Ahoy, there

Oh, a life on the ocean wave/river/canal….if you’re thinking about taking a nautical outing this spring or summer, our tips will help you decide where to set sail.

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Have fun on a canal boat

Nothing is more calming than a leisurely longboat trip along a canal. It’s thirsty work (naturally!), so having pubs dotted every few miles along certainly adds up to an attractive few days out.

The Oxford Canal, from Oxford to Napton, has to be one of Britain’s loveliest canals. Leavecanal-boat.jpg
the city of dreaming spires behind and chug along towards the old village of Thrupp with The Jolly Boatman pub where you can moor right outside. Then gently glide though fields and woods, passing Shipton under Cherwell, a lovely little village with its church near the banks.

Next stop: Lower Heyford with The Bell Inn, a short walk from the canal. Feeling lazy though? Then hang on until reaching the village of Aynho, a mile away, with its canalside pub, the Great Western Arms. Pass through the centre of Banbury, a medieval market town (also famous for its nursery rhyme), heading for the typically English village of Cropedy with its thatched Red Lion Pub. Fortify yourself because there are five locks afterwards (but there’s also the reward of The Wharf Inn at the delightfully named village of Fenny Compton). 11 miles on and 9 locks later, you’ll arrive at Napton Bottom Lock with The Folly Inn (do sample the Hook Norton) next to the canal for a well-earned night’s rest in one of the most picturesque parts of England.

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Relax on a Caribbean cruise

There’s no better or more relaxing way to enjoy amazing weather, picture postcard beaches and some wonderful on-shore excursions. What takes your fancy? Jamaica, with its clear blue waters of Montego Bay? St Lucia, where you can take a taxi to Marie’s Fish Shack in Rodney Bay for the freshest-ever fish cooked outside on the grill and some locally made spiced rum? The sun-kissed island of Barbados, with its laid-back charm? Or how about the glamourous islands of St Kitts and Antigua?

cruiseMost Caribbean cruises last 7 days though you could opt for a longer holiday and spend a few days before and after in a hotel in Florida. There are always three things to bear in mind with any cruise:

How much to spend? There are always lots of extras (mainly optional sightseeing trips) to consider and you can pay anything from another 25% – 100% for these in addition to your flights and cruise fare.

How much to tip? Years ago, you’d find a set of envelopes in your cabin at the end of the cruise with the name of each crewmember to tip. Nowadays, some liners charge a set amount daily to each passenger’s onboard account while others leave you to tip at your discretion.

What to wear at dinner? Every cruise line has a dress code of some type, usually stating ‘cruise casual’ and with the occasional formal night requiring black tie (who knows – you may even be invited to dine at the Captain’s table!)

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Try your hand at punting

Pack a picnic and spend a romantic day punting on the River Cam. Punting was introduced in Edwardian times and has become one of the most popular ways to see Cambridge’s famous bridges and colleges.

The flat-bottomed punt is a bit like a Venetian gondola (try to resist singing ‘Just onecambridge1.jpg Cornetto’). It doesn’t have a keel so is steered with a 10-foot long pole. You need to stand on the platform at the back of the punt and push the pole against the river bed to move it. Drop the pole straight down and repeat the move as often as you need to (the pole has two metal prongs on it in case you get stuck).

The main thing is to keep your balance by wearing sensible footwear, to keep hold of the pole and to try not to splash whoever’s in the punt with you. Sound easy? Hmmm. If you don’t fancy playing at being captain yourself, you can book a chauffeured punt for 6 or 12, or a private tour instead. Wise. Very wise.

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Sun and history with a gulet holiday

The Turkish Riviera is aptly nicknamed the ‘Turquoise coast’, and what better way to explore it than on a wooden gulet? Traditionally used for sponge diving and fishing, gulets can be privately chartered or booked as a cabin charter (larger boats have about 12 cabins). Gulets usually sail between Bodrum and Antalya where the coastline is uninhabited, with lovely coves, bays and off-shore islands as perfect and quiet mooring spots.

boatriveriaSunbathe, swim and snorkel – most gulets even come equipped with a windsurfer and a canoe. Feeling in need of adventure? Visit coastal resorts, explore sleepy fishing villages and take in ancient historical sites (remember to pack sensible footwear other than flip flops!), or spend the afternoon rolling around in the mud baths at Dalyan.

At night, take a water taxi to visit the nearest bar. But instead of your ensuite cabin, why not choose to sleep on deck under the stars, being lulled by the lapping of the waves and the hypnotic creaking of the wooden hull.

Set sail for spring. Shop boat shoes >

 

What to wear – and where – this February and March

With some key events looming on the social and sporting calendars, here’s our guide on how to make the most of them and always put your best foot forward.

Valentine’s Day

February 14

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday. Should you fall into the trap of forgetting to post your Valentine’s Card on the Friday, redeem yourself by turning up on the doorstep with a romantic treat either in hand or in mind.

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Option 1 – arrive with champagne, chocolates (we’re talking fine truffles, not Quality Street) and a bouquet big enough to hide behind (it doesn’t have to be the obvious red roses btw).

Option 2 – do all the above but also offer to cook breakfast/lunch/dinner (Scottish smoked salmon and scrambled eggs never fail).

Option 3 – can’t cook? Then, hopefully, you secured a table at your partner’s favourite restaurant weeks ago??

Option 4 – can’t cook and forgot to make a reservation? Ooops. Hastily get together a picnic, warm blanket and drive off to the seaside or deep into the countryside.

Whichever option you go for, the trick is to look dapper and in your Sunday best – as if you were always perfectly prepared and ready. Alternatively, it’s a leap year so maybe your other half will surprise you!

