About Time: You Stayed on a Canal Boat in HackneyBy Angelica Malin
It has become a bit of a tradition, in my life, for everyone to organise completely over-the-top surprises. When I was younger, my mum used to make us hop in the car for ‘Magical Mystery Tours’ – we would drive around London, for hours on end, until we stumbled somewhere magical, and we’d watch the stars in the sky whilst eating marshmallows. Family holidays would – invariably – be a surprise until the day. We would guess for weeks on end, and when the day came, the holiday was always somewhere so exciting – even if was just a trip to Bournemouth.
I never stopped loving the element of surprise in my life. Sometimes these surprises can get out of hand; one year, I bought my best friend a plane ticket to New York (that one hurt the bank balance), and last year, I kidnapped my boyfriend in an elaborate plan than involved three cabs, too many boozy hot chocolates and a journey up to the top of The Shard.
The surprises are getting harder and harder, because my boyfriend is always hunting for clues. This year, I decided to do something that he simply couldn’t guess. Something that I didn’t even know existed, until I found it for myself: peace, in the capital. And, thus, I whisked him away from Sushisamba in a black cab – blindfold and all – to a beautiful canal boat hotel, AKA a boatel, called Gainsborough Wharf. Away from the hustle and bustle of London, we found ourselves in the most unexpectedly serene setting, complete with a roaring fire, stylish interiors, an old-school record player, endless DVDs and comfy rugs, and, the most wonderful element of all: time.
If you’re looking for a break from the ordinary, and want to give someone a really, truly unique gift this Christmas, then it’s about time you stepped out of everyday life and onto one of the most idyllic, peaceful places I’ve ever visited. Here’s everything you need to know about Gainsborough Wharf:
Gainsborough Wharf is home to two of the most beautiful boatels, in the heart of East London. It’s a little urban oasis on the historic Regent’s Canal, surrounded by flowers and fauna, with all the luxury amenities of a 5* hotel. The boat we stayed in, Osbert, has the feel of a fancy hotel, with slick, cool interiors, whilst having all the advantages of a self-catered apartment. Osbert is a 55ft x 10ft wide beam canal boat, which has been featured in magazines and newspaper for her unique, forward-thinking design. The boat sleeps two people, with a large double bed, front and back deck, a DVD player, board games, wood-burning stove, WiFi and kitchen. Basically, it’s got everything you need for the perfect night-in this winter.
You’ll have all the creature comforts of staying in a hotel, with a really unique feel and vibe. The boat is designed as an open-place space – it features a kitchen, living room, bedroom and wet room bathroom in one. As everything works off the mains, you don’t have to worry about light and water, and there’s state-of-the-art heating and a gorgeous wood-burning stove, so you’ll stay super toasty during your stay.
Every little detail has gone into the boatel – from the luxury bedding, with an electric blanket to keep you warm, to the lovely soaps and shampoos, the ‘honesty bar’ featuring independents brands of booze, snacks and treats and the cloud-soft king-size bed.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good night’s sleep, with the gentle rocking of the boat and the crackle of the fire burning. Total heaven.
The boat is designed for all kinds of culture vultures, and they have lots of extras for you to enjoy. For music lovers, they’ve teamed up with Late Night Tales who ask the world’s best artists to delve deep into their music collections to create the ultimate “late night” selection on vinyl for you to play on Osbert’s record player. For film-lovers, they’ve got a great DVD selection, and for foodies, the lovely owners of the boatel are happy to organise special treatment for you.
On the boat, you’ll find a good selection of teas, coffee, fresh organic milk and butter, as well as a selection of spices, oils and dried foods. If you’d like to have a leisurely morning, they will organise a brilliant breakfast hamper for your stay. The hamper includes yogurt, granola, juice, fruit, sourdough, jams, bacon and eggs – absolutely perfect for a relaxed, canal-side breakfast on the boat. Eating toast with jam on the side of a canal boat in Hackney, what could be better?
I decided that I wanted us to have dinner on the boat, rather than go out, to make the most of the experience. Although they have cooking facilities, I decided to save time and pick up some ready-made goodies from COOK. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions ever. Their food is totally delicious – it tastes natural, healthy and homemade, unlike any other ready meals I’ve ever tried. It couldn’t be simpler, you simply cook them from frozen and enjoy a delicious three-course meal in the comfort of the boat.
I put on a delicious spread of COOK delights – cheese souffle with red onion jam, roasted vegetarian lasagne with herby vegetables, and the most divine apple and blackberry crumble with cream. Pick up a bottle of mulled wine from M&S, put on Love Actually and your comfiest clothes, you’re in for the most perfect night of your life.
Simply one of the coolest things you can do in London, and a really special and unique gift for a loved one this Christmas. The experience of staying on Osbert was second-to-none, and every thought has gone into the guest experience of staying on this boat. Forget fancy 5* hotels this festive period, the boatel is where it’s at. Take my word for it: this is one experience in the capital you don’t want to miss.
Boatel rates from £180 per night Sunday-Thursday and from £200 per night Friday-Saturday. Gift cards can also be purchased, for more information and to book, see here.