Expert Interview with Adventure Bay Surf School

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With summer looming, grab your wet suit, your board, your best surfer dude impression and head out to the water. If you need a few tips from the best in the surfing trade, we’ve spoken to Dan at Adventure Bay Surf School in Cornwall (one of the UK’s hottest spots for catching a wave) to find out what sets his experiences apart from the rest. Here’s all you need to know…

Q: How did it all start for Adventure Bay Surf?

A good friend of mine started Adventure Bay surf school 6 years ago. I was working as a surf coach at A-Bay when he made the decision for his family to find more year-round work. It felt like a natural progression to step into his shoes and fulfil a dream of owning my own surf business. Now I just want to offer the best possible experience to people that come down to S.E. Cornwall whether that’s surf lessons, coasteering experiences or just visiting the beach.

Q: What is the best part of the surfing experiences you offer?

For me, the best part of my job is seeing the expression on people’s faces as all the hard work and determination pays off and they get their first proper wave and ride the whole way to the beach. Being surrounded by the tall cliffs of Whitsand Bay means that it is a truly majestic place to learn to surf.

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Q: It must be pretty chilly in the winter months! How do you ensure customers can still have a good time when it’s cold out?

Wetsuit technology has improved so much in the last 10 years. We have partnered with Sola wetsuits to offer the best, warmest and most comfortable wetsuits we can. Besides, when you’re concentrating on your next wave the cold doesn’t seem to matter anyway.

Q: What are customers most frequently asked questions?

Probably, “Will I stand up?” or “Where do I park?” Part of the charm of Whitsand Bay is that it is off the beaten track and far from the bustling crowds of Newquay or St. Ives. Whilst we do have a small café and facilities here at the beach it does mean people have to park roadside and find their way down the cliff to the beach.

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Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Or any funny anecdotes you could share with us? 

Just that with brand new surfboards and paddle boards from Skunkworks, brand new wetsuits from Sola and an epic crew of coaches Adventure Bay is ready to make sure that everyone; old, young, couples or families has the best possible time in the sea this year whether surfing, coasteering or paddling!

Thanks Dan! Now it’s time to head to the beach, see ya there…

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Expert Interview – East Somerset Railway

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We caught up with East Somerset Railway’s Richard Masters who told us a little more about the nationally loved, old fashioned steam trains. Read to find out more!

Q. How did East Somerset Railway start out?

A. The present East Somerset Railway was founded by the artist David Shepherd back in the early 1970s when he was looking for a home for two large steam engines that he had bought from British Railways to save them from going to the scrap yard.

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Q. What is the best thing about working with steam trains?

A. It depends on your point of view! For some, it is being able to drive the engines and others it is just having the chance to get their hands dirty or to be outside in the fresh air or to meet people and help them get the most from their visit.

Q. Could you give us a brief history behind the steam trains?

A. The two main engines that we have to pull the passenger services at Cranmore were both rescued from scrapyards about 40 years ago. 5637 is a former Great Western Railway locomotive that was restored by the owners before coming to Cranmore in the 1990s. 46447 is a former London Midland and Scottish Railway locomotive whose restoration was completed at Cranmore in 2014 as part of a very important agreement with the owners that secured its use for the ESR for 10 years.

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Q. If you could advise every customer one thing what would it be?

A. To enjoy themselves – the East Somerset Railway is a great place to visit!

Q. How fast do the trains go?

A. Our maximum permitted line speed is 20mph.

Q. What is the main difference between East Somerset Railway trains and conventional trains?

A. The East Somerset Railway trains are solely steam hauled.

Q. Do you have anything you’d like to add that we have not yet covered?

A. As well as coming to visit, people might like to think about volunteering with us. It is a very rewarding hobby and a highly sociable and enjoyable place to be.

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We would like to thank Richard for taking the time to answer our questions. If you would like a go at experiencing these steam trains, there are a few options including Steam Train Journey with Lunch, Stream Train Rover for two and Steam Train Rover Family Ticket.

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Expert Interview with ACF Teambuilding & Events.

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We’ve been catching up with ACF’s Managing Director, Mark Fanning, who’s given us a little more insight on his company. Keep reading to find out more!

