Today is the United Nation's International Day of Happiness and as expected the World Happiness Report 2017 was released. Here at Artisan Travel, we are thrilled to see that Norway was crowned the happiest country on Earth. However, we are actually not very surprised, as we can see why those who live and travel there fall in love with the magic and wonder it beholds.
Here’s why we love Norway!
Lapland is all too often associated with thousands of families searching for a big guy with a thick, woolly beard, a jovial laugh and a propensity for dishing out gifts in late December.
However, escape the “Santa Centrals” especially in January, February and March (when Mr & Mrs Claus holiday in The Bahamas) and Lapland is a treasure trove of outdoor wonder and activity. For adults, Lapland can be exactly what you need for your winter retreat.
Here are our top 17 things to do in Lapland that don’t include Father Christmas:
Even before setting off for the Azorean island of Sao Miguel I was filled with anticipation about the prospect of swimming with dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. I knew that it wouldn’t be a sanitised marine park experience and, as with everything involving Mother Nature, the extent of my contact with these supremely intelligent animals would be very much in the lap of the gods. It was even possible that I wouldn’t see any dolphins at all but regardless, there were a few butterflies dancing in my stomach. After all, it’s not every day you get to tick off another animals item is it?
"The next twenty years are the blink of an eye"
Quotation source: My father on my 50th birthday (thanks for that dad!)
I love this photograph. It may not be the greatest composition in photographic history but, for me, it sums up exactly what the Artisan Travel Company is all about.
The picture was taken in Alaska, somewhere north of the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway (of Ice Road Truckers fame) and it is the moment I fully realised that I had well and truly ticked off my number one bucket list item.
Coldfoot, Alaska is a truck stop, little more. The 2010 census recorded that just 10 permanent residents live here and its name (formerly a mining camp called Slate Creek) is said to derive from a time when gold prospectors would labour this far north, get “cold feet” and head back home.
Coldfoot - A Tiny Slice of Alaskan History
The crackle of logs burning in the stove
It has taken me an absolute age to write this blog because I can’t quite find the right words to describe the feeling of returning to a warm winter cabin after an active day spent engaged in winter’s Nordic activities. The deep snow serves to deaden noise so very often the only sound you’ll hear from outside is the wind and, on calm nights, it is almost eerily quiet beyond the doors of your wooden enclave. Inside, you get a sort of “Homestead on the Range” sensation which is enhanced by the crackle of logs burning in the stove and the creaking of the broad timbers from which the cabin is constructed.
Continued from TIME TO MAN-UP (PART 1)
Option 1: Go directly from the sauna into an icy plunge pool
It feels like being overcome by a panic attack
Believe it or not, this is the easy option!
From the comfort of a warm sauna........
(Image: Visit Finland)
Rush from the warmth of the sauna and submerse your body in the icy waters of a purpose built plunge pool – essentially, a big hole in the ice! The secret is to just go for it, hesitation can often result in failure and a dash back to the sauna's toasty sanctuary.
Time for my Fellow Northumbrian to "Man-Up"
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the recent program on ITV called The Land of the Midnight Sun featuring Alexander Armstrong but felt little empathy for his winter swim in the Norwegian Sea near Tromsø.
Tromsø’s position on Norway’s west coast means that thanks to the Gulf Stream it is generally warmer than other towns and cities located at similar latitudes. As Armstrong stripped down to just his swimming trunks, the temperature was -4°C and as he strode purposefully into the icy, grey waters the sea temperature was an admittedly chilly -1°C (the salt content means that sea water has a lower freezing point than fresh). That’s pretty cold by anybody’s standards but compared to what goes on elsewhere in Northern Scandinavia, this was a walk in the park on a balmy late summer evening.
There’s a saying that is popular among residents of Alaska.
“If you cut Alaska in half” they’ll say with undisguised pleasure, “Texas would only be the third largest state in America.”
to truly get under the skin of America's 49th state would take a lifetime
We all know that Texas is pretty large but, from the temperate rainforests of the south to the Arctic tundra in the north, Alaska is immense and to truly get under the skin of America’s 49th state would take a lifetime of exploration. In the north particularly, the terrain becomes pretty inhospitable, magnificent but inhospitable, and light aircraft have become an integral part of life in the more isolated northerly parts. I’ve enjoyed some remarkable flights in my time but the journey across the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks to Coldfoot will last long in the memory.
Ice Road Truckers – The Nicest People You’ll Never Meet
My life working in travel has taken me to some spectacular places and along the way I’ve met countless fascinating and kind-hearted people but, it was the people I didn’t meet on Alaska’s James Dalton Highway who impressed me as much as anybody.
Next services 240 miles
The Dalton Highway was built as a service road to support the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline and nowadays its principal purpose is to serve the oilfields in the far, far north of America’s 49th state. Kings of this particular highway are the huge trucks that ply their trade along its 414 mile course and any fans of the TV programme “Ice Road Truckers” will be familiar with their burly, lumberjack shirted drivers. Theirs is a dangerous job. Here in Alaska’s wildest frontier there is little in the way of shelter or support for any driver whose truck breaks down or, worse yet, crashes. The road signs tell the story best. For example, as the truckers head south from Prudhoe Bay they encounter the news below.....
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