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The Oscars

February 28

At this time of year, the focus is very much on nailing that red carpet look. Even if you’re not Hollywood bound for the 88th Academy Awards, it’s a good time to dig out your smartest pair of shoes and see if they’ve turned into the saddest. Treat yourself to a new shiny black pair so that, when you’ve a formal occasion looming, you’ll look like a winner and never a loser.

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Although we always associate dinner jackets with the Academy Awards, the very first one in 1929 was hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in cream trousers and a double breasted blazer. These days, almost anything goes but there’s a fine line between getting it right and getting it wrong.

A white bow tie with a black tux just looks odd. As does a neck tie – even though a skinny one has been a top hit with young, up and coming stars. A white jacket could have you mistaken for a waiter – steer clear! Robert Downey Jr once not only wore a blue bow tie but also sneakers. Please – no, no, NO.

For a difference with elegance, consider a satin shawl collar or add a traditional waistcoat. Midnight blue has become a popular choice for tuexdos over the years and a velvet dinner jacket is a perfect way to add stand-out flare.

Above all, great tailoring and a great fit are key. Just keep everything simple, classic and groomed (face and shoes).

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Six Nations 

February 6 – March 19

Will the Six Nations see three wins in a row for Ireland? Could Wales manage a fourth title, led by coach Warren Gatland? Can Scotland build on their World Cup performances? And how will England fare under new coach Eddie Jones?

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Lots of questions and plenty of speculations…but one thing you needn’t wonder about is the most suitable footwear to sport whether at one of the games or watching at your club or down the pub.

Boots are probably your best bet if heading off to the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham or Murrayfield, while leather sneakers tick the pub box. But don’t forget to check out slightly warmer weather options if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for Rome.

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Easter weekend

March 25 – 28

Two days off work equals a perfect break abroad, with a choice of packing light summer loafers, city smart brogues or sturdy leather boots.

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Looking for sun? The Mediterranean will offer you the chance of some early summer rays. Head south to Naples or a Greek Island. Easter marks the end of the peak season in the Caribbean so the weather is fine yet prices are dropping.

Looking for a traditional Easter experience? Visit Prague with its hundreds of stalls in the Easter market. Or take in an Easter procession such as the robed and masked penitents and decorated floats with holy statues in Seville during Semana Santa. Trapani in Sicily holds an equally dramatic event in which locals carry life-size sculptures dating back to the 17th century.

Looking for snow? It’s not too late to catch some skiing but you’ll need to pick a high altitude resort, ideally with a glacier (such as Val Thorens that confidently offers a snow guarantee), or somewhere northerly such as Finland or Norway. Or, go further afield to Canada and the USA for big snowfalls and bright blue skies.

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The Boat Race

March 27

A boat race on a fine spring day calls for nothing less than….boat shoes, of course!

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If you’re planning to catch some Oxford v Cambridge sporting action, then pick your spot carefully along the four-and-a-quarter mile course from Putney to Mortlake.

The women’s boat race will start at 4.50pm, with the men’s race an hour later. Although the action is over in around 17 minutes, you can make a whole afternoon of it at the pub beforehand. There are several fine watering holes along the route: The Old Ship at Ravenscourt Park, which is holding a boat race festival with live music, The Black Lion at Fulham, which is offering a bookable sunday roast, or else grab a window seat for a late lunch/early supper at The Depot Riverside Brasserie in Mortlake to see the finish in style.

Feel like braving it? The towpath along Putney embankment is popular with excellent views of the race but wrap up warm as you’ll need to nab your viewing position early.

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Make father’s Christmas (and everyone else’s)

From the perfect present for under the Christmas tree to handy stocking fillers for the end of the bed, we hope you’ll find these suggestions as illuminating as the Oxford Street lights!

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Best for your other half…

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Get him set for winter with some low suede ankle boots (how about blue to up-style his wardrobe?), sturdy brogue boots, or lace up boots in this season’s key colour: burgundy. No excuses to not go on a Boxing Day walk when you have these (and no more Mr Couch Potato).

Whichever option you go for, the trick is to look dapper and in your Sunday best – as if you were always perfectly prepared and ready. Alternatively, it’s a leap year so maybe your other half will surprise you!

Best for dad…

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Dads can never have enough decent pairs of shoes, right? If your dad is picky about the finer details in life and doing a job only if it’s done well, then he’ll appreciate the craftsmanship that’s gone into these wide fit Chelsea boots and lace up brogue shoes (especially ones featuring our durable Bulldog sole).

Best for grandad…

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Whether you choose moccasins that will make him feel like he’s walking on air or boots to keep out the cold or extra wide fit shoes to turn up the comfort dial, one thing’s for certain: you’ll be his favourite grandson/granddaughter.a

Best for brother…

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Your brother may think he has everything but the man hasn’t lived until he’s tried our leather trainers. This is the perfect opportunity for him to look smart-casual and sporty  – and for you to chuck out those old trainers he’s worn all year.a

For the great outdoors lover…

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For the type of guy who boldly braves the elements yet secretly craves his winter warmers, we have waterproof lace up boots (yes, 100% waterproof!) that keep feet dry even in a downpour. Or choose from leather boots lined with genuine sheepskin lining and with sturdy, high-grip soles for all terrains.

For the city slicker…

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Freeze a jolly good fellow, especially if he’s bagged a big Christmas bonus! Let his feet stay firmly on the ground with a pair of polished black brogues or smooth black ankle boots.

For the life and soul of the party…

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Thanks to our innovative Anatomic Gel technology, he can dance all night long in our blue suede shoes (or brogues). Our boots are perfect for being out on the town and seeing in the New Year. His head may hurt but his feet certainly won’t!