscourt to visit Santa as their guests. All opinions, as always, are my own and I was not paid to give them.