|We arrived in England much sooner than originally anticipated, but Julia, for her birthday, wanted to cruise the canals on a narrowboat. And the only availability was now (late August).
So, after taking the tram in the wrong direction in Berlin and fearing we would miss our flight, we did make it to the airport. Our flight landed in London and we took a bus to Coventry, our home for a few days before picking up the narrowboat.
For the first time in our travels, we were in a country where we understood the language, or at least most of it. Stunning how that simplifies travel. So it was off to the pubs, a local rugby match and a visit to the local sights of Coventry, a place not too awful many tourists actually visit.
Soon enough we were off to Rugby to pick up "Little Gem", a 36 ft. long by 7 ft. wide narrowboat, and our home on the canals for the next four days.
For those of you, like me (Jill), who were unaware that a waterway system even existed in England, a bit of history about the English Canals:
The development of a large inland water-transport network was, perhaps, the most important factor behind the industrial revolution in England during the eighteenth century. At first glance, the use of inland water transport in England, where rivers are not large, compared to elsewhere in Europe, seems unusual. In a country with nowhere further than about 100 kilometres from the sea, road transport would seem to be more viable. However, the small size of rivers and their water gathering grounds could have been an advantage. In the 18th century, hydraulic technology was still in its infancy, and the smaller scale of works necessary for canals and river navigations in England would certainly have made it easier for the engineers of the time to organize and construct them.
Today, inland water transport is no longer widely used in England, with most goods being carried by road transport which is, perhaps, better adapted for short journeys. The small size of the country, once a reason for the success of canals, is now a reason for their decline. However, they are used extensively for pleasure cruising. And what a pleasure it was to spend a week, cruising on the Oxford Canal. We appreciated the many 200 year old features along the way; bridges, locks, cottages, farms, boatyards and of course proper British pubs serving proper british cask, hand pumped ales! In addition, the characters we met along the way made the trip all that much more interesting. One couple approached us in a pub and struck up a conversation. They rented a canal boat for six months as an extended holiday. 16 years later, they are STILL living on and cruising the English canals. Narrowboating was truly a holiday from our vacation so to speak. If you're ever interetsed in experiencing a trip of a lifetime on the English canals, give us a call...we'll join you!!
Jill and Tom