Jason's Canal Trip review
Most of the boats I go on head up the Thames to Greenwich, but Jason's Canal Trip is nice and gentle. There are no waves on the Regent's Canal. No one ever gets seasick on a canal boat. The odds of getting shipwrecked in north London are zero. It's just a nice gentle chug along the waterway past Little Venice and London Zoo to the wooden lock at Camden.
You can find the landing stage by the little blue bridge in Little Venice. There's a canal boat cafe across the other side if you fancy a cup of tea before you start.
The boat is basically a barge -- a houseboat with its sides missing -- and it has about forty plastic seats inside, so it fills up pretty quickly (you might want to book in advance on their website). I'm loving the lady who takes all the money. Sarah is her name. (Hello Sarah!) I don't know if she's having a bad day today, but she's not unlike a pint-sized sergeant. It's all "Stand here!", "Stand there!" and "Don't move until I tell you!" It makes a nice change from all that fake bonhomie you usually find at tourist attractions, because most of the guides you get on the buses and boats act like they're you're best mate as soon as they see you. Sarah is a proper person; the kind of person that I like writing about. Something bad has happened to her this morning, and I'm wondering what it is.
Now that she's marshalled everyone into position we can finally get going. The boat is totally open to the weather and the wind is really whipping across the top of the water. The sides are only about two feet off the top of the river, so you might want to wear a wooly hat and a scarf and two pairs of underpants. To give you an idea about how low the boat is: I am at eye level with the pigeons walking along the towpath. Whenever we come across a drooping tree the leaves start scraping the roof like creepy fingers through your hair. If there is radar along the lock then we are under it -- we are practically a submarine. We are lower than the Coke cans floating on the water.
Sarah is on fine form once we get going. First of all she tells us what to do in case the boat catches fire, then she admonishes the tourists for chatting too loudly and drowning out her commentary (ha ha — she is my favourite guide of all time!). As we get underway she tells us a little bit of the history of the Regent's Canal and how they used to transport cargos to and from the docks. It's interesting enough if you like that kind of thing, but you don't need commentary when you've got some decent scenery to look at... and there's plenty of that on this trip.
The prettiest houseboats are right at the start, in Little Venice. There are some more pretty houses and churches when you hit the boundary of Regent's Park, but most of it is concrete walls and overhanging trees.
Once you reach the edge of Regent's Park you get some great riverside mansions and landscaped grounds to look at, before heading straight through the northern edge of London Zoo.
After that you round the bend into Camden and park up in front of Camden Lock. The whole thing takes 45 minutes from start to finish, and I genuinely hope that you get Sarah so you can enjoy some unintentional entertainment -- instead of sitting there listening to one of those fake-happy students you get on the sightseeing buses.
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