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8 Ways to Cross the English Channel (without a boat)

The English Channel (La Manche) is the part of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Britain from France. The actual channel is the length of the entire southern coast of England, and contains many inhabited islands. When people attempt new ways of crossing the channel, they do it at the Strait of Dover, which is the narrowest point of the channel at only 34 kilometers (21 miles) between Dover and Calais. The cachet of crossing the channel is way out of proportion to its distance. There is something symbolic about making the trip, particularly if you do it in a new way.

1. Balloon

The first channel crossing by air was in the 18th century. French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American doctor John Jeffries took off from Dover Castle in a hydrogen balloon on January 7th, 1785. The two had to pitch almost everything they took overboard in order to stay afloat, but landed unharmed at Guînes, France about two and a half hours later.

2. Swim

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The first man to swim the channel was Captain Matthew Webb in 1875. It took 21 hours and 45 minutes. Webb trained for two years and made an unsuccessful attempt a couple of weeks before his historic crossing. The course he took was 39 miles, due to strong currents. He became a celebrity and a professional swimmer afterward. Webb died while attempting to swim the Whirlpool Rapids under Niagara Falls in 1883.

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The first woman to swim the channel not only broke ground for her sex, but beat the time of the five men who preceded her by at least two hours! American swimmer Gertrude Ederle had already won a gold medal and two bronze medals at the 1924 Olympics. On August 6th, 1926 she swam from Cap Gris-Nez, France to Kingsdown, England in 14 hours and 30 minutes. That speed record stood until 1950.

3. Airplane

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The first flight over the channel in an airplane came in 1909 when French inventor Louis Blériot piloted a monoplane he designed from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes. He was one of three competitors who answered a challenge from the Daily Mail, which had offered a thousand pounds ($5,000) to the first man to fly the channel.

4. Pedal

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The first human-powered flight across the channel occurred in 1979 when the Gossamer Albatross piloted by cyclist Bryan Allen flew over the channel in 2 hours and 39 minutes. It was powered by pedals that turned propellers. The Gossamer Albatross was designed by Paul B. MacCready and his team. MacCready won his second Kremer Prize (worth £100,000) with the channel crossing.

5. Train

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Since May 6, 1994 it is possible to cross the channel by train. It was on that day the Channel Tunnel (Le tunnel sous la Manche) or "Chunnel" officially opened. A Eurostar train left Folkestone carrying Queen Elizabeth II, and another left Coquelles carrying French president Francois Mitterand. In addition to passengers, trains carry trucks and other vehicles underneath the Strait of Dover.

6. Skydive

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In 2003, Australian Felix Baumgartner became the first person to skydive across the channel. He jumped out of a plane over Dover and landed in Cap Blanc-Nez, France 14 minutes later. Baumgartner wore an aerodynamic suit with a 6-foot carbon fin attached to guide his flight.

7. Jet Pack

Swiss pilot Yves Rossy flew the channel last week using a jet pack. He launched from a plane high over Calais and flew to Dover in just ten minutes. Rossy, known as the Rocket Man, uses a jet wing powered by four kerosene-burning engines.

8. Human-powered Zeppelin

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The quest for new ways to cross the English Channel never ends. 39-year-old Stephane Rousson made an attempt this past weekend to cross the channel in a pedal-powered zeppelin. The French amateur pilot was 11 miles from his goal in Wissant, France when the wind direction changed and he had to abort the flight. Rousson was inspired by a scene in the movie E.T.

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Here Are the Best and Worst Days for Christmas Travel
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Flight delays are always a hassle, but the holidays add an extra layer of stress. No one wants to be stuck at the airport while their family is digging into Christmas dinner. And even if you fly long before the holiday itself, airports are always more hectic during the holiday season. Between the high volume of travelers and the whims of winter weather, getting off the ground doesn’t necessarily feel like a given when you leave for the airport.

But not all airports and days are equally prone to flight issues, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation data from the last five years, as analyzed by the electric supply company Elite Fixtures, which previously analyzed the worst airports for Thanksgiving travel.

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On average, you’re less likely to be delayed if you’re traveling the week before Christmas or on the holiday itself, the data shows. December 25 has actually had the lowest percentage (18 percent) of delayed flights over the last five years, giving you a good excuse if you want to flee to the airport directly after your family’s holiday meal. Traveling December 18 and 19 is also a good idea, since only 26 percent of flights are typically delayed on those days.

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Beware the 22nd and 23rd of December, though. On those days, an average of 32 percent and 34 percent of flights get delayed, respectively. The few days after Christmas are also likely to stick you with an annoying delay—33 and 34 percent of flights are delayed on the 26th and 27th.

A green-and-gray U.S. map highlights the 10 best airports for holiday travel with plane icons.
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Airlines don’t encounter flight difficulties in equal measure across all airports, though. If you’re flying through one of the airports above, congratulations! The likelihood of getting delayed is less than at the Houston or Oakland airports, both hubs with the highest rates of holiday flight delays in the U.S.

Unfortunately, no matter what day you fly and where you fly from, there's no way to really predict whether your flight will leave on time. You'll just have to hope that Santa brings you the seamless holiday travel experience you put on your Christmas list.

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