Q. How was ACF Teambuilding & Events founded/how was the idea formed?

A. Originally called ACF Hospitality its first event was a Clay Pigeon Shooting party in 1988. The company grew rapidly and more kit was bought on an annual basis including a vast array of Military Machines. In turn repeat business was never a problem as there was always new things to try in the driving and shooting proposition. In 2012 the name changed to ACF Teambuilding Events and Mark Fanning (previously the Marketing and Sales Director) took over reigns as Managing Director.
Q. What is the best thing about creating team building days?
A. Delivering events when guests walk away at the end of the day with big wide grins on their faces. There are not many types of business in which your clients are very transparently happy and it is contagious and leaves everyone in the delivery team with a great deal of job satisfaction.

Q. What would you say is the best activity you offer?
A. We always try to pick the right activity for the client and so it is very difficult to say what the best is. If I had to pick one, however, I would choose a ride in the Armoured Personnel Carrier. There are very few companies that now offer this and it is one that most of clients talk about and remember us for.

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Q. Do you have any funny stories about an activity day to share?
A. We once had a group of Germans that came over to drive the Military Vehicles. Once finished they asked for their photograph to be taken whilst sitting on one of the vehicles. Just before the instructor took the picture they unfurled a German flag with a message that read “Got here in the end Grandad”!

Q. What’s the biggest event you’ve ever run?
A. As well as providing driving and shooting activities, ACF provides and event manages many Family Fun Days, the largest to date is 2,500 which was for a large well known IT company.

Q. What do you enjoy most about running ACF Teambuilding & Events?
A. Whilst there are activities that have more or less stayed the same such as Clay Pigeon Shooting, Quad Bikes etc. there are always new things coming to the market place. There is always a fine line of what to buy, hire and what is the next big thing! I have found that as the list continues to grow year on year it is more important to have a creative edge combining some tried and tested activities with new ideas or with new twists.

Q. Do you have anything you would like to add/share etc.?
A. ACF have a massive collection of machines, props, team building challenges and event equipment. With such a large amount of equipment, the opportunity to create a bespoke event around a client is what we do. For fantastic memorable experiences however it doesn’t matter how much equipment you have, as it really comes down to the facilitators and instructors that run them, and that is the biggest asset ACF Teambuilding and Events have.

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We would like to say a massive thank you to Mark for taking the time to answer some of our questions, it’s great to know more about ACF Teambuilding & Events!

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Staff Review: River Thames Bike Tour – London

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By the time Leoni and I arrived in London, we were raring to get started on our River Thames City Daytime Tour with Fat Tyre Bike Tours. After eagerly pinning the trip on the calendar back in January, we’d waited for tours to resume again in April – can’t imagine it’d be quite so fun in the winter! We’ve both been on several walking tours of London, so were looking forward to leaving our walking boots at home, putting our feet to the pedals, and trying something different. Here’s how we got on…

The tour began at Southwark Underground Tube Station, where we met our tour guide for the day – history of London aficionado, Max. We were shown to the ‘office’ a short walk away, where they keep the bikes, and adjustments were made for the different participants heights. There were also plenty of optional cycling helmets to borrow – after all, safety first! We then listened to a health and safety briefing, before cycling off to our first stop. On our way towards the London Eye, we passed through Leake Street Tunnel – a legal Graffiti spot famous for artwork by the likes of Bansky, and as a place for artists to come and paint. The hardest thing was trying to see all the artwork as we whizzed past – may have to go back the next time I’m in London!

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We then headed towards the London Eye, or The Coca Cola London Eye as it now been re-branded. Once everyone had taken pictures, we set off again and soon arrived outside the Tate Modern, where we could spot some of the city’s other iconic landmarks, including the Shard, Walkie Talkie and The Cheese Grater – makes you realise London does  have some funky names for it’s skyscrapers! The tour continued for around 2 hours, before we stopped at Borough Market for lunch.

As complete Borough Market ‘newbies’, Leoni and I had the tough decision of what food to buy as there was so much choice. We decided on Indian Street Food Stall, Gujarati Rasoi, and gosh it was good! It was a selection of spiced vegetarian dishes and sides of Samosa’s and Bhaji – a definite recommendation if you’re ever in Borough Market.

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With content bellies, we climbed back on the saddle, and headed out for the remainder of the tour. We continued cycling around central London’s famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Monument, Shakespeare’s Globe and, finally, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Ship. By the end of the tour, both our brains were full of facts and ready to chill out on the train back to Brighton.

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Thanks again to Fat Tyre Bike Tours for having us and to Max for being the best tour guide ever! We absolutely LOVED the experience!

