Ali's blog posts

Ali Mclean

Time to "Man Up" (Part 2)

Written by Ali Mclean
Thursday, 05 November 2015

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!

Ali Sauna (10)

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.


Ali Mclean

Time to "Man Up" (Part 1)

Written by Ali Mclean
Wednesday, 04 November 2015

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.


Ali Mclean

Wings Over Alaska

Written by Ali Mclean
Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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.


Ali Mclean

Ice Road Trucking In Alaska

Written by Ali Mclean
Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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.....


Ali Mclean

We live crazy modern-day lives, always on the go with little time for relaxation or reflection. Of course, there are all sorts of quick fixes for the stresses of contemporary living such as yoga or visiting a spa but we’re prepared to bet that few people consider dog sledding as the antidote to the hustle and bustle of our present-day existences.

Time to think......imagine such a thing!

Alis Husky (9)

 

By its very nature, dog sledding takes you to a quieter and more remote place far removed from the traffic and crowds of our urban centres but, it also provides time to both reflect and relax. Imagine yourself standing on a sled being pulled by a team of willing canines. On easy stretches such as a vast flat frozen lake, there is little to do other than marvel at the scenery, enjoy the near perfect silence and think. Time to think....imagine such a thing!


Ali Mclean

There's Gold in the Yukon

Written by Ali Mclean
Friday, 16 October 2015

That was the cry in the late 1890’s which sparked one of the greatest human stampedes in history. The rumour mill was rife and, motivated by tales of nuggets as big as a fist just waiting to be picked up off the ground, a wave of humanity headed towards the vast northern wilderness. In those days there was no TV, no internet and no mobile phones so the news slowly filtered down to Seattle and San Francisco from where it spread like a gathering wildfire across North America and further afield.

From all corners of the world, it is estimated that at least 100,000 wildly optimistic would-be miners set out for the north with absolutely no knowledge of what lay ahead. They had no inkling of the long bitter winters that awaited them nor did they know of the huge distances to be negotiated across the vast, untamed and largely uncharted wilderness that lay ahead. From the UK, Europe, Australasia and elsewhere they came; lawyers, dentists, factory workers, teachers, newspapermen, conmen, farmers simply gave up their work and headed north in search of the Promised Land.


Ali Mclean

Exploring Corsica

Written by Ali Mclean
Friday, 12 December 2014

A self-drive trip with pre-booked hotels is probably one of the best ways for me to explore a country. I can set my own pace and decide which route I want to take and where I want to stop. The key point for me, however, is that I don't have to worry about the accommodation as everything is already booked for me. I could simply enjoy the drive along this beautiful island. I can tell you - driving on the right side of the road is easier than you think and you get used to it very quickly!

After a short flight from London I arrived in Corsica on a beautiful sunny day. As I landed, the island welcomed me with nice, warm sunshine - a brilliant start.

After I picked up my rental car at the airport, it was only a short drive to my first stop. I checked into my hotel and immediately went for a wander around. The hotel is perfectly situated, as it is just walking minutes away from the beach, the beautiful port and lovely restaurants.


Ali Mclean

We've got a few cycling fans here in the Artisan Travel offices and we're regularly looking at ways of keeping the weight off to heighten our performances on our bikes.

We'll never get anywhere near the professionals however who, despite being skinny as the thinnest rake you ever did see, consume a massive 6000 to 7000 calories per day (roughly 15 Big Macs with medium fries) during stage races: that's three times the daily intake of an average male!

There's little wonder therefore that cyclists tend to be pretty lean but their daily food consumption is peanuts compared to that of a racing sled dog. These incredible animals are about one third the weight of an average human being and yet, during epic races like The Yukon Quest Trail or The Iditarod, they will consume up to 12,000 calories in a day. 12,000 calories!!! That's something in the region of 26 Big Macs with medium fries and makes the cyclists look like mere amateurs in the calorie burning stakes.


Ali Mclean

The Midnight Sun in Iceland

Written by Ali Mclean
Friday, 05 September 2014

"We come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow."

midnight sun2

I've always wanted to incorporate Led Zeppelin into one of my blogs and the opening lines from their classic "Immigrant Song" presented the perfect opportunity.

Singer Robert Plant was inspired to write the lyrics when the band played in Iceland 1970 and this remarkable island has continued to inspire ever since.


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