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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Feeding seals in the harbour

Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood whatever the weather. This post is from Nicola

Nothing beats the feeling of being in the right place at the right time. And today we did this: turning up just as the old boy who runs the fish stall on the harbour front was chalking up that he'd reopen when it stopped raining. We'd come to Eyemouth, the first Scottish town after border, after hearing that you could dangle bits of mackrel on a stick over the harbour wall and see them being eaten up by some seals.

Of course we didn't believe this. But we came anyway (it's just by the Contented Sole pub) and now our provider of fish seemed to be shutting up shop. At just that moment a sleek, grey seal head bobbed up in the harbour, and then another. Seals are enormous - far bigger than the children - and these ones had the most appealing faces, quite friendly and dog-like with mottled waistcoats and nostrils they can open and close with dramatic precision.

"They've all got names," said the man - practically frozen as though it's only 14C today it's cold enough and wet enough to make your fingers tingle and your nose run. We looked down at the four bobbing blubber bodies and ahhed enough to make the old salt melt. He handed us a packet of chopped up raw fish in a dripping plastic bag of blood which normally veggie-fanatic Lola wouldn't dream of touching. But given the chance to feed seals she latched the fish on to the clothes peg and dangled it over - soon finding new names for the four gorgeous seals below us. There was One Eye, Thin Face and TO COME.

We spent a long time dishing out our mackrel and then admiring the seals below us. It was magical - the best #2 I've ever spent. Of course if we'd been really canny we'd have arrived in dry weather (!) and watched someone else pay for the privilege. Meanwhile the seals of Eyemouth are on to a very good thing, not so long ago the fishermen used to shoot them - now you pay for a pot of sea food and get a free bag of fish bits to provide them with snacks. Result: seal satisfaction, plus (possibly) the best fed seals in Britain. If you can't see them bobbing around in the harbour then they'll be lying on the rocks trying to digest the quantities of fish they are gifted by the new generation of seal hunters.

As a way for fishermen to make money this is brilliant. Pete says he's seen something similar in Australia at Penguin Beach - there are so many tourists for the feeding parade that the locals have knocked up a stadium. Further north entrepeneurs are feeding chickens to salt-water crocodiles which makes for a dramatic animal-feeding highlight in a tourist itinterary. Unfortunately it's also causing fishermen - especially the occasional fisherman - to have the biggest scare of their lives when they dangle over a bit of bait and find it snapped up by a mega-sized crocodile. Then again that story might be a total fable, and Australian urban myth, told only to the raw prawns at the barbie.

But the seals were real. Get up here and see for yourself.

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