 

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Classic Thames Afternoon Tea Cruise with Bateaux London

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Garry and I could not have chosen a better day for our visit to Bateaux London Cruises. A blue sky hung over the Capital and the glass high-rises glittered in the springtime sun. We arrived at Embankment Pier feeling peckish and looking forward to Afternoon Tea on the Thames, aboard the fittingly named Harmony.

After checking-in at reception, we took a seat and eagerly awaited the announcement to embark. Upon boarding the vessel, we were greeted by friendly – not to mention impeccably turned-out – staff, and shown to our table.

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The room was spacious and uncluttered. Each table was simply laid – with pastel tablecloths, white crockery and crisply printed menus – in preparation for the treats that were to follow. Large windows offered views on both sides and, in the corner, a tuxedoed pianist tinkled the ivories of a baby grand.

As the boat set-off, our tea order was taken and, within moments, a steaming pot of Earl Grey sat before me. With only a brief glance at the Premier passenger’s champagne, I poured my first cup and sat back to enjoy the ride.

The route took in several of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. The water-level perspective and mellow atmosphere, however, meant this was unlike any sightseeing excursion I recall. The London Eye and Westminster passed by our window, unaccompanied by the crush of tourists or blare of traffic noise.

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Before long, a silver cake stand was delivered to our table – an enticing selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes carefully arranged on its three tiers. Unfortunately, I was unable to tuck-in right away though as Garry – a keen photographer – had disappeared to the upper deck. I found him there – viewfinder to his eye and shutter-finger poised – as we neared HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge.

My colleague retrieved, it was time to sample smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches; a zesty tarte au citron and soft-centred lemon and blackcurrant cake. The chocolate torte was rich and velvety, and a generous globe of Cornish clotted cream sat alongside fresh scones and strawberry jam.

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Leaving only crumbs behind us, we now both made our way upstairs to admire the sites in the open air. We cruised back under the Millennium Bridge, past the familiar dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern’s imposing tower, and then – all too soon – the boat was preparing to dock.

Garry and I returned to the hustle and bustle of dry land with some reluctance. The Classic Thames Afternoon Tea Cruise afforded us a uniquely tranquil view of the everchanging city skyline, and we owe our thanks to Bateaux London Cruises and their excellent staff.

If you feel like treating a loved one, the Experience Days voucher can be found here.

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Traditional Men’s Wet Shave and Hair Cut with Gentlemen’s Tonic

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On a sunny weekday morning in the Capital, Garry and I found ourselves – not behind desks in the Experience Days office – but amidst the salubrious surroundings of Mayfair. We were here to visit Gentlemen’s Tonic, a luxury establishment offering traditional barbering, grooming and lifestyle services to London’s most discerning men, since 2004.

The flagship shop is on Bruton Place, within just 10 minutes’ walk of Piccadilly Circus. As we made our way along the secluded street, however, it was hard to believe that the city clamour lay within such short reach. Tailors shops neighboured high-end boutiques, and the bonnet of a blue Aston Martin gleamed in the sun.

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Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and shown to the waiting area. The reception was lined with shelves displaying an array of the shop’s own tonics and potions, and – all in all – the interior gave an impression of masculine refinement, with careful use of dark woods, leather and marble.

Garry and I were led by our barber, Mohamed, to one of several private rooms. The booth was furnished with a single old-fashioned barber’s chair and the tools of the trade were laid out in preparation. Garry took a seat as he was to receive his traditional wet shave first.

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Firstly, a pre-shave lotion was applied to open the pores, before hot towels helped to soften hairs and relax the facial muscles. Garry’s face was then lathered with shaving cream, and Mohamed began to remove his stubble with a cut-throat razor. He wielded the blade with confidence and dexterity, making light work of Garry’s coarse beard in a matter of minutes. After a few finishing touches and a cold towel, my now boyish colleague then gave up his seat for my haircut.

Mohamed began by washing and conditioning my hair, before listening attentively to my vague instructions. He worked quickly and efficiently, handling scissors with the same skill he had the razor. Throughout our experience, his manner was gracious and reassuring – his expertise evident with every snip and flourish! As I gazed at my reflection in the mirror, I felt delighted to be in such safe hands and eager to unleash my new ‘do’ on the unsuspecting city catwalk.

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Once the back had been viewed and approved, it was time to collect our jackets and bid our farewells. We emerged onto Bruton Place a good deal more presentable than we’d arrived – a dashing pair fit for the most exclusive soirées in Mayfair.

