Canal holidays: totally different, totally peacefulWritten by Gareth Powell
Know first that canal and waterway cruising is not a holiday that will please everyone. If you like playing tennis and golf all day, if your idea of happiness is lying beside a pool looking at young ladies in their miniature bikinis, if you must absolutely be able to enjoy a hectic night life every day of your holiday – then a canal cruising holiday is most certainly not for you. On other hand, if you don't mind gliding peacefully through some of most beautiful country in world at a speed of around 7 km an hour, seeing parts of countryside that other people never do, avoiding all rush hour traffic, and slowing down pace of your life to a gentle amble, then a canal cruising holiday will be very much your speed. Canals are not straight roads you rush down. Typically they turn around following bends of countryside, although, occasionally, you may find yourself going through a town – even through center of a major city. To liven proceedings you will frequently come across locks which, in almost every case, you will have to work yourself. You soon get used to it. It is a small but pleasant skill that provides an enjoyable break in day. It is also a good place to meet people from other boats who will be full of information and advice – some of it correct and valuable. There are several guide books available for each country, and they list waterside pubs, which are some of most interesting and attractive of hostelries in Europe. Basics If you are going to be operating boat yourself – and there is no other way to totally enjoy experience – then you need to be agile enough to get on and off boat fairly quickly and you need to have somebody to steer boat. In fact, a three person crew is preferable. If that is impossible, then there are hotel boats, especially in France, which cater to your needs. There are no high levels of skill involved in handling a canal boat. It is not like a yacht. Steering is either from a small hand wheel or a tiller at back of boat, and you have a throttle lever to control speed. When you hire boat you will be given a very short training course to show you how to handle locks, bridges and other items of canal technology. There will be a towpath running along one side of canal, which is where horses used to walk when they towed boats. When you want to stop you can moor boat on tow path side. There is no charge for mooring and you either use mooring posts or hammer some stakes into ground. You, of course, carry your water with you and you will have to re-fill tanks every second day or so. You will not have that trouble with fuel as typically you will be supplied with enough to more than last for duration of your holiday. You can cook on boats – all utensils are supplied – but you will probably find yourself having dinner at one of many waterside hostelries. You will have to take with you proper boat shoes so that you do not slip on wet decks. On older boats, person steering can sometimes be annoyed by sound of diesel engine. This is not a problem on newer boats which are normally those for hire. In either case, it is only person steering who notices. At front of boat there is no noise except for lapping of water and swishing of reeds. In Britain, canals are fairly narrow – two meters is fairly wide – and that is why boats are called 'narrowboats'. Despite their lack of beam these boats have all of conveniences of home including showers, kitchens and inevitable television. Note that they never come equipped with telephones – it is not meant to be that sort of holiday. But if you need to be in constant touch you can hire a mobile phone. Almost all boats have a dining area which can be made up into an extra double berth. Unless you are very pushed you should avoid this. It is only suitable for young people. Thus rule is that if you are hiring a boat for four people you hire a six person boat. The electricity – after all, this is Europe – is weird and wonderful and if you need to use a hair dryer or recharge a camcorder you need to check with hirers very carefully before you start out. In Europe there are several cruising grounds, some more attractive than others. For example, canal boating in Scotland sometimes means that you are sailing across quite large bodies of water and you need something other than a narrow boat. Ireland, on other hand, has become a major area for canal cruising and many of canals have been restored and reopened. In Ireland Grand Canal and Barrow Systems and Shannon River offer you freedom of 240 kilometres of uncrowded waterways. The start of Grand Canal is only 100 km from Dublin. The Shannon is backbone of a vast network of inland waterways, joined to Erne via newly restored Shannon-Erne link. The Grand Canal connects it to Dublin and east coast, while Barrow Navigation makes it possible to travel to south east. The river immediately to south is ideal for beginners. But it is in England that British canal cruising comes to perfection.
Freeport In The BahamasWritten by Clint Leung
Freeport in Grand Bahama Island is closest of all Bahamas to USA. A quick 45 minute flight from Fort Lauderdale or Miami will get you into Freeport. It is a very popular destination because of its close proximity and fact that US dollars are widely accepted. There are two main clusters of hotels and resorts on Grand Bahama Island. One is at Port Lucaya area located on south shore of island and other is near downtown Freeport which is more inland. There are also other individual resorts scattered around west and south shores of 97 by 17 mile island.
I have traveled to Freeport twice and stayed in Port Lucaya area both times. Most of hotels here are next to Port Lucaya Marketplace which is a collection of restaurants, boutiques and other retail services. In addition to higher end retail, there are also small outdoor vendors selling cheaper goods such as souvenirs and t-shirts. One should be aware that much of items available for sale from these vendors are not actually made in Bahamas but overseas in Asia. There is also a nice sized marina here for those coming to island via private boat. For those interested in scuba diving, Unexso operator is very convenient since it is located next to marketplace. There are also deep sea fishing excursions offered here as well. At center of marketplace is Count Basie Square where free entertainment is featured on some evenings. A casino is on location here as well. The white sand beach is quite nice with no rocks in water but it could use some cleaning up since I did see some cigarette butts and small litter scattered around. This is also true for some of areas around Port Lucaya area in general as it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for bottles and other trash visible to tourists.