Little Venice today welcomes one of its big sister's more notable icons - the gondola. Well, sort of. British Waterways have licensed a number of paddle-powered taxis to plow along the Regent's, Grand Union and Hertford canals, and today the fleet of ten take to the water for the first time.
'Expert' canoeists (of which we've currently got a few doing rather well in Beijing) will pilot anybody willing to fork out £50 per hour along the water, pootling at a leisurely 4mph from Hayes to Hackney Wick if desired and all points inbetween. The taxis, which run every day between April and October, are perhaps not ideal if you've got an urgent meeting to attend, but are a pleasant way of traversing the city (assuming you avoid the stone-throwing gangs who occasionally linger round Limehouse Cut).
A spokesperson was keen to plug the taxis' "carbon friendly" nature, while also waxing nostalgically about the canal's delights - "fantastic architecture, unusual views of the city and a wealth of wildlife". We hear ya: we've long enjoyed languorous walks along the bank, and we're also fans of the canal's memorable taste.
Here's hoping the new service is a success - British Waterways hinted that, if demand warrants it, a purpose-built gondola could be introduced. More to the point, perhaps the increase in canal-based traffic will mean that the mystery of Tox is finally solved.