Alfred Leroy Canal Cruises

Crate Brewery was started up by a brother and sister duo from New Zealand who hoped to bring some of their jolly kiwi drinking culture and fun to East London’s deserted canals. The success was almost instant as local hipsters flocked to enjoy a pint and a pizza overlooking the River Lea.

This Spring, the Crate team have found a new innovative way to utilise their waterside asset, offering guests a cruise along the city canals in a charming boat. The Alfred Leroy has been beautifully restored and now functions perfectly as a boat-bar, serving well mixed cocktails and delicious charcuterie boards, cheeses from Neal’s Yard and bread from E5 Bakehouse. Crate’s celebrated range of craft beers and house-made cider are also served on board.

The boat is named after a legendary 70s pub landlord and boat driver, and it’s a name that suits this enchanting vehicle perfectly. Visitors can admire Hackney Wick from the water and enjoy the British summer from this lovely summer hang-out. The journey passes iconic London landmarks such as the Olympic Stadium and picturesque areas like Springfield Park and Warwick Reservoir.

Cruises take place every weekend and tickets cost £40 for a two hour trip round the canals including a charcuterie and cheese board and two cocktails. During the week the boat will be moored outside the brewery and available for private hire.

More information and book a tour here.

Things to do in Venice

This magical drowned city is quite unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited before. Functioning almost solely for tourists you’d assume the city would be tacky and lacking in culture. Quite the opposite. Beautiful bridges and basilicas, hidden foodie delights and a breathtakingly view from every street and every square. Let me introduce you to Italy’s most miraculous city, Venice.

To stay

Generator Hostel Venice – feel part of the coolest club in town at this hip and handsome hostel on Giudecca island, opposite the main island of Venice. With spectacular views and cool retro design you definitely get more than just good value for money!

To eat

All’Arco – avoid the tourist traps and head for this little bacari for a selection of cicchetti (small snacks). After picking 9 assorted mouthful sized bites we sat outside on the street with the rest of the guests. I can particular recommended the grilled aubergine with tomato and cheese.

Cip’s Club –  With the most spectacular views over Venice, this outdoors restaurant at the smart Ciprani Hotel is booked early in advance. Sip at a light Italian white wine, devour the breadcrumbed veal escalope and marvel at the sunset over the water. Perfect for a special celebration or occasion.

Arte della Pizza – Don’t expect to find tasty pizza on every street, it isn’t famous here like other Italian cities. If you do crave it everyone agrees that Arte della Pizza is the place to go. Avoid the precooked thick pizza on display, instead order a fresh pizza with your own choice of toppings. With such delicious dough and fresh ingredients, it really is the best in town.

Trattoria Ca D’Oro alla Vedova – famous for its irresistible polpette (meatballs) this traditional trattoria is hidden at the end of a narrow alley. For fresh, seasonal and reasonably priced vibrant Italian food and wine this is a brilliant option. I opted for an exquisite plate of Bucatini pasta with bacon, onions, tomato and pecorino.

To drink

Londra Palace bar – most will instruct you to try the famous Harry’s Bar for a Bellini… Don’t succumb to the hype, the drinks here are made with frozen peaches and cost a small fortune for an even smaller glass! Instead visit the luxurious and centrally located Londra Palace hotel for a properly made peachy pink Bellini. This bar will only use peaches when they are in season and sweet, in Spring order a Rossini (with strawberries), for Autumn a Tiziano (with red grapes) and in Winter choose a Mimosa (with oranges).

La Cantina– the waiters here are extremely proud of their Venetian lifestyle, and sneer customers who act like annoying tourists. Do what the locals do… Order a cheese and meat board to eat and their own home brewed Morgana beer to drink.

Al Merca– cheap and cheerful this little bar by Rialto market is always full of happy locals. Soak up the street atmosphere whilst enjoying a 2 euro glass of light and bubbly prosecco.

Do Mori – This classic cicchetti bar is a Venetian institution. This atmospheric little venue offers delicious bites to eat and flavoursome house wine.

Café culture

Caffe del Doge – Venice doesn’t have many great options for decent coffee. This concealed café offers one of the creamiest and richest roasts in the city. Try their speciality cappuccino topped in white chocolate crumbs.

Torrefazione marchi – This was one of my favourite finds in Venice, a charming and popular café/bar in the Cannaregio neighbourhood. The coffee aroma wafts out the door and encourages you in. Stand at the bar and order a Venexian (coffee, cocoa and milk foam) or buy a packet of their caffe della sposa ground coffee (made from eight of the best blends Arabica blends) to take home.

To see

Bridge of Sighs – Venice’s famous Bridge of Sighs was designed by Antonio Contino and was built at the beginning of the 17th century. Spanning the Rio di Palazzo (Palace River), the bridge was intended to connect the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison, which was situated directly across the river. One story says that if a couple kisses under the bridge while drifting below on a gondola at sunset, they will enjoy eternal love. Thus, the “sighs” are said to come from lovers who are overwhelmed by the romance of the whole scene.

Santa Maria della Salute – The magnificent Roman Catholic church is located in the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. It stands on a narrow piece of land between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco so the church is visible when entering the main Piazza San Marco by water.

San Sebastien church – this beautiful church showcases the work of Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese. The stunning ceiling was completely restored back to full glory in 2012.

Rialto market – open from Monday to Saturday spend a morning strolling round this vivid food market and see endless stalls of tasty produce. Stop by a local bar to refresh with a glass of Prosecco and a snack.

To do

Go on a gondola ride – hail a striped gondola driver and float around the town for 40 minutes in this romantic mode of transport. You will see remote streets only accessible by water and wonderful little bridges. Don’t try to bargain, every boat should charge 80 euros for the standard trip, and the boats can fit up to 6 people in. Those feeling a little more adventurous should hail a Traghetto (the decommissioned old gondolas) the quickest way of travelling across the Grand Canal and perfect for accessing the city’s more obscure streets.

Climb St Mark’s clock tower – there is much less exercise involved than you’d expect. Pay your entrance fee, travel up in the lift and admire the impressive views over the whole water-work city.

Peggy Guggenheim – it was a joy to visit another Guggenheim collection. This wonderful modern art museum exhibits the private collection of American heiress Peggy Guggenheim. As the former wife of Max Ernst there are some brilliant pieces by him as well as works by Pollock, Picasso and Braque.

Enrica Rocca – Learn to cook with Venice’s favourite chef, Enrica Rocca. Having just received rave reviews for her cookbook ‘Venice on a plate’ there is no-one better to teach you about Italian culinary traditions. Her website also offers the best tips for staying and eating in the city.

To shop

VizioVirtu – a chocoholic’s heaven this little shop sells beautiful hand crafted treats. We tried the delicious and rich ganache cake.

Casa del Parmigiano – cheese freaks should head here for the best Parmesan and stock up on Italian delights like the popular Planeta olive oil.

Atelier Sagalin do Daniela Ghezzo– a magical and old fashioned shoe emporium. Admire the collection of amazing vintage pairs or design your own couture tailored pair.

Island Escapes

Lido island – when the weather is warm in Venice many head to the nearby beach island, just 20 minutes away from the centre of town by Vaparetto. Join the crowds at the rowdy public beach or enjoy the luxury of a private cabin for the day.

Torcello – a quaint and quiet almost deserted island. Appreciate the beautiful old church buildings and eat at the wonderful Locanda Cipriani restaurant, the rose filled terrace is particularly pretty.

Mazzorbo – this idyllic island is ideal for relaxing walks along the canals. I urge you to visit the spectacular Venissa Michelin starred restaurant. Owned by the Treviso-based wine and Prosecco maker, Bisol, the focus here is on immaculately presented fresh and healthy local fare. Sit outside where you can be surrounded by the rare Prosecco vines and breathe in the fragrant scented air. Our meal here was a real highlight of the trip to Venice.

Murano – Known for its colourful glass-blowing traditions, wander round this sweet island spying the craftsmen at work, and admire the bright glass objects in the museum or shops.

Burano – this picturesque island is impossible not to photograph. Filled with candy coloured houses everywhere, tourists can browse in the lace shops, dine at the casual eateries or just wander amongst the rainbow scenery.

Sumahan on the Water, Istanbul

Those who have visited Istanbul before, or those with a little more time, may be keen to venture to the Asian side of the Bosphorus. This quiet and calm district will give you a taste of the old Istanbul and there is nowhere better to stay than the design-led hotel, Sumahan on the Water.

Housed in a 19th century former drinks factory, this property has great character and charm. We had a lovely days excursion to Sumahan, a much-needed break from the bustling streets and markets of the city centre. Catching the mid-morning complimentary speedboat transfer, we arrived at the hotel in time for lunch. With the sea breeze and the fantastic vista, it felt like a different city.

On the terrace of the restaurant Tapasuma we enjoyed delicious, beautifully presented Turkish specialities. Fine, refreshing local white wine, homemade bread with warm soft grilled cheese and tapenade. My highlights of the menu included warm hummus topped with indulgent sliced beef, tender roast lamb shank with mashed cracked wheat, fresh herbs, dates, plum, apricot and oregano lamb sauce. Pudding was sublime, a butter chocolate soufflé dusted with icing sugar and accompanied with ice-cream and cream. It was soft, sweet and gooey, the perfect consistency and utterly irresistible.

After a flavoursome and filling meal, we had time to relax in the sunshine before heading down to the petite spa. The space was simple but stylishly designed, and very comfortable. Here guests can try a luxurious Turkish hammam or indulge in one of the signature treatments. I enjoyed a vigorous aromatherapy massage with rose oil. The rhythmic movements eased the tension in my back and legs, and though it hurt at times, it felt like it was really improving my posture.

Sumahan on the Water is a blissful escape, a Turkish delight just thirty minutes across from Istanbul’s main city. Never has it been so easy to see two continents in a day, with the picturesque boat ride between being a bonus.

More information and book here.