The delights of travel on the river

Venice is one of my favourite cities in all the world. I love it for its rich history, gorgeous architecture, delicious ice cream and — not least — romantic way of travelling everywhere on water. But Venice is not the only city to master commuting by boat. London’s travel pass (Oyster Card) holders and visitors alike can take a water taxi to and from all the major stops along the River Thames.

A  view from a Thames Clipper boat

A view from a Thames Clipper boat

Venice is one of my favourite cities in all the world. I love it for its rich history, gorgeous architecture, delicious ice cream and — not least — romantic way of travelling everywhere on water.

But Venice is not the only city to master commuting by boat. London’s travel pass (Oyster Card) holders and visitors alike can take a water taxi to and from all the major stops along the River Thames.

I recently enjoyed a ferry from the London Eye to Canary Wharf — a Canadian-funded office district that doubles as a popular social hive for eating and drinking.

I swept beneath the Tower Bridge just as the sunset was casting an incredible glow over the iconic landmark. There was a typical London chill in the evening air, but the sky was clear (a rare occasion) and the only wind came from the boat’s acceleration.

Sure, it was a motor that propelled me along rather than the slow paddling of a Venetian gondolier, but it was a beautiful moment just the same.

There are some things you notice for the first time when you find your sea legs. Perhaps it is the fresh air that makes you look up from your feet and pay more attention to what’s around.

On this particular occasion, I became suddenly aware of how beautiful London’s skyline is. From the water, you can see Wren’s famous 17th century dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral rise up among an impressive scattering of modern skyscrapers.

The Gherkin and the nearly-built Shard buildings mark the end of the city a little further along the embankment.

And on the other side is a former power station converted to the world’s best known modern art gallery — the Tate Modern. Beside it, the Globe continues to act as a social vacuum, with the Thames path always bustling outside the historic reproduction of Shakespeare’s Theatre.

It is no wonder the River Thames is a favourite spot for celebrations in Britain. In just one August evening, I saw several boats hired out to private parties — and what a beautiful way to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or reunion.

For smaller celebrations, the Thames Dinner Cruise company provides champagne, three-course dinners and evening entertainment for lucky diners as they drift along the Thames with the city lights twinkling in the background.

Some water enthusiasts cherish their time on the Thames so much they buy a yacht to keep at the gorgeous St. Katherine’s Docks (great for a spot of coffee and daydreaming). Come the weekend, they slip away for a bit of leisure on the river.

The most avid water-lovers, however, opt to resign their land dwellings even more permanently. The London Canals run off the Thames into more residential areas, where some people anchor down to actually live on a boat.

With fully-equipped kitchens, multiple bedrooms and lush interiors, many Londoners enjoy fashioning their homes out of common canal boats.

Rent and retail values remain pretty cheap, and these trendy boats come with the added perk of a simple rev to the engine when the scenery gets old.

Yet while the River Thames has long been a popular hangout, there have been few occasions when so many flocked to London’s riverside as in the last week. Just this Monday, television star David Walliams from Little Britain met masses of fans outside Westminster as he completed the final leg of an eight-day, 140-mile charity swim along the river.

Walliams might not be a huge fan of the Thames at the moment while he recovers from a disorienting stomach flu and the sheer exhaustion of his unusual journey, but he has certainly added another fascinating tale to the Thames’ diverse history.

Meanwhile, Walliams must be pleased that he has raised over £1,194,258 for the Sports Relief charity as a result of his impressive efforts.

Me — I’ll be looking into one of those canal boats long before I take on the Thames in a bikini!

Brit Kennedy grew up in Red Deer and graduated from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. She attended university in Scotland and is now living and working in London, England.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read