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What's this blog all about?

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.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Once upon a time

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. This post is from Nicola (pic is of Nelly the Elephant perhaps, definitely not my Dad's Jessica because she's been lost in Birmingham for years, with Nell at the front, Lola behind)

Once upon a time (on a Scottish holiday Monday when Pete was having a hard day at the type face)... Lola, Nell and I were planning to go out for a long bike ride by the River Dee - to practise map reading, cycling etc. But after about two miles on very quiet roads (ideal for cycling using a tandem) we were tempted off the path by a new adventure, the Storybook Glen in Maryculter, not far from Aberdeen, see http://www.storybookglenaberdeen.co.uk/.

Despite the map prep we didn't even know it was there until we saw the signs.

Storybook Glen is one of those bonkers ideas - stick a load of fibreglass nursery rhyme characters around a woodland and then add signs by those that aren't so obvious. This means that Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf are just as easy to spot as Dr Foster (the one who went to Gloucester in the rain). There's a lot of enthusiasm gone into this concept as there are over 100 figures, probably more as there are oddles of pixie, gnome and fairy models spread around the 20 acres. Don't let yourself think it silly, make sure to big it up in the press and charge a lot (#5.60 and adult and #3.75 I think for a child) and the visitors will come. Apparently 150,000 people a year...

"Bonkers" is a rather perjorative term I know, but the Storybook Glen reminded me of the sort of showmanship/exhibition that my dad specialised in (eg, the headless railwayman & the Dracula experience).

Its location is terrific - there's no competition (bar a similar site in Canada), the owners have added on a cafe, gift shop and plant centre and made the whole thing really toddler friendly. Whatever the weather you could visit Storybook Glen and feel that you were having a day out for little Tommy and Tess. I began to fantasise about ditiching everything eco-bunny and doing something similar at my mum's house which I don't think will go down to well... either with her, or the punters if I turn it into a climate change experience.

To wrap up a long story: Lola, Nell and I thought Storybook Glen was great. We visited every figurine, climbed every replica castle (Wizard of Oz, Tower of London, Fairy Palace), rode every wild cat, slithered down every slide and tried all the toilets. If this is the homey version of Disneyland (either in Florida, USA) or France's Eurodisney) then maybe it's not as tacky as I'd imagined to have a completely child-centred expo. The kids loved recognising the characters and reminding me of the rhymes - and judging by the other visitors' chanting so did most adults.

It makes a change for my girls too, who normally have to listen to me blahing on about some historical or geological thing that happened long before they were born at whatever place we've visited (even the seashore). As we strolled through the gardens (the azaleas still had a trace of their intoxicating scent, but the rhodedendrums were over) I was ordered by the girls to take loads of photos - which I'll upload soon.

And reader, if you like it enough you can even get married there posing carefully by the figures that look Disneyesque (but don't breach copyright), thereby avoiding all the hassle for you and your guests of super-airport security at the check-in desk for the Florida flight. You'll pretty much bypass the terrifying dress & looks competition from any other brides too,but still get a venue that is perfect for helping all visitors leave with a "happy ever after" feeling.

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