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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 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.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

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.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Cycling via Tashkent

Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell love to travel - but they don't want to hike up their carbon emissions by taking the plane. Here's how they stay home and satisfy their passion for travel

A month ago I was returning a borrowed bike to my sister-in-law in Hertfordshire the lazy way… ie, I wheeled it on to the Stansted Express train from Liverpool Street station, London to Bishop’s Stortford - knocking 30 miles off my pedaling. I probably could have been picked up in Hertfordshire but it was a lovely spring day so at Bishop's Stortford I got off and cycled the 7 miles to my old home near Little Hadham as happy as a cyclist with the wind behind them, and light panniers, can be.

The train journey was fun too as I had a long chat with the barista (if that’s the right word for the guy who runs the trolley service of hot drinks and snacks) who came from Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan (and once far better known in the West as it was a main stopover on the Europe to China silk road). The barista was a brilliant ambassador for Uzbekistan – he didn’t just give a check list of where to go (Samarkand obviously…) he also summarized what the place is like.

For example the autocractic president is head of state, and head of government – so no room for dissent. Indeed President Islam Karimov is already on his 3rd stint in office (only legal to do two stints according to the constitution). Interestingly he was raised in a Soviet orphanage which must have been tough. His Harvard-educated daughter, Gulnara Karimova, is maybe the one to watch. She secured popular support with her music video releases (using the stage name GooGoosha), groovy enough – listen at

Karimova is not just a wealthy woman – from her businesses and her divorce from Mansur Maqsudi, she’s a fashion designer, chicly dressed and my coffee-serving friend admires her hugely, calling her “clever”. From what I can see on the web she’s Islam Karimov’s heir apparent too…

Instead of watching the Lea Valley go by (you could do the same at the cycle ride here), I got a black coffee and a potted history of politics Uzbekistan-style. Lucky me. And to think I’d written off the Stansted Express as a rather expensive whiz to my old home with little chance of getting a seat as it’s so often packed by minibreakers (careless of their carbon footprints) flying dirt cheap to Scotland and Sweden – and a few other Euro airports. You can see why that's bad if you watch The Age of Stupid...

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