Canal holidays: totally different, totally peacefulWritten by Gareth Powell
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There are three areas. The first is Norfolk Broads which consists of canals and rivers connected to lakes which are called Broads. There are no locks in this area, but there are tides and you need to acquire skill of using tides to move you along. This is some of most beautiful country in Europe, and even for England, it is a very quiet and remote place. The river Thames provides yet another area for cruising, but it has some differences. The locks right up to Oxford are worked by lock keepers, who know area and are normally great characters in their own right. The banks of Thames are a panorama of English history and you could not be bored for one minute. Then there are canals which run throughout England and Wales. There are about 3,000 km still available for recreational use, as they are rarely used now for commercial transportation. It is here that you have to use a narrow boat. It will come with all comforts of home and is very simple to use. Anyway, you cannot do much damage at a maximum speed of about 7 km an hour. The centre of canal system is in city of Birmingham, but most of canals run through countryside. You amble along and enjoy scenery and then at night moor beside a waterside pub. You probably will only travel for four hours or so a day, which will leave you plenty of time for exploring. It takes about 15 minutes to get through a lock and you need to change your way of thinking of distance from km to lock km. You will it normally find that you travel at something under 30 lock km a day. You can either cruise from your starting pint and back along same canals or you can go on a circular tour which brings you back to your starting point. Take advice of boat yard as to how long a trip will take. Their judgment is better than yours. Canal cruising on Welsh borders between Chester and Llangollen can get a little crowded at height of season, but many regard this as ideal first trip. There is much discussion as whether to carry a bicycle. You will find that carrying a bicycle for each person on-board will make trip much more interesting because it is very easy then to cycle along tow path to some close by destination. On other hand storing them can be a dashed nuisance, and if you put them on cabin top you will find problems with overhanging trees and some of bridges, which can be very restricted. Nevertheless, they improve holiday no end. When you have finally decided where to go, and have arranged to hire a boat, buy a guide for canals you intend to cruise. In Europe Nicholsons, Pearsons and Waterways World each publish a series of guides. These are useful on cruise, as they will show you where villages, pubs and water points are. An overall map of system is useful for appreciating where canals are in relation to rest of country, and for overall planning. There are no big differences between cruising in Britain and cruising on continent. Perhaps biggest difference is that on continent major canals are still used for commercial traffic. But otherwise it is much same. You never go faster than eight km per hour - there is a speed limit - and you need to allow 15 minutes for going through a lock. Otherwise, it is a very similar experience and canal system extends through France, Germany and Holland. Web sites George's: Canal Boating in U.K. and Europe http://www.canals.com/index.htm The definitive guide. Has everything you want to know plus links to lots more. Says of itself, modestly, ‘Being an introduction for those unfamiliar with pleasures of canal and waterway cruising, as well as a resource for experienced boaters.’ UK Canal Network http://www.ukcanals.net/ Has more links than you can poke with a stick. Total coverage. Whatever you want to know, this site has a link to it. Quite amazing. UK Vacations Afloat on Canal, River and Sea http://www.holidayuk.co.uk/canals/index.htm Commercial site listing what it has to offer. There is an immense amount. AccomoDATA – Canal Boating http://www.accomodata.co.uk/boats.htm Another commercial site dealing with canals in Britain. Croisičres Le Dauphin / Dolphin Cruisers, Pelican Canal Boat Rental http://www.le-guide.com/dolphin/pelican.html Commercial site on cruises – more powerboat than true canal boats – in France. Waterways Holidays http://www.waterwaysholidays.com/ Has something well over 500 different boats for hire. Pretty much everything you ever needed to know.
Gareth Powell is the author of several travel books, has been the travel editor of two metropolitan newspapers and has a travel website - http://www.travelhopefully.com
Freeport In The BahamasWritten by Clint Leung
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The taxi fare to Port Lucaya from airport was $19 US. There is also a public bus service which utilizes vans to take people to other parts of island. The fare is $1.50 US per person to downtown Freeport so this is definitely a much more economical way to get around. One can take this bus service to nearest grocer called Winn-Dixie or other major shopping area on Grand Bahama Island called International Bazaar. International Bazaar is actually next to downtown Freeport and near other cluster of hotels there. This shopping area was similar to Port Lucaya Marketplace except that it had an international theme. Unfortunately, International Bazaar is rapidly going downhill as over half of stores are now closed. This is not that surprising since even though there are attractive hotel rates and another casino located in this area, it is really too far from ocean to make it a decent Caribbean spot to stay. Therefore, it is highly recommended to stay in Port Lucaya area (or one of individual resorts near ocean if one prefers more seclusion).
Both of my trips to Freeport were primarily for scuba diving and with opportunities to dive with both dolphins and sharks here, I was not disappointed. There are other activities available in Grand Bahama Island including golf, horseback riding, sea kayaking and bird watching but these didn’t seem to be too popular. From conversations we had with other tourists, it seems that most people came to Grand Bahama Island for scuba diving, deep sea fishing or just to relax by beach. Otherwise, one could get bored here quite easily as there’s not much in terms of experiencing local Bahamian culture since much of tourist services are Americanized.
Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery http://www.FreeSpiritGallery.ca , an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards.