Italian Exchange - 11-13 September 2010

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Italian Exchange – Trip Report

We kicked off by meeting up with our 6 visiting members of Canoa Club Mestre (plus one non-paddling partenr) for a Vietnamese meal in Hoxton on Friday night – a new experience for them all - after which everyone went off home with their respective hosts, reassembling at Shadwell Basin late the next morning. The day was a little grey and the water a little brown, but the spring tide whisked us up the river, allowing a brief photo stop in front of Tower Bridge, paddled past “La Ruota” and the Houses of Parliament, negotiated the amphibious “duck” and popped out for lunch at Vauxhall. Our guests chose a Roman style folly in front of the MI5 building to unpack the picnic, the sun came out and no security bods came to move us on; time for a Portuguese coffee, after a rather alarming road crossing (think 3 lanes and everyone looking in the wrong direction....) then back on upstream with the tide still running strongly. The tide was slack around the London Heliport so this seemed like an obvious turning point. We watched one helicopter take off, then we crossed and another one came in to land; it must have been in a hurry judging from the man in the suit running across the tarmac with two suspicious suitcases. It then inexplicably treated us to the great privilege of taking off right over our heads and hovering for several seconds with a generous downdraft. Don't get that in the Venice lagoon! The Thames Festival was in full flow on the South Bank as we went past, the sun was shining and the river looking its finest. Success all round.

On Sunday we went downstream in brilliant sunshine to the flood barrier, narrowly avoiding a capsize with a clipper wake on a shallow beach, stopping to admire the Naval College, showing off the dome and the container houses at Trinity Buoy Wharf and giving the Venetians a foretaste of what their flood barrier might look like (except the Venice one is going to be inflatable). We stopped for our lunchtime break at Greenwich Yacht Club as the tide was turning, paddled the bouncy stretch of river back to Wapping and arrived back just as the beach vanished under bounding waves which smacked dramatically up the side of the wall and caused some alarm. But we managed our exit with military precision and without a scratch. A good end to two perfect days of Thames paddling.

Monday was a free sight-seeing day, where our guests took an epic stroll from Bank to Hyde Park followed by an evening trip on “La Ruota” (the London Eye). As the wheel descended an air of disappointment spread; back down to street level again and the weekend almost over. We rounded the whole thing off though with a superb gastro-pub dinner in Waterloo; I knew we had got it right when I looked around the table and saw our formerly lager-drinking guests getting stuck into their second glasses of Cornish ale. Roll on the Vogalonga and Croatia!

Thanks to everyone who was involved (especially those who hosted an Italian or two) for being so generous with your time and for giving the Venetians such a great weekend.

and for a link to the Mestre club's trip report of the London visit: