A-Z activities

A-Z countries

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.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

It's colder than Antarctica

How do you travel around the world without amassing a huge carbon footprint? Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell have found a way. This time we're dressing as if we are in the South Pole.



January 2009 has seen such a long cold snap that I'm now resigned to wearing seven layers in the house - two are fleece, one is thermal, another is wool - to stay warm enough to sit at the computer. Trafalgar Square's fountains have iced over; even our hens' water container needs thawing out. Although London hasn't got chillier than -2C (low enough), places in Britain have recorded a freezing -10C on more than one night.


The only way to keep warm is to keep moving - so I take the girls skating at Broadgate Ice Rink (opening info on tel: 020 7505 4037) which stays open until early March.
Judging by the picture they felt fobbed off: I'd said we were going somewhere even chillier than parts of Antarctica. According to BBC weather reports and in the freebie Metro, here, I did not lie.

In France by default

How do you travel the world without amassing a huge carbon footprint? Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell have found a way. This time we're off to France via Crystal Palace, south London.

I always moan that I won't go south of the River Thames (showing me to be spoilt, misguided and lacking an A-Z), but somehow last Saturday involved a journey from up north to Crystal Palace and back; and later on from up north to Brixton and back. Quel horreur! (excuse my French and spelling).

You see with St Pancras station so close I've been revelling in the fact that Paris is now nearer than Clapham. It's definitely nearer than Crystal Palace. However the house warming we've been invited to is in SE19 so, reluctantly, I decide we're going to make a family trip. Passports optional.

Of course the party is a joy. Lots of delicious warm cider, fabulous eats, kids for the kids to play with, grown ups to catch up with, views to die for out of every window (including a big dog fox in the garden). And it turns out that this may not be France, but it is a petit France. Jess and Tim's friendly neighbour is not just French but a Francophile Crystal Palace tour guide. It turns out that the Impressionist Pissarro used to paint around here - including Sydenham station.
While the French novelist Emile Zola escaped imprisonment for his "libellous" reporting of the controversial Dreyfus case (which kicked off in 1894 and lasted until 1906) by coming to London and staying at Queen's Hotel, 122 Church Road nearby (and not far from Fox Hill, see photo*). Zola lived at the hotel from 1898-99, a residence remembered by a blue plaque. I'd love to find out what he thought of London then. You can find out more about Dreyfus and Zola's masterful newspaper piece, J'accuse here.
The all-things-French base may have moved towards South Ken some decades (centuries!) ago, but on the right day (30C in the shade sipping dry white wine talking philosophy and the latest doings of Jean-Yves Katalan) Crystal Palace might easily be mistaken for France.

And actually it didn't take that long to get here, thanks to the overland from Victoria station.

* The snap is of one of the area's most desirable streets - prettily named, and with a woodland walk just strides away.