Thank you to our welcoming host, Manuela, and – of course – our terrific barber, Mohamed. If you feel like treating the gentleman in your life, you can find vouchers for a Traditional Wet Shave or Wet Shave & Haircut on the Experience Days website.

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Staff Review: Up at the O2 Climbing Experience

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I was full of curiosity as I made my way – with the rest of the Experience Days team – to Greenwich Peninsula to take part in the Up at the O2 Climbing Experience.

The last time I visited London’s O2 Arena it was the Millennium Dome. I can only vaguely remember an enormous beating heart, an episode of Blackadder and a shiny £5 coin (refused by a shopkeeper some years later).

Since the ill-fated Dome’s rebranding, the arena has played host to some of the world’s biggest stars – including Prince, Beyoncé and One Direction – and has become an iconic feature of the London cityscape.

The Up at the O2 Experience invites visitors to climb over the landmark via a 380-metre walkway suspended just a few metres from its surface.

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Upon entering the foyer – decorated with coils of rope, compasses and ice axes – we were handed forms to complete and a safety booklet. After a short wait and a few nervous glances at the furnishings, we were shown through to the Expedition Room.

Here, we met our guide for the evening, Ross, and watched a brief – but informative – video, explaining what to expect during the climb. Ross then led the way to the changing room and issued us with boiler suits, rubber-soled shoes and harnesses.

Suitably attired and with our possessions stowed securely, Ross lent a rough hand to ensure harnesses were properly fastened, before we made our way to the starting point.

Standing at the foot of the walkway, the ascent appeared steeper than I’d anticipated and somewhat exposed without an outer handrail. Ross’ reassuringly no-nonsense demeanour, however, meant I took my first steps full of confidence.

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Made to replicate the ‘tent’ beneath, the walkway wobbles and bounces underfoot and – though we’d been expecting this – it took some getting used to. Trickier still were the devices securing us to the central safety cable, which had to be cajoled along at regular intervals. Our inexperience was clearly at fault here though, as Ross glided up the slope untroubled.

The team were all breathing a little heavier by the time we reached the top. Once unclipped, we were free to wander round the platform and take in the view. The lights of the capital winked all around us and the dark Thames surged below.

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As we gawped, Ross proved himself a treasure-trove of interesting facts – describing the erratic course of the river and the history of some visible places of interest. By this point, we’d all become rather fond of our guide, whose gruff exterior belied a warm heart and expansive knowledge. Bearded and with “the skin of a Norwegian fisherman”, Ross was a support and pleasure throughout – the Edmund Hillary of urban mountaineers!

After a few more photos, it was time to make our descent. The final section was the steepest we’d tackled yet and our steps became tentative as the walkway shuddered beneath us. It was with some relief – plus a real sense of achievement – that we finally set our feet back on solid ground.

This, my second, visit to the ‘Dome’ turned out just as enjoyable – if surreal – as the first and I’d recommend the Up at the O2 Climbing Experience to Londoners and visitors alike. If you fancy giving it a go, you can find more information and book here.

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Banqueting House: Staff Review

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The Banqueting House is known as one of the most beautiful buildings in London, and the only surviving one after the great fire that burnt down the Palace Of Whitehall. Maddie and I were particularly excited to see inside this grand building and see its beauty with our own eyes. HRP Invited us to come to London and check out some of its most iconic historical architecture for ourselves – and iconic it was!

The architectural anomaly was King Charles the Ist of England’s execution location – where he actually stepped out of a window and onto the scaffolding which held his beheading block. He was beheaded for treason, one of the most common reasons for execution in the 17th century.

Once Maddie and I had collected our tickets and electronic audio guides, we headed up the grand staircase into the large hall itself.

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The sheer size and beauty of the columns, architecture and paintings on the ceilings were breathtaking. The only surviving artwork of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, the large pieces were each deconstructed in the audio, and we quickly learnt why they were commissioned by the King himself. There were large brown leather bean bags scattered around the hall where you could sit back and observe the artwork comfortably.

Maddie and I grabbed a bean bag, laid back and started our audio guide which took us through the years, teaching us about the Royal Family and London in the 17th century.

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The Banqueting house has had many famous visitors such as Nelson Mandela, members of The Royal Family amongst many more and has hosted many lavish events over the years. Without giving TOO much away, we would thoroughly suggest coming for a visit, whether you are a local Londoner or a visitor – the Banqueting House has its own charm and finesse. This really was the perfect way to get away from London’s busy streets, and a peaceful afternoon spent admiring the 17th century.

