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.
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. Leave
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.
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?
Most 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!)
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 one 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.
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.
Sunbathe, 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.