We would like to say a massive thank you to Historic Royal Palaces for having us and giving us the opportunity to come and see one of London’s delights!

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Thai Masterclass with Jenius Social

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Maddie and I were lucky enough to get invited back to Jenius Social and this time it was for something a little more savoury – Authentic Thai Food… yum!

From start to finish our whole experience was just as professional as our last one with Jenius Social (Marvellous Macarons.. another highly recommended class). We arrived at Highbury & Islington station and started the short walk to the Kitchens. We were warmly welcomed by Catherine, Jennifer and Andrew (Chef) and given our aprons. We then followed Andrew into the kitchen and he gave us a quick debrief on what was on the menu: Fresh homemade green Thai chicken thigh curry, jasmine rice, fresh pollock and prawn fish cakes with Thai spices and vegetable rice paper spring rolls.

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One of the great things about this class is you don’t have to worry about remembering which ingredients you’re using or the quantity of each, because this is all emailed to you after the class. This means you can simply enjoy your cooking experience and perfect your techniques. Andrew leads his classes as a very hands-on chef, and so as students in this Thai Masterclass we experienced prepping each ingredient and were taught exactly how.

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We started with the Green Thai Curry, which had quite a few different fresh herbs and spices, which we prepared and blended, before putting them in a pan to cook. We then added coconut milk and the chicken thighs, followed by spinach. All that was left to do after this was popping a lid on the pan and allowing it to simmer whilst we moved onto the fish cakes. This was again mainly prepping the ingredients to go into a big bowl, and then making small fluffy fish cakes which Andrew then deep-fried. Last (but by no means least) were the spring rolls. We cut all the ingredients into long, thin shapes so they would fit nicely into the rolled rice paper and made these whilst the fish cakes were frying. Fishcakes done, it was time to deep fry the spring rolls!

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Once we had finished cooking everything we were brought to the next room by Catherine who had laid the table beautifully and we sat and were served our delicious culinary accomplishments. It’s safe to say, we had to hobble home because it was so delicious – we couldn’t stop eating!

Cookery classes, in general, are great ways to socialise whilst picking up a new skill and of course having lots of fun doing it! We would like to say another massive thank you to Jennifer, Catherine and Andrew for having us and giving us such a fantastic evening.

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London Kayak Tours: An Expert Interview.

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We’ve been catching up with Laura from London Kayak Tours who has told us a little more about the drive behind the company! It seems Kayaking is the ideal activity for dating – keep reading to find out more!

Q. How did your passion for Kayaking begin?

A. I am from New Zealand, so typically like the outdoors and have kayaked from an early age in NZ! I like the pace of kayaking, it is adventurous and different without being too difficult for anyone. I like that it is ideal for novices and open to anyone trying out something fun, unique and active.

Q. What would you say is the best thing about seeing London from a kayak?

A. Seeing London from a kayak offers a completely unique view of the wonderful capital. It is a great place to observe the hustle and bustle of the city, whilst paddling gently down the river. The river offers a much slower pace and is much more peaceful. It is also a great position to observe some world-famous historical landmarks such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace. We see everything from a unique angle.

Q. What do you enjoy most about working on the River Thames?

A. It is great to do an activity I love and make a successful business out of this passion. I enjoy watching the changing seasons from a river view as well as being able to have an up-close view of river wildlife. It is fantastic being able to race alongside swans, kingfishers and ducks.

Q. Do you have any funny/ embarrassing stories to share?

A. We have had two marriage proposals and regularly take out stags and hens for their fun day out.

We have had some good dating stories, some successful relationships. We had one gentlemen bring a few different dates out kayaking with us. It was like his regular dating venue for a while.

Q. Have you ever had any celebrities take part in the tours?

A. Yes, we have had Natalie Imbruglia, Sunita Shroff and Emma Catherwood previously from Holby City.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add or share that has not been covered?

A. If you haven’t been on a London Kayak Tour then you must! Our visitors have given us some great reviews on Trip Advisor. Do have a look at these and some of our pictures and videos at www.londonkayaktours.co.uk. We continue to have fun with this business and encourage everyone to try this at least once!

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We would like to say a massive thank you to Laura for taking the time to answer our questions. If you would like to start your London kayaking adventure – choose from three different locations:  Tower Bridge, Regents Canal or Windsor!

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